Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Musings: Tricks and Treats

There was a definite nip in the breeze when I went out walking this morning, which is appropriate for Halloween. When I was a kid, I loved being out at night without my parents and collecting a big bag of candy. As an adult, I still get a thrill out of lighting the candle and seeking the jack ‘o lantern’s face illuminated. It wouldn’t be Halloween without the smell of burning pumpkin.

It seems appropriate that the House will vote today on the Superferry bailout bill, which has been dressed up, but barely disguised, as legislation to support a generic high speed ferry operation.

At least we were treated to Rep. Marcus Oshiro articulating the crux of the special session while questioning Gov. Lingle, as reported by the Star-Bulletin: “We are asking for special legislation for one project. Do you understand the enormity of what you are asking us to do?”

The trick will be keeping Lingle in check now that she’s gained tremendous political power by successfully convincing the Legislature to do her bidding on behalf of a corporation that so far has done a great job of tearing Hawaii apart.

That divisiveness will be the topic of discussion on Hawaii Public Radio’s “Town Square” program, airing from 5 to 6 on Thursday night. Sen. Gary Hooser will be a guest, along with Big Island journalist Hunter Bishop and me. Hunter’s blog has some interesting comments on the subject. No doubt about it, the Superferry controversy has opened the eyes of many to some of the less savory aspects of “lucky you live Hawaii.”

You can tune in at KIPO 98.3 FM or on line.

It’s a call in show, too — 1-877-941-3689 — so a good chance for Neighbor Islanders to share their thoughts with Oahu. Mahalo to Larry Geller for setting it up.

Another trick will be getting the Superferry into Nawiliwili Harbor without arrests, injuries, deaths — and more of that international bad publicity that worries Lingle and tourism officials — when the boat starts running again. Lingle is likely already prepping the costume she’ll don as the self-proclaimed head of the “Unified Command,” and Kauai folks are gearing up for the event with a totally legal “pre-protest” set for this Sunday.

Andrea Noelani Brower, who was among those in the water, keeping the ferry out of the harbor when it last came to visit on Aug. 27, sent out this email:

“Of course there will be massive
protest when the Superferry attempts to enter Kahalui
and Nawiliwili Harbors, but we need to voice our
outrage prior to its dreaded return.

How about a state-wide demonstration in protest of the
bill? Aunty Louise and Aunty Nani will lead a water
protest at Nawiliwili Harbor at 12:00 this Sunday.
Folks on Oahu, Maui and Hawai'i Island could plan
their own actions to take place simultaneously. Let's
send a loud and clear message to the Hawai'i
Superferry and corrupt politicians that we will not
back down--we still say A'OLE!!”

Superferry officials may think they scored all the treats in this special session, but from what I hear, opponents still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Musings: Rats and TV News

It’s gray, cool and windy, and usually, I don’t mind this sort of weather, but today it feels gloomy, perhaps because I’m confronted with the specter of the state Legislature approving the utterly disturbing bailout bill for Hawaii Superferry.

Or maybe it’s the lingering odor of a decaying rat, snuffed out under the house during the termite tenting, that has me slightly on edge and off kilter.

Either way, I smell a rat.

I don’t have a television, so I’m fortunately spared the banality of local TV news, but last night I happened to be near one, so I tuned in to see what was happening with the Superferry.

I got to see Rep. Joe Souki shut down Rep. Marcus Oshiro when his questioning of Gov. Lingle apparently got too hot to handle. Not only does the guv get her way on the Superferry, but she doesn’t have to answer any hard questions. I can’t wait to see how she stonewalls the state auditor charged with digging into how Lingle’s Administration got us into this mess.

Before he got cut off, Oshiro asked why lawmakers should pass a bill specifically to save the Superferry. The governor explained, according to a summary of the exchange in the House blog, that she doesn't believe that the purpose of the bill is to save one company; it's about saving the service that the Superferry provides for the people of Hawaii.

What kind of double-speak is that? And why didn’t the media interviewing Lingle afterward ask her to clarify that statement, press her for more details?

Instead, they let her cop out with a lame comment that Oshiro “just either has a different opinion or an ax to grind."

The blog goes on to report that Oshiro, chair of Finance, later recommended the committee vote aye with reservations, but also encouraged members to vote their conscience on the issue.

What is this aye with reservations? Some 14 senators took that mealy-mouthed position. What are they saying with such a stance? That it’s not such a good idea but they’re going to do it, anyway? In the end, it all comes out the same: an affirmative vote to benefit one corporation.

Flipping through the channels, I also got to see two stations covering the publicity stunt of Superferry employees selling tee-shirts to raise funds for “furloughed” workers. Do the employees know, or care, that they’re being used as PR pawns in this high stakes game?

And why do the TV stations play into that kind of shibai? That’s not news, any more than pro-EIS groups selling their own tee-shirts — and that certainly hasn’t gotten any coverage. Is it any wonder that the public, which gets most of its “news” from TV, has such a skewed view of the issue when it’s fed that sort of pablum?

A few nights before, again tuned in to the TV, I got to see a missile shot down over the water off Polihale, on Kauai’s Westside, during the latest war games, followed — coincidentally, I’m sure — by footage of the Superferry, whose role in furthering the militarization of the Neighbor Islands is pretty clear.

“Why do we need any of that?” my friend moaned in despair.

I couldn’t answer.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Musings: On the Attack

Rain fed the waterfalls on Hanalei's mountains last night, and four were visible in the half-light of pre-dawn when I stepped outside the house this morning.

It’s delightful to be within a block of a miles-long sandy beach, where little Koko frolicked and was mobbed by big dogs as a rainbow reached up to touch the shrinking white moon. Slowly the sun rose, preceded by a V of light, and the ocean shifted from gray to blue.

Went to Sen. Gary Hooser’s re-election campaign kick-off last night, and was pleased to see a sizable crowd. Some Kauai folks have told me they think Gary’s highly visible role on the losing side of the Superferry debate has hurt him politically, along with Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura and Rep. Mina Morita.

Both women attended Gary’s fundraiser, along with Councilman Tim Bynum, who has been present at all the Kauai Superferry events, too.

I don’t think any of them have lost substantial votes for their views on the Superferry. If anything, they’ve gained credibility, and support from those who respect their willingness to speak their truth, even if it’s not universally popular.

Still, they’ve all taken some serious hits, and that can’t be easy. JoAnn has been attacked in at least one local blog and a few letters to the editor of the local paper, with folks falsely claiming she incited the crowd that booed Gov. Lingle during her Kauai visit. In reality, JoAnn was trying to calm people down.

The Advertiser yesterday had a front page story on Gary’s ability to weather the Superferry storm in his dual roles as Senate majority leader and Kauai’s sole representative in that body. The story started with a threatening phone call he received from a Superferry supporter — and they claim Kauai folks are lawless and rude. I doubt anyone on this island has made death threats, like those received by some Kauai and Maui activists.

Mina has been attacked ever since she came onto the political stage as a Kauai police commissioner years ago, and some of the comments made in the Advertiser’s on-line edition have been particularly nasty, contending she’s merely pandering to her constituents with her strong stance on Superferry.

In actuality, Mina has been one of the few intelligent and moral voices in the House throughout the debate, most recently pressing to have the Public Utilities Commission serve in the oversight role of Superferry operations, rather than the farcical Lingle-appointed advisory panel that lawmakers endorsed.

Both Mina and JoAnn also were targets of well-funded, well-organized hateful campaigns for their stance on the Hanalei boating issue — much like the one that has been launched against Superferry opponents.

“It's Hanalei boats again but thousands of times worse,” Mina told me last night.

In the Hanalei boating controversy, the tour boats were running illegally, without an EIS, and the state and county governments were loathe to assume responsibility for enforcing the law. Then, as now, people were clamoring that jobs and the economy were at stake, and the conflict caused a bitter split within families and the larger community that has never quite healed.
Former Gov. Ben Cayetano finally stepped in and made the boats move to a real harbor at Port Allen. And neither the tour boat industry not Hanalei’s economy collapsed, as some of the boaters predicted.

Now, however, tour boats are again launching from the Hanalei River, landowner Michael Sheehan is again proclaiming he has a right to use his boatyard for such purposes and the county is again declaring the operation illegal, but has not yet stopped it.

It’s much the same scenario as the one that played out before, except our governor is unlikely to step in and send the tour boats to a designated harbor. She’s too busy trying to help the Superferry circumvent legal channels.

Finally, the confirmation hearings for Laura Thielen are scheduled to resume this afternoon, and Big Island attorney Lanny Sinkin says she may be questioned about participating, as acting chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resouces, “in a conspiracy to illegally continue operations of the Hawaii Superferry after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruling.” He also wonders if Thielen, who attended the Kauai meeting where Lingle outlined the punishments for violating the security, committed terroristic threatening, a Class C felony.

It’s a good point, but somehow, I don’t think the lawmakers are going to press it.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Musings: Down in the Valley

Stopped by my house to check on things and connect to the wireless — the Hanalei shop where I got on line yesterday was closed this morning.

My house looks much the way I left it, in dirty disarray, with a few dead cockroaches and geckos thrown into the mix and that telltale stench of pesticide. Fortunately, my pass through today is brief, and I’ll tackle all that tomorrow, when the house is (hopefully) thoroughly aired.

I’m happy to report the laulau-making project — my first — came off successfully. I’d assembled all the ingredients — washed ti and taro leaves, a bowl of salted, cubed pork, and a ball of string — and begun to slowly wrap a few, following my friend’s directions, when his cousin fortunately dropped by.

