Monday, December 31, 2007

Musings: Ka-Boom

The air was filled with sound this morning: first the roar of the ocean, then the wind passing through the trees, and a chill wind it was, too. I spotted two thick waterfalls, but mostly the mountains were hidden, as was the sun, although it briefly peeked over the Sleeping Giant before being smothered by gray clouds.

My neighbor Andy, looking sleepy and cold when we passed on the road, predicted I’d get wet before I got home, but he was wrong, and the drops began to fall as Koko and I entered the house.

I always feel for those who have no home, especially this time of year, when it’s wet, cold and windy, the kind of conditions that make it tough to stay dry inside a tent or a rough lean-to in the bushes.

My young friend Kaimi, searching for a decent affordable rental on the North Shore, where he was born and raised, has encountered numerous landowners anxious to find someone to maintain and/or watch their property in exchange for housing. Problem is, the caretaker “houses” they’re offering are assorted shacks with no proper bathroom or kitchen facilities.

“How do they expect us to live like that?” he asks. Meanwhile, the owners are living in the lap of luxury. Needless to say, it’s a scenario that breeds more than a trace of resentment among locals desperately seeking housing.

A Maui reader commenting on Saturday’s post noted that multi-million-dollar spec homes are going on the market there daily — and not selling. Kaimi ran into one of those spec homes-turned-rentals in Moloaa, where the owner was renting out the five bedrooms separately, trying to make the mortgage on a $650,000 house built on seven acres of ag land. Unfortunately, it had no potable water, which didn’t deter the young men who were shelling out $300 to $400 each for a room and kitchen privileges.

A kind of quirky New York Times piece touches on how the “backlash against a decade of accelerated construction of vacation homes, condominiums and hotels, mostly in what are known as the Neighbor Islands,” has affected the Superferry.

The article quotes Kauai’s own Jimmy Trujillo of Hui-R, as well as Molokai’s Walter Ritte, who made this statement: “For us, tourism is just a way for outsiders to take our best places and then offer to pay us to change their sheets.”

While the story did a good job of expressing some of the sentiment against tourism-related and second-home development, I was struck by how even an issue story about Hawaii is relegated to the travel section. It’s a problem I continually run up against in trying to pitch stories to mainland editors. They don’t see the Islands as a real place, but a destination.

Still, it’s the kind of publicity that the Hawaii Tourism Authority doesn’t want, especially in the travel section of the New York Times.

While we’re on the subject of New York, I got an email from a guy who lives there and invented the “now watch” to help remind people to stay in the present. Apparently he gets a Google alert whenever the search engine finds something with the words “now” or “present moment,” and yesterday’s blog post did. Then he follows up with an email. Now that’s some dedicated marketing.

And before we move past the topic of the Superferry, check out Larry Geller’s clever “passenger satisfaction survey” on Disappeared News. I hear a “puke index” is also in the works, which will offer passengers an indication of how likely they are to vomit on the ferry given the day’s winds and ocean swell condition.

If you’re looking for some visual entertainment, Brad Parsons sent along links to a couple of youtube videos on the Maui demonstrations against the Superferry. And then there’s Bill Maher’s gritty take on the traditional year in review story.

Well, it’s the time when “Songs of Sovereignty” usually airs on KKCR, and I just got a report from Andy Parx that Hale Mawai went to the station to host Ka`iulani’s show only to find — you guessed it — the management pulled the same stunt as last week: locking the doors and playing canned Hawaiian music.

OK, now we’re moving into the realm of real chicken shit bizarro behavior. I mean, really, what is the station management afraid of? And why should we, the listening public, be again deprived of the regular programming?

Btw, I never did get a response to my polite request for a copy of the station’s policy on suspending/terminating volunteer programmers. However, a board member did fill me in on a few other policies, including all interview shows must be pre-approved by management, and neither programmers nor guests can make any disparaging remarks on air about the board, management, other volunteers or station policies.

So that effectively stymies any on-air discussion about problems at the station. And if a programmer does get kicked off his or her show, there’s no grievance procedure for appealing the dismissal.

As I said, the air was filled with sound this morning, but at my house, anyway, it won’t be what’s being broadcast on KKCR. I’d rather listen to the birds and the occasional KA-BOOM of a homemade cannon — a sound that will become much more common as the clock edges toward midnight and all hell breaks loose with firecrackers and rockets going off in my neighborhood.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Musings: Having it All

This morning had it all: a perfect half-moon, clear mountains, rolling mist, which enveloped me as I walked along a road that was drenched in the night, though I slept through the rain. The air smelled fresh, sweet, and by the sign that reads “road narrows,” I breathed in the pungent, slightly medicinal smell of camphor trees.

But how quickly a scene can change! Before I even returned home, the mist had retreated from the pasture to the base of a distant cinder cone, the moon had been consumed by daylight and clouds spilled over the flat summit of Wailaleale.

Ran into Andy, and as Koko romped with his daughter’s dog, Shyla, he and I talked, as we have the last several times our paths crossed, of how to bring people on Kauai together. It’s a challenge made more difficult by the fact that, as Andy phrased it, we are so often turned off by each other.

Still, we both agreed, it must be possible to find ways to help people understand that we do have certain values, desires, objectives in common, and those are the elements upon which we can build.

It just so happened, as it so often does, that information came to me quite quickly that offered greater insights into precisely that discussion, and in this case, it was Dr. Richard Moss, speaking on the New Dimensions radio program.

I was driving home from the Laundromat when the show came on, and I pulled out a piece of paper and took notes because I recognized immediately that he was talking about what Andy and I had been talking about less than two hours before.

We look out in the world and see so much conflict, Dr. Moss said. The stories we identify with — gender, race, nationality, occupation, beliefs — continually put us in conflict with others who identify with their own stories.

That conflict exists, he said, because we do not understand how our minds really work — and that the power of awareness can change how our minds think.

If we are not in the present moment, there are only four places our minds can be: in the past or in the future; telling stories about ourselves or telling stories about others. And the only way to create harmony in our lives, and the world, is to continually come back to the now of ourselves, and stop telling and identifying with our stories, he said.

So much of what we’re doing in the world comes from a place of insecurity and fear within ourselves, Dr. Moss said, and just as we pollute the planet, we pollute the physiology of ourselves with messages like “I should do that,,” or “I’m not good enough,” or “I need to try harder” or “I’ll never be/have/do enough.”

Our false sense of inadequacy drives much of our “consumer medication,” he said, pushing us always to find the product, house, car, relationship, career that will somehow make it all better. But inevitably it fails to satisfy because our discontent comes from our false stories.

So how to shift into a state of consciousness? Practice mental awareness: notice your stories, tune in when you’re telling them, question their truth, let them go.

Gradually, as we stop being so caught up in our stories, and the stories of others, we drop the judgment that is ultimately what keeps us all apart. Dr. Moss said. And then more and more our lives are spent in a sense of wonderment and gratitude, instead of anger, fear, doubt and worry.

We do have the answers, and the power to change. It all lies within.

Like I said, this morning had it all. Mahalo ke Akua.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Musings: Juggling Numbers

The half-moon shone feebly through the clouds when Koko and I set out this morning, and no stars were visible at all. It’s been a while since I’ve seen either them, or Waialeale.

Aside from the hunting dogs that were going off somewhere in the valley, it was a quiet Saturday morning, ideal for lounging in bed. But I dragged myself up and out because I’ve got an early interview in Lihue today, followed by an official break from work until Jan. 2, 2008. Yippee!

Superferry part-timers are also getting a break from work, although possibly not a dsired one, as high winds and seas idle the boat for yet another day, the Star-Bulletin reports.

Once again, the accounts of passenger numbers are screwy, with the Bulletin reporting today: [Superferry business development director Terry] O'Halloran estimated that ridership for today [Saturday] was "significantly lower" than normal. About 95 people and 40 vehicles were scheduled for the Oahu-Maui passage. About 20 people and 20 cars were booked for the Maui-Oahu trip.

The article continues: Yesterday's [Friday’s] cancellation affected about 240 passengers and 80 vehicles each way. O'Halloran said today's [Saturday’s] numbers reflect the response of passengers noticing the travel alerts on the company's Web site and changing their travel dates.

Meanwhile, today’s Advertiser story reports: Company officials said fewer than 100 passengers were booked for travel yesterday [Friday] and today [Saturday].

But yesterday, in a news brief updated at 3:59 p.m., the Advertiser reported: Approximately 160 passengers were booked for yesterday's [Thursday’s] sailings and 480 had reservations for today [Friday], according to Terry O'Halloran, director of business development for Hawaii Superferry.

It all gets me wondering, what's da scoop? And don't newspapers notice the discrepancies in their own pubished reports?

More sobering to the state as a whole than squirrely Superferry stats is another report in today’s Star-Bulletin on the growing number of bankruptcies in Hawaii.

It seems the high cost of living the American dream in Hawaii — coupled with outrageous housing prices, rising energy costs and a slowing real estate-dependent economy — is catching up with Islanders. I pumped gas in Kilauea yesterday, and it was a whopping $3.74 a gallon. Wow. Makes me glad for my fuel-efficient Hyundai.

Bankruptcies are up 44 percent over last year, the article reports, and 2008 is expected to see even more filings.

The article continues:

“Hawaii attorneys are beginning to file more cases related to properties in foreclosure, though consumer bankruptcy attorney Greg Dunn said the worst is yet to come next year and in 2009, as the state begins to feel the effects of the credit crunch.