They raise taro and hunt mountain pig, so no telling how many laulau she’s wrapped, but she handled those leaves with authority and speed and after a few tips on technique, I finished the job with confidence. I’ve been steaming them all morning, a few at a time in my small pot, and the Hanalei house was filled with yummy smells when I left.

I’d forgotten, since the last time I stayed in Hanalei, some 19 months ago, about the tour helicopters — scourge of Kauai. They swarm the interior of this little island, and are especially noticeable in Hanalei, where the mountains come so close to the sea, and they they’re louder than automobile traffic and nearly as incessant.

I remember years ago the statewide attempts to bring their numbers and flight patterns under control. But DOT chose to look the other way, and the FAA wouldn’t do anything unless you could provide them with an identification number and some proof of a chopper’s transgressions. Stonewalled by the state and the feds, residents here pretty much gave up the fight. Even regular crashes don’t seem to deter tourists determined to see the aerial sights.

It’s a story I’ve seen repeated continuously in Hawaii. Residents trying to protect the environment and quality of life speak out, object, beg and plead, but economic forces always prevail.

The result is towns like Hanalei — victim of its own natural beauty, mystique and human greed. Here, big houses on big, fenced and gated parcels line much of the bay, as locals, a vanishing breed in their small homes across the street, struggle to hang on amid escalating property taxes.

Kitschy shopping centers crowd the taro patches, and the bay is often polluted with the bacteria that comes from sewage. Quiet can be found only in the dead of night, and folks here do lock their doors because ice addiction has produced a number of petty thieves.

I heard church bells ringing twice this morning, and though I’m not religious, I was inclined to pray, that we all might be saved from this mad swirl of money, power and things that spawn sad human settlements in splendid valleys like Hanalei.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mina's Take

Kauai Rep. Mina Morita has been a powerful spokeswoman for the environment and upholding the rule of law. I thought you might be interested in her floor speeches and journal insert re: the Superferry House hearing.

Mr. Speaker:

Arrogance and speed were primary factors that led to the catastrophic disaster of the sinking of the Titanic. With the Hawaii SuperFerry situation we are headed in a fast ferry towards a metaphoric iceberg but this body may have a chance to sideswipe the iceberg rather than face a full impact with this floor amendment.

Let me make myself clear that I do not support this special session, I strongly support the rule of law and I offer this floor amendment reluctantly and only because I find so many shortcomings to the underlying bill if this body chooses this course to make a political fix to a political fix. And let me make it clear about the objective of this special session. We are not making policy. We are finding a way to circumvent the law to facilitate a permitting process.

First of all, too much focus is wrongly being put on an Environmental Impact Statement being conducted by the Department of Transportation to address the secondary impacts to the environment that may result from the use of the Hawaii SuperFerry in conjunction with the Kahului harbor improvements. The DOT exemption was the only avenue for a legal challenge in this debacle. The primary impact of the Hawaii SuperFerry operations should be associated with the granting of the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, the license for the Hawaii SuperFerry to operate as a water carrier within the Hawaiian Islands which is regulated by the Public Utilities Commission.

In the parlance of Chapter 343, I strongly believe that the responsibility for the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement is the responsibility of the Hawaii SuperFerry because the operations of the Hawaii SuperFerry is the proposed action which triggers the need for an environmental review.

Again, in the parlance of Chapter 343, the Public Utilities Commission should be the reviewing and accepting agency as the regulator of the license, the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, that gives the Hawaii SuperFerry the privilege of operating as a water carrier within the Hawaiian Islands.

What this floor amendment attempts to do is to allow the immediate operations of the Hawaii SuperFerry under certain provisions set forth by this body through conditions to be incorporated as part of the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. Require the Hawaii SuperFerry to prepare an environmental impact statement under the guidance of the Office of Environmental Quality Control. Establish the Public Utilities Commission as the accepting agency. Require the Public Utilities Commission to open a docket upon completion and acceptance of an EIS to address conditions to be included in the certificate of public convenience and necessity to mitigate any negative impacts identified in the Environmental Impact Statement.

This floor amendment eliminates the need for the task force as each interested party can participate through the EIS preparation and review process with greater transparency.

As you all know the proceedings within the Public Utilities Commission is a quasi-judicial process. There are processes to file both informal and formal complaints as well as an appeal process. If we remove the political hamstrings, or even the appearance of it, upon this agency, I believe, this is the best avenue to protect all interests, be it the Hawaii SuperFerry, the consumer or Hawaii's environment. Setting aside the issue of circumventing the law in the first place, this may be the best route to re-establish and retain the balance of power between the administration, the legislature and the judiciary.

I ask for your support for this floor amendment.

Her journal comments on second reading:

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this measure. The constitution of the State of Hawaii grants us the power to enact legislation that is not inconsistent with the constitutions of the United States and Hawaii. We generally make laws to protect the health, safety and welfare of Hawaii's people and its environment. We should not be making laws to correct political fixes gone bad which is what House Bill 1 attempts to do. I want to emphasize, in House Bill 1 this body is not making a new policy. Rather, this body is establishing a process to circumvent existing laws to facilitate a permitting process.

No one should be fooled by the disguise of Hawaii SuperFerry under the term large capacity ferry vessel. This is a special interest bill to benefit one company from the blunders of the Lingle Administration to avoid disclosure under an environmental review process. This type of action shows no respect for the rule of law by this company or this administration and now, by this body. We jeopardize the integrity of this institution by our participation in this tragic comedy of errors.

Musings: Hanalei Life

While my house is being tented for termites, I’m staying at a friend’s place in Hanalei, land of the beautiful mountains and plentiful vacation rentals.

About half the structures up here are rented out to tourists, and the town has become much more commercialized to meet their needs, or more accurately, their desires. And, of course, with people comes traffic, which is unceasing during the day. Last night, however, it was quiet and the moon shone brightly as we walked across the grass at Waioli Park.

It's definitely different to be in a little town, with street lights, houses close together and stores within walking distance. I finally found a place this morning where I could get on line, as I had to admit it: I was jonesing and needed an internet fix.

Hanalei has fewer roosters than my neighborhood, although Koko and I startled a hen and her five chicks feeding on a fallen mango as we cut through the baseyard on our way to the beach shortly after sunrise. We walked the length of the bay and out onto the pier, where a guy was fishing. The water was glassy, with a few waves at Pine Trees, and a perfect rainbow bridged land and sea.

On the way up here yesterday, I stopped at Anahola store. While waiting in line, I felt compelled to reassure a young local woman audibly distraught over the Advertiser’s rather misleading banner headline — Superferry bill passes — that it wasn’t quite over yet.

“Oh, good, we’re on the same side,” the woman said, giving me a high five.

Turns out she's a student at Kauai Community College, where she had collected about 600 signatures — 10 percent of the 6,000 gathered on a petition calling for an EIS for the Superferry. “And I bet the people who signed it were the kind of people who care what’s going on and vote, too” she said.

Gov. Lingle, however, showed her disdain for our island’s sentiments by refusing to accept the petition until it was presented to her again at her ill-fated meeting on Kauai. She probably knew she risked provoking a riot if she blew it off then.

Despite my explanation that the bill still had to pass the full Senate and be reconciled with legislation moving through the House — which passed, without the environmental conditions proposed by Kauai's Rep. Mina Morita, who so often is a voice in the wildnerness — and then be endorsed by both Lingle and Superferry, the woman’s boyfriend was convinced it was already a done deal.

“They’ve already paid off all the politicians,” he said flatly.

The woman went on to tell me that she wasn’t against the ferry itself. “Sure, I like drive my car for go visit Oahu,” she said. “But the whole way it went down, you know, it’s just wrong.”

“It’s going to affect us in ways we don’t even know yet,” her boyfriend asserted. “I just hope we don’t come like Oahu, where we have to start locking our doors.”

We all nodded in agreement and went our separate ways, but I thought of them as I recalled a comment from a Supeferry investor reported in the Advertiser yesterday. When asked how he planned to deal with resistance on Kauai, he arrogantly dismissed the opposition as a “vocal minority.”

It’s impossible to know how widespread the Kauai opposition is, but if Superferry officials think it’s just a “vocal minority” that can be easily dismissed, they’ve greatly underestimated the smoldering resentment on this island.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Musings: Making a Shift

I got a good dose of that big bright moon, lying on the grass last night, bathed in her silvery light, and again during my walk this morning, watching her play hide and seek with racing clouds. I love seeing night shift into day.

My little rental cottage is going through a major shift as I prepare for the termite tenting team today. It’s an unpleasant mix of packing for a trip, moving and taking precautions against a poisonous gas that soon will permeate everything within a two-foot radius of the house.

With the help of two friends, the landscaping around the house has been shifted out of the ground and into pots, or holding areas in the garden, so it can be replanted after the termite tent comes down. We also harvested at least 30 pounds of taro from a 20-foot row along the north side of the house. It’s a mix of four varieties, and even though it’s dryland, it’s gummy and sweet.

It’s all been extremely inconvenient and disruptive, but I’m trying to look on the bright side, figuring it’ll be a chance to do a deep cleaning in the house and shift things around a little in the yard.

The Superferry bills haven’t gone through much of a shift as they make their way through the House and Senate. On one hand, it’s positive that legislators grilled state Attorney General Mark Bennett, DOT director Barry Fukunaga and Ted Liu, director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, at length.

I don’t have a TV, so I haven’t been able to watch any of the proceedings, but Ian Lind notes in his blog today that Bennett did reveal that Bob Awana, Gov. Lingle’s former chief of staff, negotiated the harbor agreement with the Superferry, making it difficult for the guv to keeping claiming it was a DOT deal.