“Honolulu bankruptcy attorney Bradley Tamm, who has seen calls to his office double in recent months compared with last year, expects bankruptcy cases to climb to the historical norm of about 3,000 cases per year by the end of 2008 and increase even more in 2009, as the mortgage crisis hits Hawaii.

"’The only thing keeping Hawaii from being hit right now is the fact that Hawaii still has positive employment’ he said. ‘People are not doing well. They're hanging on, but 2008 is going to be a busy year.’

“Many of the weaker players in the market such as small retailers, mom-and-pop restaurants and underfinanced developers will likely close in the next few years, therefore driving up the number of bankruptcies, he said.

"’These are the harbingers of bad times,’ Tamm said. ‘It's not light at the end of the tunnel; it's the headlights of a freight train coming. We're going to get hit.’"

But apparently nobody’s told consumers it's time to get off the tracks. Instead, the news has been full of stories about folks buying up a storm in the post-Christmas sales.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Musings: Sorry Situations

It was hard to tell the dark clouds from the dark sky this morning, but Koko and I set out anyway, trusting we wouldn’t get wet, and we didn’t.

The wind had Koko all amped up and she was 12 pounds of pure muscle pulling hard at the leash. Ran into Andy and although he was in a hurry to take house guests house-bound by the rain for a week to the airport, he stopped long enough to give Koko a new collar as a Christmas gift. There was a red one he fancied, but it was made for a cat, and he didn’t want to risk causing a species identity crisis. The royal blue one he chose instead looks smashing with her dark brown coat.

Bear, aka Dufus, a lumbering, slobbery brown dog whose back end doesn’t quite match the front, joined our walk. But he soon wore out his welcome after beefing with a three-legged dog along the road, chasing a couple of trucks and then tripping me from behind, sending me sprawling onto the street. Aside from some muddiness, no harm was done, but I was glad to drop him at his house and say bye-bye.

That’s sort of like what the Superferry did when it dropped passengers and motorists off at Kahului Harbor on Tuesday, and it hasn’t been back since. Problem is, most of those folks don’t live on Maui, so they’re left trying to figure out how to get themselves and their cars back to Oahu, while the ferry remains idled in Honolulu.

Superferry officials say service has been cancelled for three days running, and Saturday looks sketchy, too, because of high seas. But others speculate that low passenger loads — so low it’s not worth burning the fuel to run the thing — are the real reason. Brad Parsons noted in a comment on yesterday’s post that the Advertiser was reporting passenger figures for a day the ferry didn’t even run.

“The approximate number of passengers and vehicles each way for yesterday's [Wednesday’s] trips was 250 passengers and 57 vehicles for the O'ahu-to-Maui trip, and 200 passengers and 50 vehicles for the Maui-to-O'ahu trip.” the article reports.

But even if there was an error, and they were really reporting Tuesday’s figures, there’s a huge disparity between those numbers and the count Brad reported for that day: “18 cars and 55 people got off the ferry at Maui, and 48 cars and two motorcycles boarded for the return trip to Oahu.” He also noted the article’s use of “approximate” figures. It seems if the ferry’s selling tickets, they ought to have an exact count, but since the article doesn’t attribute the numbers to any source, we don’t know where they came from.

All I can say is the Superferry is a PR person’s nightmare. Sick, stranded and non-existent passengers are tough to spin. Not that I’m feeling sorry for Lori Abe or anything. I’m sure she’s well compensated for her misery.

I was feeling kind of sorry for the arborist who called in to KKCR yesterday afternoon and said he’d been asked quite some time ago to do a full assessment of the infamous Koloa monkeypod trees, some of which apparently have a New Year’s date with the chainsaw.

He said he checked every tree on the site where the shopping center is planned and recommended seven be removed because they were “structurally unsound” and “beyond an acceptable limit of liability.” At least one, if he recalled correctly, was among the 20 that are due to be cut down or relocated to make way for construction, prompting several demonstrations and plans for a potluck block party and candlelight vigil tomorrow night.

Although his recommendation was made well before the issue became so controversial, the seven trees were never removed. He, and his young children, were worried about what might happen to him if the land owner now asked him to go down and take out the seven trees in question.

It was a good question, a good point, and a good reminder that every issue does have many sides and angles.

Free Speech Radio News last night broadcast a report “On Being Hawaiian and Homeless” that covered the homeless problem on Oahu from a number of angles that rarely surface in the mainstream media.

In less than 30 minutes, reporter Anne Keala Kelly linked homelessness to the increase in militarism and real estate speculation that followed 9-11, the Superferry to militarism, and the ice epidemic to Operation Green Harvest, which made “da crip” (locally grown marijuana) expensive and scarce.

She interviewed Chad Taniguchi, who used to run the housing agency and Hawaiian Homes on Kauai, but has since “moved up” to managing the state housing agency.

Chad recounted meeting with residents of state housing on Maui who were demanding new refrigerators because the ones they had didn’t keep food cold. But he told them that there was no money for fridges because so many of the state housing tenants don’t pay their rent.

So what, the tenants who do pay don’t get fridges that work? Is the state now going to be a slumlord because it hasn’t been diligent about collecting the rent?

Chad went on to say the state was going to start evicting those who don’t pay, so those with money and jobs can move in.

Yeah, maybe those who pay should get first crack at the state’s low-income housing, but what’s going to happen to all those who don’t, especially because they can’t?

Chad said they’d be sent to the homeless shelters, but there obviously isn’t enough room there for all the people who need housing, so it looks like they’ll be out on the beaches and streets. End result: no net change in homelessness.

To me, it’s a sordid and sorry situation when Hawaiians comprise just 20 percent of the state’s population, but account for 50 percent of the homeless, and people are living in the bushes while hundreds — perhaps thousands — of lavish homes and hotel rooms stand empty most of the year.

What's happened to our humanity?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Musings: The Big Lie

It’s easy to sleep in on these days when the sun itself is late to rise, in this dead/lost week between Christmas and New Year’s, and so it was light, if not bright, when Koko and I set out this morning.

We dodged puddles and cars, the road made more narrow by the wide brown river that alongside it, remnants of a dawn downpour that kept me snuggled in bed. The ironwoods were busy sighing in the wind, and raindrops adorned both their needles and a spider web spun in the shell ginger.

I love making that transition from dream to nature; both are realms I often seek to restore myself while living in the harsh — I was going to say reality, but I don’t believe that it is an accurate description— of American life in the 21st Century. In truth, we are not living a reality here, but instead a big lie.

It’s the lie of we don’t have enough resources to take care of people and the earth; the lie that if only you work long and hard enough you can have your big wedge of pie, too; the lie that those who are down and out have somehow failed to make the most of the endless opportunities available to all in this great abundant land.

I’m usually pretty tuned in to those lies, but I was vividly reminded of them again while watching Michael Moore’s movie “Sicko.” Yes, I know it’s been out for a long time, but I’m always way behind on movies and totally out of it with TV, so I only just borrowed it from a friend and viewed it last night.

It wasn’t about all the millions who don’t have health insurance, but the millions who do, and still get screwed out of benefits by some craven reason dreamed up by insurance companies looking to maximize their profits.

But Moore didn’t just rant on that injustice and disclose the origins of vampirish health management organizations: Nixon and Kaiser. He also showed his viewers that it is different everywhere else in Europe and Canada.

In Britain, doctors are paid more when their patients are healthier. In France, doctors make house calls and new mothers get a helper. A prescription that costs $120 in the US sells for just five cents in Cuba. And people in all those places, in fact, in every Western natio, pay little or nothing for health care. It’s not slack care, either. They all have longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality rates than the U.S.

So what’s the difference, aside from the fact that insurance and drug companies make massive campaign donations and maintain an intense lobbying pressure in Washington, and the AMA is a powerful force against change?

It’s that Americans believe the big lie that our government can’t afford to pay day care, health care, six months paid maternity leave, five weeks of vacation, a college education. Instead, we shoulder these costs ourselves, or do without, and pay astronomical amounts to support the other big lie: the giant “defense” budget we’re told is needed to maintain our skewed way of life.

Burdened by debt, working our asses off but barely, if ever, getting ahead, worried about the past, present and future, consumed by stress and anxiety, we meekly live our lives, fearful of losing our jobs, speaking out against injustice, reclaiming a nation — our nation — founded on the premise of “we the people.”

As one American woman living in France said, “Here, the government is afraid of the people. In America, people are afraid of the government.”

And through the “Patriot Act,” Homeland Security, illegal wire-tapping and citizen surveillance, security zones to protect a corporate interest at Hawaii’s harbors, top federal officials who condone torture, our government is trying to scare us even more.

Don’t buy it! No fear! Wake yourself up from this nightmarish “American dream.” Educate yourself about what’s really going on. And if you haven’t seen it yet, watch “Sicko,” or any one of Michael Moore’s films. Because it really doesn’t have to be like this.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Musings: Superferry Stats, KKCR Spats

Woke to a dark, cool, wet morning, but Koko and I braved the elements and took a short walk anyway, as the eastern sky offered up streaks of pink beneath the gray.

I could tell the surf was up because I could hear its roar while lying in bed, which is not usually the case, then later discovered there’s a rare high surf advisory for the east side because of the brisk trades. Great Superferry weather, if you’re Dramamine double-dosed.

Brad Parsons, that inveterate Superferry sleuth, went out to log the Christmas Day traffic and it was pretty darn dismal: just 18 cars and 55 people got off the ferry at Maui, and 48 cars and two motorcycles boarded for the return trip to Oahu.