Still, the questioning didn’t lead to any substantive changes in the proposed bills, which continue to grant control over environmental conditions to Lingle, and what does she know about such things? Her administration didn’t think an EA was needed in the first place.

And nothing in either the House or Senate bill looks at the social impacts of allowing the ferry to run while the EIS is under way. That’s as much an issue to many, especially on the Neighbor Islands, as protecting whales and preventing invasive species.

Some of the media reports refer to it as a compromise bill, but I don’t see how they came up with that assessment. Somehow I don’t think they’re referring to the state environmental law and Supreme Court decision that’s being compromised.

It’s unclear whether the Senate and House bills will be able to merge into one that also passes muster with Superferry and Lingle. Since so much of the discussion around this legislation took place behind closed doors, before the special session started, it’s difficult for us outsiders — the public — to know exactly what might be the sticking points.

But on the bright side, I’ve got sticky poi and laulau in my immediate future.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Kingdom Crackdown

I wondered how long it would take for the law to crack down on the Kingdom of Atooi, and sure enough, cops arrested leaders Dayne Aipoalani and Rob Pa on Tuesday, according to a report in today’s Garden Island. And more arrests are reportedly planned of other Kingdom members.

It seems Rob and Dayne were busted on charges of obstructing government operations, disorderly conduct and simple trespass stemming from the Superferry demonstration at Nawiliwili Harbor on Aug. 26, as well as allegedly impersonating a police officer because they flashed their Kingdom credentials.

How fascinating that the shakedown occurred at a planning commission hearing, allowing KPD to not only make the arrests, but a very public statement that any attempts to assert Hawaiian independence will not be tolerated.

I can see why the cops and county might be worried. After all, the Kingdom of Atooi wants to get rid of ice, encourage more citizen participation in decision-making and follow sensible land use planning.

Musings: Gimme Some Truth

The big moon — full at 6:51 tonight — proved elusive during my walk this morning, hiding behind thick clouds mauka. Orion, Venus and other celestial objects lit my way until dawn broke, bringing with it the lightest shimmer of rain.

It seems that Gov. Linda Lingle is a bit elusive, too, in the truth department, anyway, as evidenced by her most recent attempt to undermine the Supreme Court's integrity.

But her last jab at the justices backfired yesterday when Thomas R. Keller, administrative director of the courts, issued a statement refuting Lingle’s assertion in an Oct. 13 Advertiser article that “The Supreme Court, for whatever their reason was, decided to wait over a year-and-a-half to reach a decision and to do it two days before this service was set to begin.”

In fact, as Lingle well knows and the statement points out, it was Superferry that shortened the time frame by advancing its start date by five days and announcing $5 promotional fares. That was the same stunt that irked so many people on Kauai, who saw it as Superferry deliberately thumbing its nose at the court.

"Furthermore, the resultant decision in the Superferry case was delayed due to a request from the Superferry's attorneys to postpone oral argument….citing scheduled vacations to the mainland as the reason,” according to the statement. “Although the attorney for the Sierra Club objected to the Superferry's request to delay the hearing, the request was partially granted in that oral argument was postponed to Aug. 23. The Supreme Court issued its decision that same day.

"The implication that the Hawaii Supreme Court deliberately timed its decision to occur 'two days before' the Superferry was scheduled to start is wrong and does a disservice to the people of Hawaii by undermining their trust in the justice system,” the statement says.

A judiciary spokeswoman had earlier responded to Lingle’s criticism that it took the court nearly 18 months to act, explaining that “when court deadlines were extended, it was at the request of a party,” the statement says, noting as well that “while the Superferry appeal was pending, the supreme court decided many cases."

When confronted with the statement, the Lingle administration reportedly said it wanted to clarify the concerns expressed in Keller's statement before commenting, according to an Advertiser article this morning.

Come on, Linda, just admit you were being deliberately misleading in an underhanded attempt to sway public opinion your way.

Of course, Lingle’s not the only disingenuous one in this scenario. Superferry head John Garibaldi yesterday testified before the Senate that "there was never a communication from them [the state] to us that an environmental assessment was needed," according to another Advertiser article.

Records obtained for Rep. Morita’s complaint to the PUC show that Superferry officials were engaged in meetings with high-ranking administration officials to discuss precisely that issue. Superferry likes to pretend it was the victim in all this, when in fact Superferry officials were actively lobbying state and federal officials for an exemption to an environmental review.

Sen. Gary Hooser also notes in his blog: “Since 2004, I have found that many of the things told to me initially by the Hawaii Superferry proponents have turned out not to be true.”

And that leads me to my final point. Why isn’t the Legislature conducting its probe into the Lingle Administration’s mishandling of this affair BEFORE it allows Superferry to operate?

What if Marion Higa’s audit finds malfeasance, corruption, bribery or other illegalities? Why compound the mistakes of the Lingle Administration with a legislative stamp of approval?

This rush-rush special session is based on Superferry’s claim that it can’t remain in Hawaii without operating during the EIS. But at this point, it seems neither the Lingle nor Superferry officials have sufficient credibility to be taken at their word on much of anything.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Musings: Firestorm

Just as I was about to get up for my walk, a strong, chill wind blew in and deposited heavy rain that gave way to a blue- and pink-striped sunrise through the clouds.

Made me think about the hot, dry Santa Ana winds that are spreading the blazes through some of the most beautiful, and expensive, parts of Southern California.

There’s something about fire — especially big, uncontrollable fire — that gives rise to apocalyptic thoughts and talk. It’s a common theme in reggae music, where more than one artist warns: “He’s coming with fire this time.”

Compared to uncontained fires breathing down your neck, the Superferry special session that starts today seems fairly irrelevant, although it’s also potentially disastrous for our state, and I’m not just talking about the environment.

For one, there’s the whole perception of "politics overriding the legal process," to borrow a quote from Big Island Mayor Harry Kim’s statement that was read at yesterday’s Senate hearing at Kona.

Of course, it’s now moving well beyond perception to actual reality.

And then there’s the political and social divisiveness that will inevitably follow adoption of any Superferry bailout bill.

As Maui County Council Chairman Riki Hokama predicted in the Senate hearings on his island, passage of such legislation will spark "a social and political revolution" unlike any seen since the movement that brought Democrats to power in Hawai'i during the 1950s.

Fortunately, there’s still a possibility all that backroom wheeling and dealing just might fall apart.

"It may unravel what all parties have agreed upon — meaning the Senate, the administration and the House," said House Speaker Calvin Say, according to this morning’s Advertiser.

Interesting, how the public is not included in that consensus.

Gov. Lingle, meanwhile, continues to ramp up the rhetoric, claiming in her proclamation: "This special session is not just about one company or one vessel, it is about the long-term economic well-being of our state, and about giving our residents, farmers and civil defense agencies options when traveling between the islands.

"Allowing this transportation alternative to resume will also restore the reputation of our state as a fair place to do business."

Sure it’s fair, if you’ve got a fat bank account and friends in high places.

I think the thing that bothers me the most about this whole Superferry scenario is the prospect of Lingle and her cronies getting away with their dirty deeds.

But then, as the reggae artists say, “He’s coming with fire this time.”

Finally, the Garden Island carried an article this morning on tests of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system that will be carried out at PMRF tonight, and more specifically, on the blessing bestowed by “spiritual leader” Tom Takahashi, who named the missiles “Ku‘uipo, or sweetheart, and Kekai o ke kai, boy from the sea.”

There’s something scary and sick about a world where missiles are blessed and given sweet Hawaiian names. Are we really that craven?

But then, as the reggae artists say, “He’s coming with fire this time.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Musings: Just Say No

The day started with the noise and lights of the garbage truck, and the lingering odors from overturned cans lining the road. Koko was happy, and my own mood improved when I spotted the mist lying at the base of Kalepa ridge as the sky turned baby blue.

There is one secondary impact that I fear a Superferry EIS will not be able to address, and that’s the malady known as Superferry obsession. A friend confessed at the hearing on Sunday that he’s turning into a blog addict because of the issue. Apparently his wife came home at noon recently to find him eating a sandwich and pecking out a comment — the breakfast dishes unwashed and his own professional work undone.

I’m not sure what the cure is, except the Superferry's demise, but if it drags out much longer, we may need to start 12-step based support groups.

While we’re on the subject, forgot to mention that during Sunday’s meeting in the King Kaumualii school cafeteria, the Senators sat beneath hand-lettered signs with such headings as: "What is bullying?" and "You will have more friends if...." While the posters were obviously there for the school kids, a number of us did think Gov. Lingle would benefit from studying them, too.

According to an article in the Star-Bulletin, President Bush is coming out against the Akaka bill, saying he “strongly opposes any bill that would formally divide sovereign United States power along suspect lines of race and ethnicity.”

His policies show, however, that he is entirely comfortable with dividing the nation along socioeconomic lines.

So far as I’m concerned, it would be a good thing if the Akaka bill dies, as it requires the kanaka maoli to relinquish all claims to sovereignty in return for whatever pittance the federal government wants to toss their way.

Independence — restoration of the Hawaiian nation separate and apart from the United States — seems to me the only way to right the wrongs of the 1893 illegal overthrow. If you’re confused about the issue, my article on the Reinstated Hawaiian Nation might prove helpful.

When Molokai activist Walter Ritte was on Kauai last week, he talked about the Akaka bill, ongoing attempts to undermine Kamehameha Schools and programs that benefit Native Hawaiians, and bioprospecting and other efforts to patent Hawaii's resources.