Gee, you’d think the holidays would be popular travel times, given the Superferry’s supposed purpose of uniting Hawaii’s `ohana.

Brad also reports: “Very little security anywhere in the harbor. Another observer went up to the gate and talked with those offloading in their cars. They told him it was a ‘rough’ ride.”

Speaking of rough rides, KKCR is back on the air with its regular programming this morning. Yesterday’s post generated a number of comments, and while readers are free to voice their personal opinions (within reason: I don't like slashing and trashing), I don’t want to get into whether Ka`iulani was right or wrong, since I have no first-hand knowledge of the incident.

What is of greater concern to me is how the situation was handled, and the larger issue of our community radio station’s lack of ethnic diversity as reflected in its Board of Directors, paid staff and volunteer disc jockeys.

First, some background:

Ka`iulani forwarded to an LA Times reporter and me an email that KKCR staff member Donna Lewis had sent her on Dec. 17 stating: “I hope you're having a great holiday season.

“We recognize your contributions to KKCR, and appreciate the value and passion of your program. However, we are fundamentally committed to providing a safe, supportive and healthy environment for every volunteer and visitor to KKCR.

“Due to your verbal abuse of a fellow DJ this morning (both off and on-air), as well as your disregard for equipment (throwing headphones), your DJ privileges at KKCR have been terminated, effective immediately.

“It’s never OK to attack another DJ, volunteer or staff member, and it’s not OK to be careless with or damage station equipment. [The headphones reportedly were Ka`iulani's, and not the station's.]

“For your information, this action was generated and supported solely by the staff, independent of input from volunteers.”

Donna then sent me an email on Dec. 19 stating that “there is a no-tolerance policy against violent / abusive behavior - whether directed against other volunteers, visitors, or station equipment.”

I replied that it seemed from Ka`iulani’s email and another circulated by Hale Mawae, who was in the studio, that there was a difference of opinion about whether the incident constituted abuse and it seemed only fair to hear both sides of the story before terminating Ka`iu.

Donna replied: “We do have eyewitness accounts of last week's incident. The people were afraid Ka`iulani would blame them & retaliate - so they didn't want their names used. I told them I would be clear - the decision was the staff's. We also have at least 4 other incidents documented from the past several months.”

This left me wondering, if the station has a “no-tolerance policy,” why wasn’t any action taken against any of the four alleged previous incidents?

Her email also stated: “If she chooses, Ka`iulani can reapply to become a volunteer after a waiting period.”

Again, I was left wondering why this information wasn’t provided to Ka`iulani. The email sent to her spoke only of termination, with no information about reinstatement.

In response to a statement on the station’s website — “Anyone interested should contact KKCR to learn more about volunteer training and station policies, including codes of conduct and federal FCC guidelines.” — I have contacted Donna and asked her to provide me with a copy of the station’s policy for terminating/suspending and reinstating volunteer DJs.

I’ll be curious to see what the policy is, and whether it was followed in this case. One reason for having, and following, policies is to counter assertions that actions are taken in an arbitrary, capricious manner that could be founded in racism, favoritism, etc.

In the meantime, I think it’s important not to get too caught up in the personalities of those involved and instead look at the larger picture. Is KKCR adequately representing the full community? Are allegations of racism legitimate? Is the station making efforts to encourage participation by a broad range of ethnic groups? Was Ka`iulani axed because of her show's controversial content?

I like and appreciate KKCR and listen to it often. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved, or that its critics should be shut out of discussions about the station’s management and policies.

If KKCR truly is an `ohana, as it so often portrays itself, let’s strive to make it a healthy family, and not a dysfunctional one.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Musings: Squalls and Hafiz

This Christmas got off to a very good start. Slept in till 9:30, then asked Koko if she wanted to take a walk, and from the way she wiggled and squirmed, I knew that meant yes. So we headed down the hill and walked from Lydgate to Nukolii. Then I jumped in the water while Koko raced madly along the water’s edge, like she always does when I’m swimming.

Little squalls were hanging out all along the horizon, but none of them blew in, and while it was windy, it was sunny, and entirely delightful. Yesterday, driving home with bags of organic veggies from John and Nandie Wooten’s Aliomanu farm, I was thinking of how lucky and grateful I am when I looked out over the ocean and saw a small, very dark squall headed for land, carrying a rainbow with it. Mahalo ke Akua.

Then, as today, KKCR was broadcasting Hawaiian music on automatic pilot. It seems station management responded to the prospect of a Christmas Eve confrontation with Ka`iulani and her supporters by simply closing up shop and locking the gate.

That may have spared them a conflict temporarily, but they’re going to have to open up sometime. I wonder how all the DJs felt who had their shows cancelled yesterday and today.

Meanwhile, station managers posted a note on the KKCR website that makes like the shut down and canned programming is “our special holiday gift of aloha, A Celebration of Hawaiian Music! Mele Kalikimaka & Ha`ouli [sic] Makahiki Hou!”

Aside from the fact that they really should keep a Hawaiian dictionary handy, I think it would have been so much easier if station managers had just sat down with Kaiulani and Noel, the other DJ involved in the dispute, and dealt with it face to face, immediately. But by putting it off, and then closing up the station, they’re simply allowing the bad blood to keep boiling, and raising questions — at least in my mind — about whether their preferred method of dealing with tough issues is simply denial and avoidance, neither of which are ideal management styles.

The website also includes this new posting: “KKCR supports the preservation, perpetuation and celebration of the Hawaiian culture and encourages members of the Hawaiian community to get involved by becoming part of the KKCR `ohana. The station actively seeks volunteers to enhance and diversify its Hawaiian programming, including social, political, musical and cultural affairs.”

That’s all very well, and a good intention, but anyone with even the slightest understanding of local culture knows that you don’t get people to become part of your `ohana via email. It’s going to take some major outreach to get locals involved in the station, and quite possibly a relocation of the studio to a more convenient location for the majority of the island's residents than Princeville.

Anyway, if you want to watch a short video on the demonstration at the station, check out this You Tube offering by Koohan “Camera” Paik, the same woman who brought you the popular Discover Kauai video.

Finally, since it is Christmas, that time of peace on Earth, goodwill to all, I’ll close with one of my favorite poems from Hafiz:


Do sad people have in

It seems
They have all built a shrine
To the past

And often go there
And do a strange wail and

What is the beginning of

It is to stop being
So religious



Monday, December 24, 2007

Musings: Catch Fire

That gorgeous full moon had either set or slipped behind the dense clouds that shrouded Waialeale when Koko and I set out for our walk, but I basked in its light last night, first lying on the freshly mowed grass and then doing yoga. It was so gorgeous out — almost balmy.

Made an early run to the post office and saw a couple of ladies dropping off goodies for the postal clerks. Everybody was smiling. Seeing interactions like that, which are fairly common here on Kauai, give me hope for the human race.

As I write this, I’m listening to KKCR, and what is supposed to be the “Songs of Sovereignty” show. KKCR management said in an email to me that the program “will continue to be broadcast by an informed, responsible DJ,” following Ka`iulani Huff’s dismissal/suspension last week. But that obviously ain’t happening. A group of people did plan to go to the station today to press for her reinstatement, so maybe they’re all hashing it out right now. All I can say is I miss Ka`iulani.

I kept missing whales that other people spotted, but finally saw some the other day, spouting off Anahola. But they were seen well before that, most notably by folks from the different activist groups who gathered at a condo near Lihue to discuss strategies for dealing with Hawaii Superferry. Just as they convened the meeting, a whale began breaching close to shore, and kept up its show for a little while. Folks in the room had chicken skin and viewed it as a hoailona — a sign that those opposed to the Superferry are on the right track. Why? Fast boats kill more marine life than slow boats.

Yes, tis the season for whales in Hawaii, especially around Maui, and that’s what makes the Superferry’s high-speed operations so dangerous.

The Star-Bulletin today ran a piece that reports posting fulltime lookouts does reduce collisions, followed by comments from Superferry spokesman Terry O’Halloran that the boat has so far been able to change course to avoid the whales spotted by its lookouts.

But the article also notes “most of the 10,000 humpbacks expected in Hawaiian waters this winter are not here yet.”

In general, ships are striking more whales in Hawaii, the article states. “Seven whales were struck in 2006 and six in 2007, according to sanctuary records. That compares with 33 strikes involving all types of vessels in 1975-2005, with no more than three strikes in any single year.”

I’m sure some of it is due to the increase in whale watching tours and other non-essential recreational activities, and I’ve got no problem with the state and feds clamping down on all boaters if it can help save whales’ lives.

Still, there’s simply no getting around the fact that boats traveling fast are more likely to hit whales, and “Superferry officials have said they will not go slower than 29 mph unless they spot a whale,” the article reports.

To me, Superferry speed is just not an acceptable trade off for a whale. We’ve got to get our priorities straight, and move away from the blind pursuit of profits to a path with heart.

And that leads me to a really inspiring story circulated yesterday by LightLine. It’s a good reminder that we need not sacrifice our humanity in order to achieve economic gain.

I also loved the article because it made it so clear that we all have so many gifts to share with one another. We need only to be ignited to make our fires blaze bright.

Got matches?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Musings: Remember the Dream

Went down to the beach yesterday in the very late afternoon and washed my crystals in the salt water, beneath that bright, full tonight moon. The air was scented with limu exposed by the low tide, and overhead, in a lavender sky, a few straggling boobies headed north to sleep on the cliffs below the Kilauea lighthouse.

My journey to the ocean with a bag full of minerals was all part of that year-end deep clean that started on Friday and likely will continue through today. It’s not a fun process, but I like the end result, and it’s a good use of this rainy weather.

While wiping and sorting and listening to Hawaiian songs about sovereignty and reggae songs about love, I got to thinking about the many issues that are facing us, the best way to use my gifts, that process of guiding my life toward its highest purpose.

Last Sunday I called my friend Camille Copeland on her intuitive guidance KKCR call-in show (it airs noon to 1 p.m.) and posed that very same question. She urged me to first remember the source of my gifts, and reminded me that when those gifts are activated “you don’t have to worry, because what comes from that high place will take you in the right direction.”

She went on to say, “There is nothing else you’re going to be doing except moving to your totality. You can’t get off track. You can get caught up in the excitement that comes from releasing that gift, but constantly come back to the source. You can’t second-guess the gift and its utilization. Just notice if the energy is shifting, and be ready to move in that direction.”

Her words came back to me as I cleaned and listened to the poignant messages of the songs that were playing, and I was reminded that many others feel as I do. Many others do share the same dream/vision of social justice, peace, living in respectful harmony with our Mother, and they desire to align with those of similar hearts and minds.

I took great comfort in that realization, the recognition of that deep connection, and as I knelt at the water's edge, washing stones, it became clear to me that my particular role is to forge links, foster associations. People want, and need, to know that they’re not alone, especially when they’re blazing a trail, treading a faint path, so far out in front that they often walk alone.

If the Superferry controversy had any value, it was to remind those of who seek a different way that we are definitely not alone, and the need now is to keep reinforcing that in every possible way. Everyone doesn’t have to agree, or do everything together. Each of us just needs to do our part and keep reaching out to others, offering support and encouragement, while remembering the dream.

And since there’s always someone out there who can express my sentiments more succinctly, I leave you with this quote, which seems especially apropos in this time of trying to capitalize on the energy sparked by the stance against Superferry:

”If you want to build a ship don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
-Antoine-Marie-Roger de Saint-Exupery

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Musings: Superferry Shenanigans

Ended up at my favorite beach in the late afternoon yesterday, and discovered a super ebb tide — the lowest I’d seen there — prompted by the solstice and pending full moon. It made me think of how the ocean, in this bountiful Makahiki time, pulls back her water and allows a big harvest from the reef.

I didn’t grab any opihi, squid or sea cucumber, but my friend found three great pieces of glass from Japanese fishing floats, including one with a rare double nipple, all of which he gave to me for my collection. The moon, already up, turned brighter as the sky faded to charcoal and dusky pink. I could have stayed forever, but I was wet from swimming and shaking from the cold, despite a thick sweatshirt.

On the way home I got a call from the owner of the dog, whose name is Daisy, and it turns out she was a former hunting dog, adopted from the shelter, and lost while hiking on the trail near my house. So they’re going to pick her up from the shelter today. We’re all pleased that story had a happy ending.

While we're on the topic of endings, it’s typical for newspapers in late December to do articles that capture the events of the past year, and so we have the Star-Bulletin today launching its “10 Who Made a Difference” line up with a piece on Superferry CEO John Garibaldi.

Besides the usual fluff that Garibaldi is prone to utter — "Now that we've started up our service to Kahului, and after seeing how that community has reacted to it and the support that we've seen from the various customers that have taken advantage of the Superferry in the first week, I'm very excited and looking forward to the future." — the article contained information about the substantial losses the company reportedly has suffered.

I thought this bit was interesting, seeing as how the Legislature’s bail-out bill supposedly was not aimed at Superferry: “Garibaldi estimates that lost revenue and fees for various legal and legislative proceedings during the 3 1/2 months the Superferry was shut down cost the company in excess of $10 million.”

I can’t help but wonder what kind of fees — and for exactly what services — Superferry was paying out during legislative proceedings that were intended not to benefit their company, but a generic high capacity ferry service. Ho! Magnanimous, dem.

The article also reported:

“Another daily round trip to Kauai has been postponed indefinitely due to the volatile situation there. ‘We're hoping to return there as soon as we can be assured it will be a safe environment for our passengers and the community,’ he said.

Hmmm, so if they can’t be assured of that, they won’t come? Awright!

The article continues:

“Garibaldi said one of the advantages in having the Maui service in operation now is that it can clear up a lot of the misunderstandings and misconceptions in how the ferry operates. ‘We can look to that example as the actual experience of what happens with the operation of the ferry,’ he said. ‘We're hopeful that will answer or address some of the concerns of the people within the state.”"

Yes, running the "Pukerferry" to Maui has made it clear that those on board can expect a sickening ride, (thanks to Disappeared News for posting the link to Pritchett’s carton) which looks like it will continue to get worse with the trades expected to pick up a couple of notches through next week.

Meanwhile, Gov. Lingle and her “Unified Command” are continuing to promote Superferry, this time by sending over National Guard troops to help clean up Maui’s storm damage.

This is such an obvious ploy to try out Superferry’s military transport abilities under the sugar-coated PR ploy of “community service.” I mean, come on! First, the storm was two weeks ago. And second, was Maui the only island that suffered such damage it warrants that sort of assistance?

Of course, it’s the kind of story that the TV stations lap up like kittens do cream, while the real objective of planting such stories is to have other folks in positions of authority hyping Superferry. The KGMB report includes this plug, er, I mean, statement from Director of Civil Defense Adjutant General Robert Lee:

“'Our National Guard and Civil Defense will pay the $55 fare per heavy equipment to bring it over,’ said Adjutant General Lee. ‘I can bring it in on C-17 but the cost is so much more.’

The report continues: "He says the Superferry is the best and fastest way to transport its vehicles to Maui, despite all the controversy that's surrounded the ship. ‘I think the community of Maui would want us to bring the heavy equipment to help neighbors out in the case of this emergency. We're not bringing in any kind of invasive species from Oahu to Maui.’”

That’s the kind of advertisement that money can’t buy — but slick PR firms can. And what a clever way to discourage demonstrations! People are bound to look like bad guys if they protest a ferry carrying Guardsman on a supposed humanitarian mission.

Oh, btw, KGMB also reported that the Guardsmen “will be on Maui until all the storm damage is cleaned up.”

Now isn’t that convenient. If Maui folks do decide to act up over the holidays, when people have more time to get out and demonstrate, the cops and Coast Guard will have back up handy.

Lingle is one smart cookie. Must be why she's da leader of da "Unified Command."

Friday, December 21, 2007

Musings: Dirty Laundry and Light

Heavy nighttime showers departed this morning, leaving behind a brown river that ran down the low side of the street. The sun rose as Koko and I walked, treating us to such visual delights as sunlight on the pastures, sparkling raindrops in the trees, a patch of rainbow in the clouds over Waialeale.

It felt good to get out and connect, and that’s the sense I got from people who attended the Superferry community meeting the other night. I didn’t go, but two friends called with reports, the nifty website posted an account and I received a few emails about it, too. Overall, the sentiment seemed to be it’s important to continue connecting as an empowered community to support efforts to malama Kauai.

Speaking of connecting, I just got an email from my Mom — a daily reader — wondering if I’m all right because I didn’t blog yesterday. It was the first time I didn’t post since I started Kauai Eclectic. But my body simply rebelled against extended computer time yesterday, and it turned into a rather busy day with visits from friends, as well as the Humane Society.

Yes, the hunting dog went to the shelter in hopes she will be found by her owner. My friend Kaimi, who stopped by after looking at the shelter for his own missing dog, encouraged it. Then my neighbor, who shares my yard, called KHS to pick up a dog harassing her cats, and so the paddy wagon was right there in my driveway. It seemed like all signs were pointing in that direction.

It also seems like signs are pointing toward the need for KKCR to look more closely at its community radio mandate. I listened to the call-in show about Kailualani’s dismissal yesterday, and the action ignited a lot of the long-standing resentment about the coup that turned KKCR from a forum for discussing community issues into primarily a music station. At the same time, the bylaws were altered so the board elects itself. The board recently voted to allow the membership to elect a few members, but that’s only a trial basis. I wrote about it in Kauai People. I also wrote a piece about the coup a while back for Honolulu Magazine, which I will try and scare up.

It’s definitely a divisive issue at the station, and it’s good to see it getting aired. One caller, who has a show of his own, said he was surprised that “our dirty laundry” was being discussed. Well, when you have a listener-supported community radio station, the dirty laundry belongs to all of us, not just those who are station insiders.

It seems Kauai’s albezia to energy project, which I wrote about in Honolulu Weekly, is also becoming a divisive issue among the alternative energy sector. While my article addressed primarily the concerns of growing albeizia, a highly invasive species, on prime ag land, there’s another aspect to the issue, and that’s the Green Energy Team’s power plant, which will burn the wood chips to produce 6.4 megawatts of energy for Kauai Island Utility Cooperative. That’s one-tenth of the utility’s supply. This project, slated for land near Koloa, 1.5 miles northeast of Knudsen Gap, is a joint effort of Bill Cowern and Eric Knutzen (the county's IT director, who is not related to the Knudsen Trust, which is why his name is spelled differently).

Apparently some within Apollo Kauai and Life of the Land feel it is inappropriate that the power plant’s Environmental Assessment (it’s a big document, so it loads slowly) was given a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), and they believe a full EIS should be conducted.