He described it as “mana mahale.” The first mahele divided the land, and the Hawaiians lost out. Now, he said, the government, universities, corporations and folks who want to keep Hawaiians in colonial status are taking actions to try and grab the mana, the spiritual essence of the land and indigenous people, which is all that’s left.

“Aole — no,” he said. “That’s the word we’ve all got to use.”

That goes for the Superferry, too, as Nani Rogers noted at the hearing when she asked the Senators: "What part of aole don't you understand?"

Monday, October 22, 2007

Musings: A Chance to be Heard

All the mountains were crystal clear, and the sky was, too, and dense with stars, as I pulled on a sweatshirt before my morning walk to ward off the chill. The darkness didn’t last long, changing first to pink-gold, and then a frosty pink-blue.

My head was swiveling, taking it all in, not wanting to miss a bit of the absolute splendor around me. This is what I cherish about Kauai. This, and her people.

Nani Rogers, who walks the talk with strength and aloha, expressed it well when I ran into her yesterday at the Senate hearing on the Superferry bill.

“I love Kauai people,” she said. “They’re smart, they’re funny, they’re thoughtful and they really care about the island.”

Yup, for the most part, that’s true, and we presented ourselves well before the Senators. Nobody heckled, nobody cussed, nobody booed. We may be kua aina, but we do have good manners.

One big difference between yesterday’s hearing and the raucous session with Gov. Lingle is she came to lay down the law, and the lawmakers said they came to listen. All we’ve wanted is to be heard — not lectured, scolded and told what’s going down, whether we like it or not.

The listening bit may have been shibai on the Senators’ part, but they did sit there attentively, without a break, through nearly six hours of impassioned testimony. Even then, not all 200-plus people who signed up to speak got a chance to say their piece before the Senators had to catch the plane back to Oahu.

By the way, all the media accounts I read underestimated the crowd at about 300 at its peak. As I counted, the King K school cafeteria had 20 tables, each holding about 20 people, so that makes 400, and another 100 or so were gathered outside. (I want to correct this to 10 tables, each holding about 40 people, 20 on each side.)

Also, the Advertiser identified those who attended and spoke as “environmentalists,” although I think only a small number would classify themselves as such. It was just plain folks at the meeting — doctors, lawyers, teachers, farmers, students, carpenters, business owners, whatever.

Sen. President Colleen Hanabusa, who arrived a couple hours late and stopped first to talk to the TV cameras, reassured the crowd that the bill was not a “done deal.” She even went so far as to say the draft bill was merely a vehicle to solicit public comment.

And the comments people made were overwhelmingly against the bill, and against Superferry.

Hanabusa made two other noteworthy comments. She said she personally would never ride the Superferry because of seasickness, and that the Legislature, if called into special session by the guv, could meet and then adjourn, without taking any action.

Needless to say, that met with loud applause.

It was also interesting to note the strong applause that greeted those who identified themselves as having been in the water to keep the ferry out of Nawiliwili Harbor. They’ve become folk heroes on Kauai, including young firebrand Andrea Brower, who said her generation wasn’t well represented at the meeting because they’re “fed up with corrupt government.”

She and others vowed that if the ferry returns to Kauai, it will be met with resistance, including people in the water, outside the Coast Guard Security zone. (BTW, we do have a chance to ask for a public hearing on that scary security zone. Visit Larry Geller’s blog and scroll down a bit for details on how to make that request. The deadline is Wed., Oct. 24.)

I think it’s quite clear that many people who were not part of the original demonstrations against the ferry will be at the harbor next time to protest if it returns. Opposition is strong, and growing, and a bill exempting the ferry will add fuel to the fire.

But yesterday, despite some fiery words, people were pretty mellow. I enjoyed chatting with a lot of folks I hadn’t seen in a long time; it reminded me of the old days, when public hearings were social events on Kauai.

It was good to see locals who were calling for planned, slow growth 20 years ago at the meeting, along with a lot of newcomers who are equally ardent.

And while many of us probably believe, in our heart of hearts, that Lingle is going to pull out all the stops to make the ferry run, we also have our fingers crossed that something will happen to unravel the deal.

Hope, it seems, springs eternal.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Musings: Rise

It’s the kind of day that makes you glad to be alive, and I am.

Had a hard time choosing between mauka and makai this morning, but chose mauka, walking along the trail facing Waialeale, gloriously clear, and all the other mountains, too.

The only sounds were bird songs, buzzing bumblebees and flies, Koko’s small feet thundering up and down the trail, the gurgling of a stream in the valley below.

At the top of the hill I watched the sun, a full red sphere, rise from a placid blue sea. For a moment I wanted to be there, too, in the water, on the beach, but in a sense I was, and I had no regrets about my choice to be in the mountains.

After all, I’d been to the beach just 13 hours before, in late afternoon, luxuriating in its salty embrace, collecting noni from the hillside for medicinal use, and I’d likely be back before this day was through.

In the back of my mind, though, was a small knot of dread at the thought of today’s meeting with the Legislature, which I will, of course, attend, although I’d prefer to spend those hours in so many different ways and have grown weary of my decades-long struggle to protect our Mother, to convince people to care.

But as I walked back home, into the sun, through a corridor of dew drenched fern, the Sleeping Giant before me, I heard the words of a song come into my mind: “Rise, my people rise,” and I knew I had no choice but to go on.

Imua! Forward. Always forward.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Musings: The Sleeping Giant Wakes

It was very quiet this morning, perhaps because the air is heavy and the clouds are thick. But as the sun rose it illuminated Nounou ridge — the Sleeping Giant — in a sparkling halo of gold.

I’ve been thinking about the Giant ever since I heard Molokai activist Walter Ritte speak on Thursday night. He began his talk by applauding the people of Kauai for stopping the Superferry, saying that when he heard the news, he thought, “the Giant is waking up.”

Indeed, it seems to be. I was struck by how many attended the GMO taro talk; there must have been 300 people in the audience — a turnout that Ritte said was 10 times greater than he’d encountered in similar talks else around the state.

A lot of Kauai folks do care what happens to this island, and even though the odds are stacked against us in trying to get the state to make Superferry comply with environmental law — rather than writing a new one to exempt it — we’ve been empowered by the issue.

So yes, the Giant is waking up, and saying: “Fee fi fo fum, I smell a corrupt Administration.”

To refresh my memory on the Giant legend, I thumbed through Frederick Wichman book, “Kauai Ancient Place Names and Their Stories,” and found two accounts of the ancient story.

In the first, Puni the giant was sleeping when a fleet of war canoes from Oahu attacked. His friends, the Menehune, tried to wake him up, poking and prodding him to no avail. Finally, they threw huge rocks on his stomach, which bounced off and landed in the sea near the war canoes, prompting them to turn and sail home. But in the process, Puni died — several of the rocks they’d thrown had fallen into his mouth as he snored, choking him to death.

In another version, a giant named Nunui was well-loved by everyone. He created deep holes wherever he walked, which the people planted in bananas, and helped the ruling chief gather ohia logs and large stones to build the Kukui heiau. But after a huge feast, Nunui laid down to rest and slumbers still to this day.

So now that the Giant is waking up, or coming back to life, what will it do? We’ve already seen and heard the rumblings when Superferry entered Nawiliwili Harbor and Gov. Lingle came to Lihue.

And tomorrow, it’s likely to be roused again when Senate committee members hold a 2 p.m. “informational briefing” on the Superferry bailout bill at King K’s school cafeteria in Hanamaulu. House members couldn’t be bothered to visit the Neighbor Islands at all. Folks will have two minutes each to make a comment. I know it’s a short amount of time, and awfully short notice, but lawmakers are in a hurry to save Superferry.

I’m sure the TV stations will be there, hoping to capture another installment of “Kauai Gone Wild,” but it’s hard to predict what will happen, other than Sen. Gary Hooser will get large applause

We know he’s been helping us. As for Sen. President Colleen Hanabusa, well, that’s another story. She’s already sold us down the river, along with most of the Oahu representatives who have essentially rolled over and played (brain) dead, giving Lingle and Superferry everything they want.

Here’s a summary. First, the bill presents the court decisions as flawed and the ferry as in the best interest of the state, even delivering “fresh food products at a lower cost for all” and coming to everyone’s rescue in a disaster.

It calls on the state to conduct an EIS on the harbor projects done to accommodate the ferry and its operations, and says that document should include a review of the ferry’s secondary impacts.

It also calls for an oversight committee — administered by the DOT — to study the ferry's operations, and calls for a state audit into how the project managed to get an exemption from the Lingle Administration in the first place.

The proposed law supercedes the need for an operating permit from the state Public Utilities Commission and any county permits or approvals.

And finally, it gives Lingle the power to set the conditions intended to mitigate the ferry’s environmental and social impacts.

You can read the draft legislation for yourself at the Capitol website — if you can stand the stink emitted by this giant pile of shibai.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Musings: Dream a Little Dream

Orion’s belt was bright when I went out this morning, and Venus a mere shimmer behind thick clouds. Our super early walk was Koko’s idea, not mine, but I exerted my authority and cut it short, thinking I’d go back to bed.

I was dreaming, sort of like the Maui environmentalists who gave Sen. President Colleen Hanabusa a list of 29 conditions they’d like to see included in the Superferry bailout bill — a bill that gives the anti-environment Lingle Administration the power to set conditions for the ferry’s operation.

Despite more than a week of closed-door meetings and political wrangling, the bill is still being hammered into something the governor, the Superferry and lawmakers can support, at which point it will be trotted out to the public to complete the sham proceedings.

As the old saying goes, the devil is in the details, but when it comes to the Superferry bailout bill, the devil is in the deal.

It ought to be against the law to overturn two court decisions with special legislation designed to favor one corporation — and under Hawaii’s Constitution, it just may be. Attorneys with some sense of right and wrong — and yes, there are a few out there — are already looking to challenge the bill in court on constitutionality issues.

Of course, this is not the first time that Hawaii’s environmental laws have been sidestepped to please corporate interests. I was up late last night listening to Walter Ritte and Jerry Konanui talk about GMO taro and their efforts to get the Lege to stymie such experiments.

Gov. Lingle is big on biotech, which means the state has been actively courting the folks who like to fiddle with the genes of various species, believing all the while that they’ll improve on nature — or at least enrich the coffers of multinational chemical corporations like Dow and Monsanto.

These companies have been allowed to operate in Hawaii with virtually no scrutiny, much less a full EIS. The little bit gleaned about their operations — including growing experimental plants containing drugs and vaccines in open air field tests — has come from lawsuits filed by Earthjustice.

Already, pollen, bacteria and other materials from these plants have been released into our environment, although we really have no idea what the consequences of such actions might be on humans or the larger ecosystem.

The purpose of conducting environmental assessments is to identify, and then mitigate, impacts before they occur. But with GMO crops and now the Superferry, our governor and lawmakers are willing to gamble — despite decades of evidence to the contrary — that once the genie is out of the bottle, they can get it back in.

They’re dreaming.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Musings: Problem Child

With the Lege reportedly closing in on a draft bill that would allow Hawaii Superferry to sail, the issue now becomes how to handle Kauai — the simmering pot that threatens to boil over at the first sight of the ferry on the horizon.

Sen. President Colleen Hanabusa, after spending countless hours hobnobbing with Gov. Lingle and Superferry officials to figure out a way to get around the law, yesterday deftly passed the buck.

"I have told the Superferry that they have got to figure out a way to mend the problems between them and Kauai," Hanabusa said in a Star-Bulletin article that also contains a copy of the draft bill.

"They have got to acknowledge they have a major problem with the neighbor islands. I get a sense from the Superferry that they haven't figured out how to manage Kauai and the strong resistance they feel they are faced with there."

What Hanabusa fails to understand is that Neighbor Island ire is no longer directed solely at Superferry, but the elected officials who are conducting secret meetings to circumvent court decisions to benefit one corporation.

If the Lege, Lingle and Superferry want to turn down the heat on Kauai, it’s going to take more than an “informational meeting” and some Superferry schmoozing.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, remember what the demonstrators were chanting when they turned back the boat: “Hawaii Supreme Court says no.”

And that sentiment isn't going to change just because the Lege and Lingle say yes.

So What?

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

This piece, taken from my "Women and Men" collection, is my contribution to the occasion.

By the way, you don't have to be bruised and/or bloodied to be in an abusive relationship.

Hotline: 245-6362


“So what so you want me to do?” the cop is asking, in a bored voice, over the phone, and a catalog of responses flips through her mind: blow him up like a bomb, drown him like a rat, smash him like a cockroach, take him far away, shackle him, shoot him, throw his ass in jail, erase the part of her life that includes loving a man who now terrifies her.

She settles on one — arrest him — because it seems most likely to be agreeable to this officer of the law, and anyway, that’s what they’re automatically supposed to do when someone breaks a restraining order, especially for the sixth time; only, apparently it isn’t, because the cop is hesitating, persisting, asking is she sure, because he was, after all, holding a flower when they picked him up outside her bolted door at 3 a.m., and “I think he was just trying to make amends.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Musings: Light in the Dark

It was dark, dark, dark when I started on my walk this morning, but slowly, orange-gold light appeared, briefly brightening the sky, which then turned gray, awaiting sunrise.

I’m often struck by how things aren’t always as they appear in that half-light of pre-dawn. A white mailbox seems, at a distance, to be a person in a pale tee-shirt; a rotting tree stump looks like a dog cowering beside the road.

I feel we’re in that gray time right now as Gov. Lingle and the Lege continue their closed-door consultations on how to "save the Superferry.”

As one astute reader notes: “I have yet to see ‘to help save outer islands’ or ‘to help save our laws’ or ‘to help save the constitution.’”

Nope, right now it’s all about the Superferry. I found it interesting that even though lawmakers appear ready to endorse the newest draft legislation, Superferry officials are “still talking” and haven’t yet signed on to the deal that Lingle already said must meet their approval, according to a report in this morning’s Advertiser.

And now, rather than public hearings, they’re talking about holding “informational briefings” on the Neighbor Islands prior to a special session. Kauai already endured one of those “informational briefings” when Lingle came to talk about the security zone provisions, and let me tell you, they are not an effective means of communicating with the public, nor are they at all conducive to dialog. The last thing Neighbor Islanders want to hear is yet more rhetoric about what’s going to be done to us through yet another done deal.

Why not just release the draft bills as they’re being discussed so we can all follow the process of wheeling and dealing and see whether any progress is being made in responding to the concerns of dissenting lawmakers and the public? What is the justification for all this secrecy?

Where is the logic behind giving the Lingle the power to set environmental conditions for the ferry’s operation? Some lawmakers have said that would make her accountable if the conditions are slack, but why wait? Why not hold her accountable right now? After all, it was her administration that saw no reason to conduct an EA in the first place.

And that brings me to the million-dollar question: Why have Lingle and the Superferry resisted an environmental review so strenuously?

It can’t be the cost, because the state, for reasons unknown, is paying to conduct the assessment, rather than Superferry. Besides, the legal fees and lost operating revenues surely must by now rival the price tag of an EA.

We know it wasn’t to get the maritime loan guarantees, either, as Superferry officials originally claimed, because as I point out in my Honolulu Weekly "Unstoppable?" article, the feds thought an EIS should be done until the state said none was needed.

Is it the military link? Much has been said about this issue in both Larry Geller’s blog and an interesting little You Tube video.

Again, on this issue there appears to be some Superferry double-speak going on. As Larry’s blog notes, Superferry admitted in its PUC application that the vessel could be chartered to transport military troops, and officials said in a Pacific Business News article that one of three key points of Superferry's business plan is to “seek defense business, hauling vehicles between islands at night for military exercises.”

Yet when the Lege was considering during the last session a bill that would have required an EIS, and the issue of military transport came up, Superferry downplayed the connection. Sen. Gary Hooser gave me this comment for an article I published back then in Honolulu Weekly: Super Ferry officials acknowledge they “have had discussions with the military in the past, but there’s no contract at this time, and no current negotiations, according to what they’ve told me in writing.”

So which is it? Is the military a part of their business plan or not? But even if it is, why are they reluctant to ‘fess up? It isn’t as if anything linked to the military is doomed to failure in Hawaii, which gets an awful lot of butter for its bread from Sen. Inouye’s defense appropriations. As Ian Lind points out, there are a few discrepancies in Inouye’s reported role in this, too.

What, then, is Superferry trying to hide? Even if they were to go through the EIS process and impacts were identified, that alone would not scuttle the project. I’ve been reading EI statements for years and have yet to encounter one with impacts that couldn’t be mitigated.

Why aren’t more of our legislators concerned about all these unanswered questions? Or do they know more than we do? Let’s bring this whole mess out of the darkness, and into the light.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Musings: Drive Time Dirt

I never thought anyone would actually buy a lot and build in Kealia Kai, but the McMansions are finally going up, offering that coveted ocean view — if you don’t mind lookin’ at the highway, too.

The first megahouse is visible coming and going, and when I initially saw it, I thought it was a pavilion, or community center. Then I remembered, oh yeah, they don’t have those in faux ag subdivisions. Now earth is being moved to create more supersized building pads.

A sight that did please me was a state road crew putting asphalt under the guard rail at Kalihiwai. I figured they must be doing it to keep the weeds away — and that could mean less Round-up sprayed along the roadside. One can only hope.

Less pleasing was that gnarly steep driveway being gouged into the hillside at the bend in Anini Road. I had to go check it out after Kaimi said it looked like another Pilaa-kine landslide waiting to happen, sending tons of soil onto the reef, and that’s a favorite local fishing spot, too. They’re exposing a helluva lot of dirt, just so somebody can literally claw their way to the top and build yet another house that will be oversized and under-occupied.

At least the public can see that dirt being moved. The “negotiations” between the Lege, Lingle Administration and Hawaii Superferry are all being done in private.

What’s the point of having public hearings if they’ve already hammered out in secret a bill they know the majority will approve? Kind of like, what’s the point of doing an EIS if you’ve already allowed the environmental impacts to occur?

Why don’t they do their wheeling and dealing in public, so we can know what’s really going on, instead of having to rely on canned comments made to the media?

Oh, right, because then we would know what’s really going on.

On the home front, Surfrider Foundation is collecting donations to help pay legal expenses for those arrested in the Superferry standoff. You can send checks to PO Box 819, Waimea, 96796. So far as I know, only Gilbert Nieto has gotten his surfboard back, and it wasn’t from the cops. Somebody took it home after Gilbert got arrested at the harbor , then tracked him down through the coconut wireless.

Those who attended the opening night of Linda Lingle takes on Kauai know it was riveting political theater. If you missed it, don’t despair. Local playwright and filmmaker Koohan "Camera" Paik, who created the oft-visited “Discover Kauai” video on You Tube, is planning to stage a repeat performance entitled “The Aina Monologues.”