I happen to agree. It seems impossible to me that building a facility that would burn “approximately 195 tons of agriculture biomass per day,” according to the EA, and use an unspecified amount of water from Koloa ditch for cooling purposes would have no environmental impacts. Additionally, it appears from the EA that Green Energy Team LLC has applied for a Covered Source Permit (CSP) from the Department of Health, in regard to air quality, but that permit has not yet been approved.

As Ken Taylor of Apollo Kauai argued in some email correspondence I was copied on, it’s important for conservation groups to be consistent in their calls for full environmental reviews — even for “green” biofuel projects. The deadline for comment on the EA Dec. 24, Christmas Eve.

Today is the solstice, the longest night, and from here on out, the light returns. It’s a good metaphoric message for all of us working toward change.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Round Two: Sovereignty and Superferry

I was disappointed to hear that Ka`iulani Huff was kicked off KKCR because of a spat with another DJ. Her sovereignty show is musically one of my favorites, and her passion is always inspiring.

I don’t know all the details, but I find it ironic that a station run by a nonprofit — the Kekahu Foundation — that bears the family name of the late sovereignty activist, Butch Kekahu, would ax the DJ who started the one and only sovereignty show.

Donna Lewis, who gave Ka`iulani her walking papers, sent this email to me in response to my inquiry: "If she chooses, Ka`iulani can reapply to become a volunteer after a waiting period. In the interim, Songs of Sovereignty will continue to be broadcast by an informed, responsible DJ. As I've mentioned, KKCR very much supports the perpetuation of Hawaiian culture."

I'm not sure who they will tap to do her show. Ka`iulani is one of the station’s few Hawaiian DJs, and I don't think a sovereignty show can properly be hosted by a non-Hawaiian. I've long been troubled by the lack of ethnic diversity in KKCR’s programming and personnel. A community radio station should not be perceived as a haole-dominated North Shore station, and unfortunately, that is both KKCR’s image and reality.

Hale Mawae, who was in the studio when the dispute occurred, sent an email to station managers with this comment: "I believe that KKCR supports the perpetuation of Hawaiian cultural appropriation. Nothing else! Not only does KKCR actively support the appropriation of our culture, it blatantly begs support from places that thrive off of the appropriation of Hawaiian

He continues: "I for one can say that I have experienced first hand the kind of personal, racist, bias and injustice when I tried to volunteer at the radio station and let my opinion be heard just as Ka'iulani has tirelessly tried to have hers."

His allegations are troubling. I hope the station will use this incident to carefully examine its outreach efforts, and make a concerted effort to broaden the programming and DJ pool to more accurately reflect Kauai's cultural melting pot.

While we're on the subject of allegations, yesterday I was chatting with one of the guys who serves on the Superferry task force. He mentioned that at their first meeting, which coincided with the ferry’s first trip to Maui, Superferry CEO John Garibaldi told them that on the trip to Maui, they’d found some bees on car radiators, which they collected. The bees are a concern because they could spread the varroa mite, which is a serious problem.

Garibaldi also said they’d inspected all the ice chests. When questioned by task force member Randy Awo, a Maui resource conservation officer, Garibaldi said they’d checked around inside, under the ice, to make sure nothing was being transported that shouldn’t be.

But when Randy went on board and was talking story with some Superferry crew, he asked them how they’d inspected the ice chests. They told him they had just opened them up and looked, and weren’t allowed to poke around inside.

So the question is, was Garibaldi misinformed, or lying about Superferry's crucial inspection process?

Calls to Action

Slipped out for a quick walk between showers, just Koko and me. The dog I found is still with us, but she’s not great on a leash. I discovered she does have an owner — a hunter who uses the initials SC, which I found tattooed in her ear — so I’m calling around to hunter friends, KONG and the Humane Society hoping to reconnect them.

Been hearing talk that the Superferry won’t be coming back to Kauai, and that just might be true. Company officials dodge the issue when questioned by the media and there’s been no outreach of any sort.

So Kauai folks are getting proactive and coming together to plan the next steps: what to do if it does come back, and how to put all this energy to good use working on other pressing issues. There’s a public [thanks, Mom, for catching that typo!] meeting at 6:30 tonight at Kapaa Neighborhood Center to discuss just that, so come share your manao if you’re so inclined.

Also got word that 1000 Friends of Kauai is accepting donations for the lawsuit to fight Superferry. This time, the legal issue is whether the bail out bill was unconstitutional because it specifically benefits Superferry, even though the legislation was worded for a “large capacity ferry.”

You can send donations to PO Box 223177, Princeville, 96722. The lawsuit is supported by Kaua’i Group of the Hawai’i Chapter Sierra Club, People for the Preservation of Kaua’I, Malama Kaua'I, Surfrider Foundation – Kaua’I, Hui-R and Save Our Seas.

Meanwhile, Brad Parsons on Maui is continuing to post photos and track Superferry passenger counts and reports: “at these numbers, not including fixed costs, subtracting fuel only, the company lost at least $4,400 on the trip to Maui and lost at least $10,500 on the [Monday] trip to Oahu. Annualized losses including fixed costs could be $30.8 million at these load levels. BTW, there was almost no security today, Monday, at the harbor. It "looks" like the security zone has been lifted.”

I have to get to an interview now, so need to close, but have a few more bits I'll try to post later.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Musings: Carried on the Wind

I spent the best part of the morning — literally and figuratively — watching albatrosses south of Ka`aka`aniu. I wish it could have been the entire day, but an editor’s request for revisions ASAP called me back to my desk.

Still, it was enough to fortify and sustain me, watching them soar on the wind, sit serenely on their nests, bob and touch beaks in their curious little rituals — not to mention simply hanging out among them in the splendor of a rugged, wild coastline.

I love their giggling calls, their clacks and moans. It’s an auditory reminder of the natural order, much like a phone call I received last night from my friend Daniel in Hanalei.

He held the phone out on his deck so I could hear my friend Kaimi leading the North Shore lua boys practicing their haka — the sounds of stomping feet, chanting, a pu being blown, all carried on the wind. It was good to hear/feel that kind of energy going out in Waioli Park in downtown Hanalei.

Daniel also reported he’d seen the “jet stream” from that rocket Japan paid $50 million to blow up in the waters off Kauai yesterday. He didn’t know what it was until he saw the evening news, but said it gave him an ominous feeling to watch that looping stream, looking like the time the space shuttle blew up.

Kauai never did get the Japanese tourist business that officials wanted, so guess now they've decided to sell missile tests instead of sightseeing tours.

Speaking of sightseeing tours, I heard Hale Mawae — one of those who hung the banner over the edge of the Superferry on its first voyage to Maui since the bailout bill allowed it to return — talking on the radio yesterday about the massive vomiting among those on-board. He called it “a hoailona” — an omen, or sign.

Later, I got this email from a friend, wondering why the Superferry barf-o-rama coverage waned:

“The media has been silent about the impact of the rough conditions on the SF's passengers for the trips on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The conditions had to be worse than Thursday. Doesn't nausea and vomiting sell papers?

"I read an article on the net that said that 1/3 of the population get motion sickness easily, another third get sick when there's a lot of rocking and the last third can handle anything. Maybe he's [Superferry CEO John Garibaldi] in the latter category.

"You should google Lake Express. It's a high speed ferry serving Wisconsin and Michigan with boats built by Austal. Apparently, Lake Michigan can get pretty choppy and passengers have been stricken with bad cases of motion sickness. I have a hard time believing that the SF investors didn't factor this into their calculations. Maybe it's been about the military all along.”

Hmmm, yes, maybe it has, and just this morning I got an interesting tip along those lines, that I’ll be happy to share. But first I need to do a bit of investigating.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Musings: Dogs, Carrots and Sticks

It felt so good to get out and walk briskly in the wind this morning after spending nearly all of yesterday at the computer, working. If I can make it through today, I won’t have any deadlines for a week, so that’s my carrot, and a sweet one it will be.

The stars were brilliant when I went out in the night, but by the time I rose, Venus alone was in a sky half-filled with clouds, and it slowly faded as the sun pushed its way up over the Sleeping Giant in a filmy haze of silver white. By then I had two dogs at my side: Koko, and a sweet female with brindle coloring that had either been dumped or got separated from the hunting pack.

I don’t normally pick up dogs I find near the end of the road, as it’s a hunting area and hunters do come back, but I saw her up there on Saturday, and she followed me willing today. Maybe it was because I told her if she made it back to my house, she’d have snacks. And with her ribs showing, it seemed that was all I needed to say.

Ran into my neighbor Andy, and his dogs, and we somehow kept all four canines from being hit by the cars that passed as we chatted about socializing kids in junior kindergarten. Since the stray isn’t too road savvy, and kept stopping to search for food along the road, Andy loaned me a leash to get us safely the rest of the way home.

I gave her a couple of bowls of food and a towel to lie on and she’s sleeping on the porch, right by the front door. I guess the next step is to call the death squad, I mean, the Humane Society, but I haven’t looked up the number yet. Yeah, maybe her owners will come looking, or someone will adopt her, but I worked with the shelter for a number of years and the number of animals that get euthanized would blow your mind. I don't fault the shelter. What else are they going to do with all the unwanted critters?

Not that I need another dog, and a large one, at that, although Koko would welcome a friend. When we go walking in the morning, two dogs always rush out to see us. I call the male Bear (Andy's name for it is Dufus) and the female Girl. At first I thought they wanted to see Koko, but now I realize they’re hungry for the petting and sweet words I provide.

A lot of dogs — and people, for that matter — are starved for attention, stimulation and affection, spending their lives in boxes or at the end of short chains, or confined in the narrow existence that constitute the human equivalent.