Paik found the meeting “electrifying” and was intrigued by the rich cast of characters and many points of view expressed. She spent four days transcribing testimony from the meeting — the video can be found on Lingle’s website — to glean the best bits, and will be holding auditions on Saturday afternoon.

“I want it to bring us together as an island, not separate us,” she said. “It’s just so relevant. That’s what’s pushing me forward.”

Monday, October 15, 2007

Musings: Ferry Fiascos

It was dark, cool, wet, and quiet enough to hear the horses grazing when I passed by their pasture this morning. As I walked past various plants in bloom, I was treated to little gifts of fragrance, returning home with a fistful of yellow ginger and one tucked behind my ear.

A friend stopped by last night with a few "buoy rats” – small koshibi and kawakawa — and cleaned and cut them for me, braving mosquitoes in the back yard. I buried the carcasses in the taro patch — kaukau for the kalo.

Speaking of gifts, I’m grateful for the intelligent, concerned people reading this blog. Mahalo for your thoughtful, informative comments, especially on the “At Any Cost” post.

A Vancouver, B.C., resident sent an email to all of Hawaii’s legislators, advising them he’d been approached for support by Hawaii Superferry, but wanted instead to warn local lawmakers of his own government’s disastrous venture into fast ferries.

I did a little research and found numerous articles about the fiasco, including this report from Alberta’s Business Edge magazine: “The U.S.-based Washington Marine Group [owned by Montana businessman Dennis R.Washington], built the [three] PacifiCats at a cost of $454 million for the former NDP provincial government, but wound up buying them back from the Liberal regime in 2003 for only $19.4 million.

The fast ferries were mothballed after complaints about cost overruns, excess fuel consumption, cramped seating, and damage to waterfront properties and shorelines caused by the vessels' large wakes.”

Vancouver isn’t the only place that had fast ferry trouble. The city of Rochester, NY, bailed out Canadian American Transportation Systems, which provided service between Rochester and Toronto, after it “showed a big loss for the big boat and closed shop early,” according to a three-part chronicle on the ensuing political, legal and financial woes posted in a political blog for that region.

Interestingly, Stephen Hobson, Chairman of NSC (West Indies) Limited, last year proposed starting fast ferry service between Barbados and neighboring islands, according to a report on

His arguments to justify the service sounded strikingly familiar: the ferries would help farmers get their fruits to market more quickly, and allow Caribbean folks to attend cricket games on neighboring islands at prices lower than those charged by the airlines.

All he wanted in return from the government “is the provision of the proper regulatory structure and necessary physical facilities.”

Despite his stated intent to have the service up and running in time for the 2007 Cricket World Cup, the project never materialized.

These scenarios could be flukes in the ferry world, or cautionary red flags that we might want to consider. Of course, it’s hard to know, without a full Environmental Impact Statement, whether Hawaii Superferry is a true gift, or a Trojan horse.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Musings: A Widening Gap

Slept in, lulled by rain, but the sun was peeking out by the time I got up. Despite the big clouds mauka, I decided to chance ‘em and headed for the Laundromat, confident my clothes would dry on the line eventually.

In the parking lot, a guy was taking advantage of the bright morning light to trim his nose hairs in the rear view mirror. OK.

Ran into my buddy Ken Stokes, who was the keynote speaker at yesterday’s sustainability conference in Lihue. If you missed the event, as I did, you can still get the meat by reading his speech.

He was disappointed the conference ran long and more people didn’t stick around to hear the closing speech by Stacy Sproat, who is not only one of my personal heroes, but actually pursuing a working model of sustainability at Waipa.

Achieving sustainability is a daunting prospect on an island where the top three industries — tourism, military and building lavish vacation homes — are totally, and inherently, unsustainable.

Still, I welcome the growing interest in the subject, as achieving it is the only way to resolve the growing disparity between this island's rich and poor.

Ken addressed the subject in his factors column in this week’s Kauai People, where he compares the distribution of wages and rents and finds — surprise! — that Kauai rents are skewed toward the high end, while wages are skewed toward the low end.

As a result, a lot of folks are choosing between paying the rent and eating. Some 20 percent of Kauai residents are “food insecure,” according to the message printed on the brown bags now being distributed (in hopes they'll be fiilled for the hungry) by Kauai's Food Bank.

MaBel Fujiuchi, head of KEO, which is working to open the island’s first homeless shelter and convert the old courthouse into transitional housing for families awaiting affordable rentals, told me last week that at least 1,000 residents are homeless.

And that doesn’t include those crowded in with family or pursuing their own novel arrangements for shelter, which I describe in this piece I wrote when I was houseless, but fortunately not homeless, for a month last spring.


I am looking for a rental, a new place to live, appalled by the prices and even more by the stories, especially of women and children moving from one house to another as each is sold out beneath them, and the plight of one single mother, in particular, who asks her uncle for permission to park her horse trailer in his yard so she can fix it up for herself and four kids. She’d thought of living on the beach, but heard the state will take your children away if they discover you are homeless.

Uncle says yes, of course; he’d take them all in if he could, but his own house is small and already shared with others, so the next day his niece moves her trailer to Uncle’s back yard and cleans it real good, attaching a tarp for a lean-to kitchen, cooking for the keiki on a single-burner propane stove. Uncle runs a water line and extension cord from his house so they can enjoy the comforts of hot showers, refrigeration, and they bring in a portable toilet because the kids can’t be running into the house all the time, or making shishi in the bushes.

They live like this for four months until finally there’s an opening at the county’s rental complex near Lihue. It’s a small, two-bedroom apartment to be shared by the five of them, but Uncle says they’re ecstatic because it’s a real home, and besides, it’s bigger than the trailer, and while I’ve never met this woman, or her children, I think of them as I drive each day to the beach past a dozen spacious, and empty, vacation rentals.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Musings: At Any Cost

The sun preceded itself with a swath of gold as all the stars drained from the sky, leaving only Venus, nearly overhead. Waialeale revealed itself against a lavender-pink-gray sky, and then reflected on its face the rosy glow of the rising sun, its summit capped in fluffy clouds. Another day begins.

Heard from a very reliable, well-placed source that Gov. Lingle issued the order in a private meeting Friday morning: the Superferry moves forward, with no EIS, at any cost.

The any cost, of course, is Hawaii’s environmental law — and the state’s dissenting citizens. And what role might that stance portend for her “unified command” forces?

It doesn’t sound promising.

I’m intrigued why Lingle is putting herself so far out politically for Hawaii Superferry.

She even called a press conference yesterday to remind lawmakers that a bailout bill is “not just between the Legislature and myself, but the Superferry has to agree that this is something that will enable them to operate in a way that they can stay in business."

Superferry officials, of course, have resisted an EIS every step of the way. Why would they agree to one now?

And why is Lingle pushing so hard to make sure Superferry is not only accommodated, but on its terms? Or as Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura asked, to huge applause, at the infamous Sept. 20 meeting with the governor: “Why is the state aligning itself with the Superferry and not representing the People for the Preservation of Kauai?”

Some folks have pointed to $25,000 in campaign contributions from Superferry officials and supporters, but as Lingle noted, that amount is peanuts, representing only one half of one percent of the campaign total.

It can’t be for reasons of pride, either, because she still claims she bears no responsibility for the current mess, and wasn’t in on the DOT decision to exempt Superferry.

And I’m sorry, but I don’t believe she’s driven by the belief that it’s what’s best for Hawaii. Politicians don’t expend this kind of political capital on the public good.

No, Lingle’s gunning for the Senate, and she wants to prove herself a good Republican by following the example set by our President: sacrifice the environment to business, and put naysayers off in a designated “demonstration zone” where they can’t be easily seen or heard. And if they continue to speak out, or make a scene, toss their butts in jail.

I first met Lingle nearly 20 years ago, when she was a newcomer to the Maui County Council and I was reporting for the Advertiser. I liked her. She was smart, thoughtful and accessible, to the public and the press.

As councilwoman, she sat through numerous contentious public hearings over development on Maui. She’s too akamai not to have known something like the Superferry would trigger opposition and near-certain litigation.

I hadn’t seen Lingle in the flesh for several years until she walked onto the stage at Kauai’s Convention Hall and faced a large and boisterous crowd. Despite her claims of encountering a rude, unruly mob, Lingle was in charge from the very start. I was impressed by her composure, and her strength, as she stood at the podium for more than three hours.

I was dismayed, though, at her cold rigidity. She was greeted on stage with an oli and hugs, but I’m not sure if she knew that those who welcomed her had demonstrated against the ferry at Nawiliwili Harbor. If she understood the significance of their greeting, she didn’t let on, because she in turn expressed no warmth or aloha to the crowd.

Lingle’s political mastery was evident that night, but I couldn’t help wondering, what had happened to Linda, the person? Why had a woman who once prided herself on accessibility refused, months earlier, to even accept a petition signed by more than 5,000 Kauai residents? Had she been so long away from Molokai that she forgot how rural islanders think and feel? Or did she no longer care, because we’re politically insignificant in terms of her greater aspirations?

Yes, Lingle likely does have the political clout to push Superferry forward, at any cost — and survive an impeachment drive launched by Big Island attorney Lanny Sinkin.

But she may ultimately find that the price of her militant stance on Superferry is greater than she expected to pay.

I’ll close with the words of Aung San Suu Kyi, the imprisoned leader of Burma’s nonviolent movement for human rights and democracy: “The way forward is not through repression, but through reconciliation.”

Friday, October 12, 2007

Musings: Low Road Low Down

My mind is an effective alarm clock. When it clicks on, sleep is over, which is why I was out walking in the dark this morning. Koko and I startled a feral cat feeding on a dead bird in the road. I felt badly about disturbing its meal, but glad, when a big-wheeled truck rumbled by, that it hadn’t become road kill itself.

Overhead, a Newell’s shearwater uttered its donkey-like call as it headed back to its colony with food for its chick. Somehow it had once again successfully navigated the perils of power lines and bright lights in the nightly journey between its home in the mountains and food source at sea.

The wind gusted through the ironwood trees, and they sighed — oh, how I love that sound! — as they released the raindrops from their needles onto the shell ginger below. About three-quarters of a mile into my walk, it started to rain, but we didn’t turn back. I always feel so alive in all that aliveness.

Ran into my neighbor Andy, who had sensibly brought an umbrella, and we chatted briefly about stamp auctions before I headed home. The rain got heavier as the sky grew lighter, exposing flattened chickens, and all the geckos and toads that had perished in the night. When you’re a walker, you notice road kill.

Gov. Linda Lingle’s drive for a special session to bail out Hawaii Superferry isn’t turning out to be a cruise, as she might have hoped.

Sen. Gary Hooser, back on Kauai last night after a “fairly contentious meeting” of the Senate Democratic caucus, reports “no clear consensus” among his colleagues for such a session.

About a third feel, as he does, that Superferry officials gambled that they wouldn’t have to comply with state environmental laws. “They lost, and we don’t want to gamble on the environment” by letting the vessel run while the state does an EA, he said.

Another third want to help the Superferry; company officials contend the business can’t survive without operating while the EA is done.

And the final third want to see what’s on the table, in terms of proposed legislation, before they commit.

The first proposal floated by Lingle’s attorney general offered “nothing for the community or environment, it was all for the Superferry,” he said. It would allow the ferry to sail “no matter what” and the draft legislation would supercede all state, county and federal laws.

“There’s no way that’s going to fly,” Gary said, so now lawmakers are waiting to see what else the Administration has up its sleeve.

So far, the Kauai delegation is united in its opposition to a special session.

But if a session is held, Gary said, it will follow the standard legislative process, which allows for committee hearings — and, fortunately, public comment.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Musings: An Outsider's View

The Los Angeles Times ran an article the other day that delves into the unrest over a surge of development, and other recent rapid changes on Kauai, that helped fuel the Superferry protests.

It’s the kind of story that would never run in a Hawaii paper, but it did a pretty good job of expressing the frustration that a lot of folks are feeling. KCC instructor Dennis Chun expressed it well when he said the Superferry was the target of mounting fear over the ongoing loss of so many things that make Kauai so dear to those who love her.

The writer obviously got an earful riding around with Kaiulani Huff, who is not known to mince her words. He started his piece with a comment that she wanted to “crack” a couple of tourists who were pushing her to move her truck so they could back out of their parking space at Kee, a place that has to come to symbolize how the recent explosion of tourism has overwhelmed so many of the island’s natural places.

The reporter quoted several people who agree, as I do, that the ferry’s next voyage will be met with even more opposition, despite the threat of federal jail terms, fines and CPS investigations.

Yet the Legislature and the governor continue to collaborate to figure out how they’re going to exempt the ferry from the law — and they may not even allow any public testimony on their actions.

Are they giving any thought to how citizens might react to this sort of ramrod approach to governance? Or is Lingle confident she and her “unified command” can suppress any dissent, even if it requires violence against the people of Kauai?

I feel deeply troubled that Lingle and the legislative movers and shakers are either ignorant, or disdainful, of the mounting tensions on the island over this issue.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Musings: Looking for Leaders

Coconut palms silhouetted against a brightening, pink-streaked sky had me looking up as I walked this morning.

I was thinking about a book I’ve been reading, Robert Gerzon’s “Fiinding Serenity in the Age of Anxiety,” and one sentence in particular: “The main characteristic of authentic leaders is their willingness to tell the truth.”

Fortunately, we’ve got some authentic leaders in our state Legislature, but it remains to be seen whether their numbers are sufficient to prevent a highly questionable special session to bailout Hawaii Superferry.

I think it’s worth remembering, as politicians ponder a special session, that those demonstrating against the Superferry on Kauai repeatedly chanted: “Hawaii Supreme Court said no.”

Despite being portrayed as rabidly anti-ferry, the Kauai movement was born solely from the desire to have an EIS done on the project. Superferry attorney Lisa Munger’s persecution complex aside, activists were not seeking to “punish” or destroy the ferry, but simply have it comply with the law.

A special session to exempt the ferry from a court-mandated environmental review is not going to sit well with many Kauai residents, especially those who lined the seawall and jumped in Nawiliwili Harbor to stop the ferry.

A special session also is likely to be viewed as bullying by the Oahu-dominated Legislature. As Kauai radio host Scott Mijares noted, if the Superferry issue has made anything clear, it’s that it doesn’t matter what Kauai wants. “They could come over here and build a dump for their trash and we couldn’t do a thing to stop them.”

Is bailing out the Superferry worth fostering that sense of disenfranchisement? House Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell seems to be akamai about that issue, and has expressed concern about ignoring the minority voices of the Neighbor Islands.

When an issue becomes this emotional, Rep. Mina Morita said, “all you can do is look to the rule of law.”

But what if you have a governor, administration and corporation that behaves as if it is above the rule of the law, and is trying to get the Legislature to go along with the lie that it did nothing wrong?

Well, then you’re likely to see law-abiding citizens resisting that sort of totalitarian regime, and a crack down by Lingle and her “unified command” in response.

It’s already happened on Kauai. And unless you learn from history, it has a way of repeating itself.

By the way, check out Ian Lind’s blog about DOT’s emergency appropriation — approved by Lingle the day she came to Kauai — to purchase helmets, body shields, gas masks and other gear to protect harbor police from “civil unrest.”

While the “civil unrest” on Kauai was totally spontaneous, the government’s response, it appears, is very carefully thought out.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Musings: Ignorance Ain't Bliss

The heady fragrance of mock orange blossoms greeted me as I opened the door this morning. It was dark, even at nearly 6, and I had a hard time getting out of bed. But Venus rewarded me with her bright, cool light.

Venus has just moved into Virgo, and the best way to handle that energy, according to Cosmic Path is to stay on the higher plane and avoid criticisms, even when I know I’m right. That might be tough, as it takes a month for Venus to move through a sign, but I’ll try.

Superferry polls have been popping up all over, with most of them claiming big support for the vessel. I don’t put much stock in polls, especially the kind conducted over the Internet or administered by PR firms.

But in the case of the Superferry, my reservations are heightened because despite all the words that have been written and spoken about the project, there’s still tremendous ignorance. I don’t think most people really know enough about all the ins and outs of the issue to cast a reasonable vote.

Just read the comments posted on any Advertiser story about the ferry, which I’ve stopped doing because it’s too depressing, and you quickly get a sense for the level of misinformation that is being promulgated.

Numerous Kauai people have told me they had to educate their ohana and friends on Oahu and the mainland because even after all the months of controversy, they still didn’t know what we’re upset about.

I’m concerned about this ignorance because it makes it easy to depersonalize people — especially activists — and turn them into the enemy.

This came to light when a friend recounted an experience that happened during the last Kahoolawe access. It seems a man who has some prominent role with the Oahu SWAT team ended up on island with a lot of Kauai folks.

He had no idea about the Superferry issues that were inflaming Kauai residents; he was merely doing his job when he helped mobilize the SWAT team that was sent to Kauai on the second day of public demonstrations to control faceless, nameless “protestors.”

But after Kauai folks filled him in on their concerns about the ferry, and told him who had been out there in the water and on the seawall, he began looking at the situation differently.

Through that sort of one-on-one education, the Superferry issue was humanized for him, to the point where he promised to keep “the boys” in line. And when you’re talking about guys with the power to shoot folks, that’s very good news indeed.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Musings: Unified Commands

It’s always pleasant on my walks to encounter my neighbor Andy and share a few words and smiles. Not everyone can handle cheeriness at the crack of dawn — or any time of day, for that matter.

The other morning I asked Andy, who recently retired from teaching history at KCC, if he could recall other times in Hawaii’s past when the governor formed a “unified command” for any purpose. He could not.

Of course, martial law was imposed after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, but that unified command was run by the military, he noted, and opposed by civilian leaders, who fought to regain control over the Islands.

He also could recall instances of Hawaii’s government using its police powers to support corporate interests, most notably the Hawaii Sugar Planters Assn. and its pre-WWII efforts to repress union organizing.

The territorial governor did send in the National Guard to put down the 1922 Filipino strike at Hanapepe, where six strikers were shot dead. And local governments did allow the HSPA to pick up the tab to hire extra cops to control strikers, and judges to try the cases of those who were arrested.

But those actions were initiated by HSPA, not the government, he said.

It seems that Gov. Lingle, in seeking to enforce her political decisions through the combined forces of county, state and federal law enforcement agencies, is moving into unprecedented, and extremely troubling, territory.

If lawmakers are worried that the Superferry debacle might harm Hawaii’s business climate, open it up to mainland ridicule or confer upon it “backwater” status, they might want to start by reining in the governor and her banana republic-style aspirations to command a personal militia.

Superferry lobbyist John Radcliffe was quoted in the Advertiser yesterday as saying: “most (sic) people in Hawaii want to see these Islands better knitted together into a cohesive sociopolitical whole than want it to be an amalgam of separate parochial outposts.”