At least humans have the power to change their lives (I think), and break free of what restricts them. One person who did that, and who was mentioned in the comments section a few days back, is George Cooper. If you don’t know who he is, go to the library and check out “Land and Power.”

Anyway, after George came up in comments, I figured I’d check in and see how he’s doing, so I emailed and got a reply. He’s still in Cambodia, where he’s been doing land law for the past 9.5 years, but he's ready for a big break and headed back to Kauai and Oahu in April, with his Vietnamese girlfriend if she can get a visa. It’ll be great to see him again.

To follow up on another comment that was posted, I heard from Bree Ullman and yes, she is no longer editor of the Haleakala Times and its future as an alternative paper is in doubt. That’s all I’m presently at liberty to reveal, but if I can share more, I’ll add it.

Right now, though, I’ve got a carrot waiting, so it’s time to pull out that guava stick and make myself get back to work.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Musings: Down for the Count

The stars and Venus were out when Koko and I went walking this morning, but they quickly disappeared behind clouds. I could hear the rain coming before it arrived, a sound I love, of drops hammering dense foliage, and then it caught up with us, a few hundred yards from the house.

A couple of Maui folks also got wet yesterday, paddling surfboards in the Kahului Harbor after the Superferry had arrived “to make a point that the security zone is punitive and it's unnecessary and ludicrous," Hannah Bernard reportedly told the Advertiser.

Katy Rose sent me an email saying Hannah wasn’t arrested on the spot, and authorities are now trying to decide how to penalize her. Let’s hope they do nothing, because really, what did she do, except push the system?

Maui Tomorrow is also going to push the system, that same Advertiser story reports, by pursuing legal action that challenges the constitutionality of the Superferry bailout bill.

The article reports that Maui Tomorrow executive director Irene Bowie contends the law is unconstitutional because it was created solely for Hawaii Superferry. “The state had argued that Act 2 is not special legislation because language in the law states that it applies to any ‘large capacity ferry vessel company,’" the article concluded.

I know I’m not the only one who can’t wait to see if the courts actually buy the state’s shibai. I mean, come on! Hawaii Superferry played a key role in drafting the legislation and setting conditions that were favorable to its particular operation. In fact, Gov. Lingle said publicly the bill had to pass Superferry's muster.

How can state Attorney General Mark Bennett possibly argue the bill isn’t specifically for HSF without looking like an idiot or a liar, or both? Regardless of what the bill’s words say, its intent was clear: to get the Superferry running while the EIS is done.

After feeling rather disheartened by the House’s nominations to the Superferry task force, I perked up when I read that the Senate made better use of its picks, naming Dennis Chun, who was in the water helping to keep the boat out of Nawiiliwili Harbor; Waianae harbor master William Aila Jr., who is definitely not a political lap dog; and Randy Awo, the Maui branch manager of the state's Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement who testified that enforcement officers were already maxed out when the Senate conducted hearings on the Superferry bailout bill.

The Senate’s other choice was Big Island attorney Michael Matsukawa — maybe readers from that island can offer more insight into who he is.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but it seems like the Senate’s choices were designed to needle the Lingle Administration and Superferry folks, who make up the rest of the task force, just a little bit.

A friend called yesterday and we got to talking about Superferry passenger counts. On the first day, Thursday, Christie Wilson reported in the Advertiser figures provided by HSF: 190 passengers and 60 vehicles.

Andrea Brower, who was on board, reported on that she, Katy Rose and Hale Mawae “counted somewhere between 50-70. Of these passengers, about half were affiliated with the media.”

On Friday, the Advertiser again reported figures from HSF: 135 passengers and 35 vehicles.

Maui resident Brad Parsons, however, said on Friday he and a friend counted “115 people total in shuttle vans, cars, and motorcycles getting off. There were 62 vehicles including motorcycles.”

On Saturday, Parsons counted “215 passengers and only 62 vehicles and an additional 10 motorcycles got off on Maui from Oahu. Only 36 vehicles departed from Maui to Oahu, 3 of them were empty shuttles from one of the shuttle companies.”

The Advertiser reported, using figures attributed to HSF, that “250 passengers and 67 vehicles” traveled from Honolulu to Maui, and the ferry “made the return trip with 135 passengers and 35 vehicles.”

I don’t know which figures are right, but when you have the Star-Bulletin reporting today, “The number of protesters against the Hawaii Superferry grew during the weekend on Maui to more than 250 people yesterday, as groups called for a halt in operation and planned a court appeal challenging a new law that allowed the vessel to resume operations. But the number of passengers on the Superferry also increased,” it seems that the numbers game is important for public perception reasons, as well as Superferry’s financial viability.

And since this is turning into a Superferry Sunday, if you want to keep visually abreast of the Maui Superferry protest action, check out the latest photos from Brad Parsons, who also offered this link to photos from Maui News.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Musings: Taking it to the Streets

I was thinking of sleeping in, but Koko had other ideas, and so I acquiesced — she so rarely gets her way — and set out at daybreak. Our walk was made even more exhilarating by the wind, which clattered the palm fronds and made the ironwoods sigh.

I immediately gauged it as the kind of day in which rain will play a frequent part, and three soft showers, a degree or two beyond mist, flew by as we walked home to reinforce that observation.

It’s definitely not the kind of day to be out on a boat, unless you are hardy, or have no other choice, but the Superferry, which my neighbor Andy dubbed “Pukerferry” following the widely publicized vomiting that characterized its maiden voyage to Maui, continues to ply the rough Hawaiian channels, undeterred by such factors as strong winds and choppy waters.

Passengers, however, apparently are, and traffic on the ferry continues to be light. Brad Parsons, who btw took the photo that I posted yesterday, among others, including this most recent batch (and I would have credited him then, had I known), reports he and two friends yesterday “diligently counted the vehicles and people getting off the Superferry on Maui [Friday]. There were 115 people total in shuttle vans, cars, and motorcycles getting off. There were 62 vehicles including motorcycles.” On the return trip, he says, just 35 vehicles got on, including four larger commercial vehicles.

That’s obviously not nearly enough to keep Hawaii Superferry afloat financially, but some theorize passenger numbers and short-term revenue don’t matter; the company's ultimate goal is to prove it's providing service in order to qualify for contracts to build Superferries for the government — read military operations.

More demonstrations are reportedly planned today by Maui folks willing to give up their Saturday to make a statement that they’re not pleased with the ferry, and all it portends for their island.

The same displeasure is now being expressed by a growing number of southside Kauai residents, who are increasingly distraught over the rampant development in their community, which is threatening natural and cultural resources, their way of life and a grove of old monkey pod trees.

As an indication of how bad things are, The Garden Island reported the other day that the Koloa Community Association asked the county planning commission to reverse its denial of a 72-unit multi-family subdivision. It made the request not because it thinks the project is so great, but it fears the developer will sue the county and win, thus jeopardizing various concessions that have been hammered out.

According to The Garden Island:

“If the project is denied, we’ll bring a lawsuit,” said Honolulu attorney Kyong-Su Im, representing Koloa Creekside Estates with local attorney Jonathan Chun. “We’re perfectly prepared to do so today.”

He asked the commission if it wanted a situation where the developer gives things it is not legally required to give or one where “if we challenge and win, it’s a lot worse situation for the county.”

The article goes on to report comments made by Association President Louis Abrams:

Abrams said during a break in the meeting that in light of recent court settlements with the county, it would behoove the community to take what it can get and avoid the risk of losing all concessions from the developer.

In his testimony to the commissioners, he explained the community association’s unexpected support for a reconsideration, saying that one reason is “the legal issue of denying an application and the inherent concern that this would head to the courts, whereby the outcome to the community could be similar to the Koloa Marketplace settlement agreement where all of the community’s main conditions were forfeited to a decision that the community did not have the opportunity to be a part of.”

If the commission denies Koloa Creekside Estates permits, Abrams said, it leaves the community defenseless.

I found that last paragraph especially poignant. Yes, the community is defenseless when you have a slack planning department that is set up to green light every development, a planning commission that does indeed appear to be capricious (because who can make sense out of its inconsistent actions?) and developers and their attorneys using hardball tactics that border on blackmail.

A lot of people, with good cause, have lost faith in “the process” when it breaks down like this. They don’t have confidence that government is acting in their best interest, or that justice will ultimately prevail.

As they see it, meeting rooms are a place where the people lose ground, as evidenced by the debacle over Hawaii Superferry and Koloa Creekside Estates, to name but two of many. So they’re more apt to engage in direct, concrete actions, like unfurling a banner, shouting at passengers using the ferry, chaining themselves to a monkey pod tree.

As the democratic process continues to be undermined by political dirty tricks and money-driven machinations of the old boy network, we’re likely to see more instances of fed-up citizens taking their concerns directly to the media, the people and the streets.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Andrea Brower, Katy Rose and Hale Mawae hung this banner with the state motto off the Superferry yesterday

Musings: Spewing Chunks

Clouds blocked my view of the meteor shower in the wee hours, but they parted for a bit this morning, and I walked home with the sun in my eyes for the first time in a long time.

Also ran into my neighbor Andy for the first time in a long time. We’re both heading out later these days because it’s so dark in the mornings, it feels a bit dangerous to walk on this narrow road.

Andy was wondering if I’d heard any scuttlebutt about what happened when Hawaii Superferry traveled finally to Maui yesterday. I had, via an email from John Tyler, who queried Karen Chun of the Save Kahului Harbor Coalition about how things went.

Chun reported: “I was VERY pleased. Despite rain and it being a work day a lot of people showed up and we made a big impact. Lots of press.

"In a way, though, I think the lawfulness worked for made Lingle look like such an idiot overreacting with all this military and police presence (1/2 of it out of sight, unfortunately)

"I think we are chipping away at HSF. Even with its 'specials.' I doubt there were very many real passengers — mostly protesters, shills (fake passengers) and SF employee friends and media. All we need to do is make sure that 'Oahu knows we'll be calling rallies at odd times to keep ridership low and get SF to quit already and do what we know they really intended all along - go be a military contractor...preferable SOMEWHERE ELSE!

"We had such good signs! And so cute...freight workers and security people were tipping me off (hey, Karen go over here....they're leaving from this gate) Even the police and DLNR are on our side. Harbor Police were not so nice and Lingle's Unified Command stayed hidden in their warehouse...the big chickens.

"Saturday should be HUGE.”

That’s the day more protests are planned, since the boat is scheduled to keep on coming. Since Chun wasn’t on the ferry, she didn’t mention anything about barfing, which seemed to be a major theme in today's media accounts of the voyage.

At the Advertiser, Dan Nakaso led with “Maccine Carter spent more than three hours vomiting aboard the Hawaii Superferry yesterday on the final day of her Hawai'i vacation and still enjoyed her trip from Oahu to Maui.”

The Garden Island, meanwhile, included this paragraph in a report by Nathan Eagle: “Workers scrubbed the carpet and wiped down the faux leather seats for those passengers who were unable to find a paper sack or make it to the bathroom in time.”

Gee, makes you want to just rush right down there and board, doesn’t it?

Apparently, not too many people did. Just “190 passengers and 60 vehicles rode from Honolulu to Kahului, and 160 passengers and 40 cars made the return voyage, arriving in Honolulu at 2:15 p.m..” according to an Advertiser report.

That’s about a quarter of its capacity, and Superferry was offering bargain rates, too.

Of course, after extensive publicity of people puking and protestors waving signs at incoming passengers, it may be even harder to fill the Superferry now.

Still you gotta feel for the folks who have to spend their work day cleaning up after passengers who lose their lunch — or worse. And yesterday wasn’t even as bad as it gets.

I think I’ll stick to the planes, and spare my stomach and the whales.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Musings: Setting Things Right

Awoke in a sort of funk this morning: too much time tuned into the computer lately, and immersed in the cares of the world.

But I know the antidote to that poison, so Koko and I headed out for a nice long walk on the beach. Unencumbered by leash, she was the epitome of exuberance, running fast laps around a jogger just to show him how it was done.

I focused on the bird tracks instead of the trash — though I couldn’t help but stuff my pockets with the lighters and plastic bags that are proven marine life killers — and happened upon a dead black and white boobie in the sand, its neck limp, eyes already claimed by the crabs.

Apples, both yellow and bruised and red and perfect, dotted the high tide line at random intervals, causing me to wonder how so many of them wound up here.

The wind was brisk, but not unfriendly, and the wet sand was warm under my bare feet.

I passed the remnants of a beach party: half-burned pallet, half-buried in sand; beer bottles, half-melted; a pair of abandoned rubber slippers, too big for me.

The sun rose, and the clouds with it, obscuring it, but not its rays, which at first shot upward, pink, and then on all sides, silver. Just as I was about to leave the water’s edge, it broke free briefly and shone on the sea, blinding me in a shimmering sparkle.

The clouds descended and I recovered my sight, emptied my gritty pockets, rinsed my sandy feet. Koko put her head forward to accept the noose of the leash and we walked back to the car.

All may not be right with the world, but for now, all is right in my world.

I hope all is well on Maui, where folks are gathering today to express their displeasure with the Superferry’s arrival. I got emails stating that a group of young attorneys will be there to bear witness and observe, and reportedly Kauai cops are flying over to do the same, in anticipation of the boat one day returning here.

It’s the first time the super security zone will be enforced, so let’s hope the guys with the guns stay cool.

I can’t help but think of all the time, energy and money that’s being expended to expose and rectify the state and Superferry wrongs, when the whole thing could have been done right from the start.

Cruised by the demonstration against Gov. Lingle’s address to the Humane Society yesterday. I was on deadline — the story of my life — so couldn’t linger, but wanted to get a sense of things. The crowd wasn’t large, but the message was strong: “Kill any whales lately?” one banner read (or maybe it was slaughter; I knew I should have written it down. But you get the gist).

“Seen any whales lately?” would have been a better question. It’s easy to kill when you’re signing executive orders in your office — just ask Dick Cheney and President Bush — but when you actually get outside and look at stuff, your perspective can’t help but change.

At least, it always works for me, and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Musings: Rubbed the Wrong Way

I was surprised to see so many stars out when Koko and I went walking this morning, considering that just minutes before I got out of bed a rain squall blew through. But I kept an eye on the clouds that were building in the northeast, and got home just before it started raining again.

It was cold enough to prompt me to crawl back under the covers for a few more winks and dreams — and even colder when I got up for up good. Still, given reports of ice storms and snow from friends and family in America, I can’t complain about our little nip in the air.

It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of heat Gov. Lingle feels today on her first visit back to Kauai since she stood before a hostile, booing crowd for several hours on Sept. 20.

This time, she’ll be safely ensconced in a meeting room at the ResortQuest at Makaiwa, where Kauai Humane Society supporters will be paying to hear her speak about pet issues. It remains unclear just who in the Society decided to invite her. But that decision prompted plans for a demonstration at the resort this morning and at least a few annoyed emails to KHS Executive Director Dr. Becky Rhoades from folks who question the guv’s animal friendly credentials.

One email I saw likened the invite to asking Hitler to address a group of Jews, while another noted: “Linda Lingle is not worthy of Humane Society honors. She has proven herself willing to slaughter whales and their calves by her non-stop promotion of the Superferry, a private enterprise for which she has illegally allowed an exemption of the Supreme Court's ruling to require an Environmental Impact Statement.

Dr. Becky sent critics this canned response:

“Dear Kauai Resident,

The upcoming Kauai Humane Society annual membership meeting is closed to the public and not an appropriate forum for your protests.

Governor Lingle has been invited to address our membership in regards to several State laws recently passed providing better protection for our pets: the passage of Hawaii's first pet cruelty law that provides for felony-level punishment; a new law that requires owners to pay for care of animals in protective custody; a new law that welcomes pets to emergency shelters for people so that owners do not have to abandon their pets in a natural disaster.

Kauai Humane Society believes these are major victories for animals. And we respectfully ask that you respect the animals that will benefit from these victories, our organization, our event and our guests.”

Needless to say, her reply rubbed more than a few folks the wrong way, and I imagine they’ll be there at the resort to keep pushing Lingle for “EIS first!” I hope to check it out if I get my story done in time.

I was rubbed the wrong way by the revelation that Kauila Clark, appointed to serve on the Superferry oversight committee, actually blessed the vessel before it sailed. The connection was made in a comment on yesterday’s post, and followed up today by Ian Lind, who raises the question of whether Clark was paid by Hawaii Superferry for his various services.

(Lind also reports a bit of Superferry gossip, to which I will add unverified reports that Superferry encountered some engine troubles — water in its fuel line — during its practice run to Maui yesterday. I saw nothing about it in Maui News and Star-Bulletin accounts of the voyage, however.)

It seems that of all the cultural practitioners in Hawaii, Rep. Calvin Say could have come up with one who wasn’t already so closely linked to Hawaii Superferry. That’s the sort of thing that further erodes the public’s confidence in what is already widely perceived as a bogus process that began when the state exempted Superferry from an environmental review.

And they're still making such exemptions for projects that have obvious environmental impacts, as I note in a Honolulu Weekly piece on Bill Cowern's plan to grow albizia for biofuel for Kauai Island Utility Cooperative. It was published last week, but just came on line today.

Somehow the state and the guv still don't seem to understand it's meddling with the process that really rubs citizens the wrong way. Or maybe they do understand, and simply don't care.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Musings: Pet Peeves and Panelists

The sun came out briefly this morning, just for a minute or two, but it made a longer appearance late yesterday afternoon when it suffused the lush landscape with golden light. Everything is so vibrantly green after feasting on all this rain.

I was reveling in the afternoon sunshine when I saw farmer Jerry, who was on his way to a meeting, while vowing he was not going to become a professional meeting-goer. It’s tough, because when you care about issues, you want to speak up if you’re given the chance, but then you run the risk of sacrificing your own life for endless meetings. And it gets tougher when you and others keep making the same good points, but no one heeds your words.

Jerry directed me to the cover story, “What School You Went,” in this month’s Hawaii Business magazine. It’s a good read for both kama`aina and malihini — at least those who want to understand why island culture, which depends on connection and cooperation, is so different from continental culture, an issue I touched upon in Sunday's post. It helps explain why the people at a meeting are often more important than the meeting itself.

Speaking of meetings, Kauai folks who view Gov. Lingle as their personal “pet peeve” are gearing up for her Wednesday appearance at the Humane Society luncheon. According to an email from Katy Rose, the message is: “We can let her know that we expect her to ‘Treat Kaua'i Humanely’. EIS first!” (They’re talking about the Superferry, of course, in case you just crawled out of a hole.) If you and your pets are in the mood, meet at 10:30 a.m. at the entrance to the Resort Quest at Makaiwa – on the makai side of Kuhio Highway between Foodland and Coconut Marketplace. If you can’t make it then, stop by at 1 p.m. when the guv is set to leave.

The Superferry was set to leave Honolulu this morning and head over to Maui for that crucial realignment with the pier and barge, according to a report in today’s Advertiser. I found it interesting that only the standard 100-yard moving security zone for large vessels will be in effect today, while the “temporary fixed security zone in Kahului Harbor will not be in effect until Thursday.” That’s the day Superferry is supposed to make its first commercial run to Maui since the law was upended to allow it.

The security zone differentiations don’t make sense to me. If the purpose of the "fixed security zone" is to ensure public safety and the Superferry’s ability to transit the harbor, as we’ve been told, then why isn’t it in effect today? Demonstrators could just as easily try to blockade the boat in the water today as Thursday, because if the alignment doesn’t occur today, the boat can’t unload passengers and cars later in the week.

So what, then, is the real reason for a "fixed security zone?” To ensure the Superferry can access the harbor only when it’s loaded with paying passengers who might demand their money back if there are delays? To spare Superferry passengers a close-up encounter with demonstrators? Or is its true purpose — and now we're entering the realm of my own pet peeve — primarily to intimidate people who want to engage in lawful protests and/or acts of civil disobedience?

We have Gov. Lingle, self-appointed head of the “unified command,” to thank for the "fixed security zones" at Kahului and Nawiliwili Harbors. They were, after all, imposed at her behest, although the Coast Guard has to bear the rap as the bad guy enforcers.

We have Rep. Calvin Say to thank for appointing Colette Machado, Sara Peck, Kauila Clark and Jeff Mira to the Temporary Hawaii Inter-Island Ferry Oversight Task Force — and Ian Lind to thank for noticing that action on the House blog.

Mira, president of Honsador, is Kauai’s rep. I don’t know too much about him, but according to an article done by my friend Anne O’Malley, even though he runs a construction materials business, he advocates a balanced approach to growth. If anybody else has views on the other panelists, please share in comments.

According to the Superferry bailout bill, the goal of the task force “shall be to study the State’s actions regarding the establishment of the operations of any large capacity ferry vessel company as a whole and to examine the impact, if any, of the operations of any existing or proposed large capacity ferry vessel” on such things as marine life, water and cultural resources, public safety and security, spreading invasive species, traffic, economic consequences, harbor infrastructure and “any other natural resource or community concern.” I love that last catch-all phrase.

A total of 13 persons are supposed to be appointed to this task force. I haven’t heard of any others, so if they’re out there, please let me know. The panel is also supposed to submit monthly status reports of its findings and recommendations to the lege and the gov at the end of each month — beginning December 2007. Since it’s already Dec. 11, and they have a very broad mandate, it seems they’d best get started.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Musings: Priorities

It was starry in the very center of the sky, but cloudy all around the edges, as Koko and I walked this no moon/new moon dark morning, sticking to the street to avoid sticks and stickers along the side of the road.

A couple of dogs rattled their chains as we passed, but refrained from barking, much to the appreciation of all. I’m never sure when my pre-dawn forays might set off a dog, but once one starts barking, another five or six or eight are sure to add their voices to the chorus.

With the Legislative session just over the horizon, the state Department of Transportation already has begun blowing its own horn to drum up support for some $800 million in harbor projects proposed for completion over the next five to six years, according to a front page article in Sunday’s Honolulu Advertiser.

“At stake, they say, is nothing less than the future of Hawaii's economic growth,” the article reports.

That article got me wondering about a couple of things. First, does the $800 million price tag include the reported $80 million I’ve been told it will cost to prepare Kawaihae Harbor on the Big Island for Hawaii Superferry? And second, just what are our priorities as a state, when it comes to the touchy subject of economic growth?

A couple of days ago I posted a piece about some of the proposed changes to the state Water Plan. Today I tallied up the cost of these proposals, which cover things like conservation, enforcement, watershed protection, baseline studies and other activities designed to get a handle on how much water we have, and how much we’re using. The short-term projects, those that would be carried out over the next four years, totaled $6.725 million. The cost of the long-term projects is still to be determined.

The Commission on Water Resource Management, which is proposing the water plan changes and projects, is part of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). For 2007, the entire DLNR budget was $94 million — slightly more than one-tenth the amount DOT wants to spend solely on harbor projects.

The DLNR, in case you don’t know, is charged with nothing less than protecting and conserving all of the state’s natural, cultural and historic resources, including enforcement actions. But just $3 million of the agency's 2008 budget is earmarked for preserving native ecosystems and protecting watersheds, as well as developing the state's forest industry.

I know that our harbors are important; according to the Advertiser article, 80 percent of everything consumed in Hawaii is imported, and 98 percent of that arrives by water.

But without healthy watersheds and pure, abundant water, — which the Hawaiians called wai, their word for wealth — we have nothing — not even the opportunity to break the chains that keep us bound to all that imported stuff that keeps arriving at our harbors.

Still, real reality is different than political reality, so let's look at the latter. The $800 million list of harbor projects is being proposed by the state’s most powerful, well-funded agency, whose former director, Barry Fukunaga, was last week named the governor’s chief of staff. The projects are also backed by a well-heeled contingent of powerful harbor users, who can easily rally us hungry-for-everything consumers to their side.

The water projects, on the other hand, are proposed by one of the state’s least powerful and most poorly funded agencies, whose director, Cynthia (oops, I meant Laura, thanks for the catch, Disgusted Professor.) Thielen, is new to the job. Many powerful, well-heeled water users stand to gain if the state never comes up with the dough to finish the in-stream flow standard work needed to evaluate the fairness of current stream diversions. They benefit if the state fails to take a careful look at how much groundwater is being pumped by private users, or lacks the manpower to enforce water permit allocations. And we consumers, the same ones who don’t want to lose our food and other good stuff, tend to be ignorant of water’s true value and complacent about its unending availability.

So which expenditures do you think are most likely to get attention from the media, heavy lobbying, and funding from the Legislature? And which expenditures will most truly affect the future of Hawaii, including its economic growth?

From my perspective, looking up daily at one of Earth’s wettest spots, Waialeale, I’ve come to recognize that water is THE issue — but it’s a sleeper. Maybe, though, we’ll wake up and see the light, before it’s too late to protect this crucial resource.

BTW, a couple of folks asked when I’m going to move. I meant to report earlier that I changed my mind and am staying right here, at least for the foreseeable future. So you’ll still hear about my neighbor Andy, although his house was dark when I passed this morning, and maybe even a word or two about my neighbor’s cat, which used to be my friend — until it came on my porch and peed on my umbrella.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Musings: Connections

Awoke with a headache today after too much sugar last night, so took a short walk with Koko in the silent gray of a cloudy Sunday morning and we both went back to bed. Dreamed of a Kauai with drilling rigs in the reef, decaying oceanfront mansions and an aerial gondola occupied by a smattering of tourists, although every other bucket carried a sharpshooter, patrolling the place. Needless to say, my headache was worse.

But New Dimensions, one of my favorite radio shows, carried a program that helped set me right. Buddhism teacher Sylvia Boorstein, speaking on the topic of “Our Natural Goodness,” made the observation that “when we’re not pre-occupied with self-serving things … we’re compassionate animals …. and those thoughts invigorate me as a human being.”

She went on to say, “it’s all about connection,” and that made me think of UH Warriors quarterback Colt Brennan. While waiting to interview a local restaurateur yesterday afternoon, I happened to see Colt interviewed on TV for the Heisman Trophy award ceremony.

Colt said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that he came to Hawaii looking for a change, and was gratified to discover that it didn’t matter what kind of car he drove, or if he had money. Only his character counted, Colt said, and if you’re a good person, the Islanders will take you in.

Colt’s observations made me think about the comments left by Gadfly on this blog, comments that frequently belittle the local lifestyle and kanaka maoli beliefs, especially those related to burials; comments that celebrate his accumulation of wealth and choice to live apart from the greater community, laughing with the other segregated ex-pats at the eccentricities of the inferior local culture.

Both Colt and Gadly came here from someplace else. Colt recognized the value of community and embraced local culture, and in return, he’s been embraced. Gadly, like so many others who pick Hawaii for reasons of climate and recreation and have no interest in local people and culture, chose instead to hold himself apart, and so he has not been embraced. It seems the current economic conditions are attracting more people like Gadfly to the Islands than Colt.

Today, I found a comment from Gadfly in my inbox that asserted: “As much as we intellectualize about broader horizons, we all live in a small world of our own making. I absoutely [sic] love mine. I'm sure you love yours too.”

He’s right. We do each live in a world of our making, defined by our own perception of reality. Some of our worlds are large, with open doors and low walls, and people, ideas and feelings flowing in and out, freely; other worlds are small and closed, like prisons.

We’re all free to choose the world we live in, and no one can make anyone else choose something different. Still, I can’t help but believe that as compassionate animals at heart, we’re all going to benefit from a little more connection, and not only with our fellow Homo sapiens.

That’s why I share my observations of nature here, along with the politics, and I’m grateful that Gadfly and the rest of you read this blog and sometimes add your comments, too. Because it really is all about connection — which Gadfly obviously wants, too, or else he wouldn't write in — even if it’s not always easy or comfortable or agreeable or smooth.

Finally, since we’re out in woo-woo land here already, I want to advise everyone that Jupiter will be connecting with Pluto on Tuesday, putting a lot of energy and force behind the next Jupiter cycle. It's a powerful opportunity to change your world, if you desire, by getting conscious about what you want in your life for the next 13 years.

Here's to peace, connections and positive vibrations.