I’m not sure which is more ludicrous, the idea that the Islands can, and should, be knitted into a cohesive sociopolitical whole or that the Superferry — one of the most divisive projects in Hawaii’s history — might play a Kamehameha-kine role in such a process.

If any message has been coming through loud and clear from the Neighbor Islands, especially Kauai, it’s that we do have interests that are distinct from the other islands, and certainly from Oahu. That doesn’t mean we’re isolationist, or dislike people who live elsewhere in Hawaii. It’s just that every island in the chain is unique, and on Kauai, at least, we want to maintain that.

The old concept of Kauai as a “separate kingdom” was referenced numerous times in public discussions about the ferry, including by Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura. Quite frankly, a lot of folks here do want the Garden Isle to remain a separate parochial outpost. From our vantage point, a “sociopolitical whole” looks a lot like Oahu continuing to dominate — at the expense of what makes us special and different.

If the Islands are to be knitted together, let’s see it happen under the leadership of a truly independent Hawaiian nation, not Gov. Lingle’s corporate-driven “unified command.”

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Musings: Vibrations

Venus, about an arm's length from the Moon, was the first thing I saw this morning. What a splendid sight to start the day.

Both were still visible, although faintly, when I reached the beach about 10 minutes later. Three iwa flew overhead, and a fisherman, throw net over his shoulder, poked the reef for tako. A guy was sleeping on the sand, curled up tight in a black blanket, looking much like a sea cumcumber stranded by the tide.

I wanted to be there at sunrise to swim in the shimmer. If you're into the string theory of physics, or one of the many other beliefs that science hasn't yet been able to categorize and label, you know it's all about vibrations. And I've found that swimming in the path of the rising sun, in that exquisite shimmer, raises my own personal vibration.

I experienced a vibration of a different sort yesterday, when I used a weed-eater for the first time. Usually, I trim the tall grass around my backyard dryland taro patch by hand, but when I saw my neighbor using a weedeater, I asked if I could borrow it.

As I whipped through the tall grass, enveloped in a stinky cloud of burning gas and oil, arms and hands vibrating, I thought of all the guys who spend the better part of their waking hours immersed in the vibration of weedeaters and lawn mowers as they manicure yards around sprawling houses used by vacationers or rarely inhabited at all.

Sure, they're glad for the money, but it's the kind of work that tends to breed resentment, rather than satisfaction. As my friend Kaimi stated so bluntly, "wiping the asses of rich people" doesn't do much to raise a worker's vibrations.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Musings: Rainy Days

Oh joy, the rains have returned. I love lying in bed and listening to a downpour, checking out the waterfalls after a few days of heavy rain. I’m not alone in my fondness for precipitation, either. Even when it rained those 40 days and nights last year, my enthusiasm wasn’t dampened. During that time I often ran into friends who shared the same mantra: “We love the rain,” we’d say almost in unison, our eyes shining.

Yesterday, after spending hours at the computer refining an article on deadline, I headed for the beach, as I typically do in the late afternoons. It had been raining at my house, and along the coast, too, where the ironwoods are greening up and the naupaka leaves have grown plump. The showers broke long enough for me to get in a leisurely swim and fill a very flat tire in the parking lot. Those portable compressors that plug into a car lighter are so handy. I drive on narrow roads with numerous potholes, and sometimes there’s just no escaping a puka encounter, which breaks the bead on my small tires.

I heard a psychic say that Kauai is returning to her usual rainy ways, which in years past deterred folks from flocking to the North Shore. Ever since Iniki, though, it's been uncharacteristically dry on the windward side, and both tourism and the population have boomed. But those halycon days are over, she predicted, and Waialeale will no longer be so open and welcoming. The island herself is closing down for some much needed liquid restoration.

The Maui courtroom drama is nearly pau; closing arguments are Monday, and then Judge Cardoza is expected to rule. From my reading of the law, it seems pretty clear that environmental studies must be completed prior to commencing any action — or in this instance, letting the Superferry run.

But in a case as politicized as this one, anything is possible, and Cardoza did issue that original bad ruling that was later overturned by the Hawaii Supreme Court.

I’m intrigued by Garibaldi’s admission that Superferry’s operating expenses total some $650,000 per week. It seems impossible to me that they can achieve the kind of consistent volume needed to break even, much less generate a profit.

Heck, they couldn’t even fill the boat when they were offering those special $5 fares. I haven’t tried to book a trip myself, but everyone I know who has — just for the sake of research — found it’s still a lot cheaper to fly and rent a car. And you don’t have that barfing over the rail factor to deal with, either.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Superferry Complaint

The state Public Utilities Commission will serve Hawaii Superferry with a formal complaint filed by Kauai Rep. Mina Morita. The complaint asks the PUC to suspend Superferry's operating certificate until it complies with all environmental laws, which is one condition of its permit. Superferry has 20 days to respond.

There's a lot more to it, of course, and I explore it all fully in an article that will be published in Honolulu Weekly Oct. 10.

Culturally Based Sustainability

The other day I heard a man who identified himself as a Native Hawaiian call in to KKCR and say he wasn’t too keen about folks moving to Kauai, even if they claim to love the land. “I think that’s the real invasive species: people,” he said. “I don’t trust a lot of the environmentalists because their agenda is not native.”

The caller went on to say that kanaka maoli look at the natural world as a source of food and sustenance, and since they use it often, they malama — care for — its resources. Environmentalists, on the other hand, see nature as something pretty to look at that shouldn’t be touched.

His sentiment is one I’ve heard expressed fairly often, and it would be wise for Kauai’s environmental community to take it into account, especially in discussions about sustainability. It seems we often forget that Hawaii’s indigenous people, who lived in that manner for centuries, have valuable models and tools to offer us.

Earlier this year, I interviewed Ramsay Taum about traditional Hawaiian cultural practices and values that can serve as models for 21st Century sustainability. The article, which I share below, was published in the Honolulu Weekly.


As modern Hawaii residents ponder how to achieve sustainability, they needn’t search far for guidance.

“All we have to do is look to our ancestors,” says Ramsay Taum, who founded the Life Enhancement Institute and lectures and teaches on ways to incorporate Hawaiian cultural concepts into today’s society.

“One common misconception, however, is that adopting culturally-based, traditional systems entails the need to “go back someplace,” says Taum, who is also director of external relations and community partnerships for the University of Hawaii’s School of Travel Industry Management and operations director for Hawaii Nature Center.

Instead, he sees it as “bringing forward those principles and practices our ancestors utilized and employed. It may mean a hybrid of low-tech and high-tech opportunities.”

Pre-contact kanaka maoli lived in harmony with their environment and achieved fuel- and food-sufficiency, feeding a population now estimated at 800,000, he says. They did it by embracing certain values and practices, and the ahupuaa concept was a cornerstone.

In days of old, the islands were divided into sections that ran from the mountains to the sea. Each ahupuaa had resources, and residents traded with others to get what they needed in a decentralized, family-based cooperative approach.

The state has adopted that concept as the framework for discussing its 2050 sustainability plan, a move Taum considers promising — and indicative of a larger trend. “I think there are a number of people who are accepting that model. They’re willing to do what others have already done, to learn from what they did and how they did it, and accept the over-arching values that go with it.”

Chief among them is aloha. “Although it’s overused, fundamentally aloha really acknowledges sustainability, because it’s about reciprocity. It’s about giving and receiving.”

While an ahupuaa is usually defined in topographical terms, “the system of ahupuaa is not just a physical place. It necessitated balancing the behavior of people as well as management practices.”

This was done through the concepts of aloha aina — approaching that which feeds you with an awareness of reciprocity — and malama aina —caring for that resource and exercising thoughtful stewardship.

“That’s not to say it’s an anti-development mentality, but a balanced approach. The ahupuaa was an engineered environment, but in manipulating the earth, Hawaiians found a symbiotic rather than parasitic relationship.”

In achieving that balance, one also has to consider how to maintain the authenticity of a place and quality of life, he says, “and that requires a great deal of respect. It leads back to aloha and on to kuleana, which means not just responsibility, but stewardship.

“If you want to enjoy certain privileges in Hawaii, such as build a successful business, you have a responsibility to give back and not just take out. If you’re acting from a place of aloha aina, you would naturally do that.”

Taum sees giving back as more than just paying taxes, “because most taxes to do not go back into the natural and human resources of capital.”

Other changes are needed, too, he says, such as expanding the concept of ohana beyond the nuclear family to the workforce, and creating “a new index for success” that moves away from the western definition of prosperity as individual profit.

Under a traditional Hawaiian model, “it’s not so much what I’ve gotten personally, but what we’ve done collectively. Each of us is responsible for the success of the others. There’s a consciousness or awareness you are part of the system and you spend your time doing your part. And if you do that, then you’re pono. Prosperity would be a measurement of how pono someone is.”

Those who aspire to live in a way that is pono “are doing precisely the right thing at the right time, and that changes, so you need to be responsive and work with it, or else you get stuck.”

Through it all, the individual is motivated by an awareness that “my behavior is affecting others more than just myself, and that comes down to kuleana,” he adds.

“I don’t think it’s possible to force people into being that way, but we do need to look at policies and principles that reward people for being that way.”

Taum is “cautiously optimistic” that the Islands are moving toward a culturally-based model of sustainability. “The yellow light is on only because I don’t think there are enough people who understand the system, even in the Hawaiian community, or if they do, they aren’t being consulted.”

He also acknowledges that “we have a long way to go to learn how to operationalize these principles in contemporary times.”

Still, he says, “we have to believe we have the ability to make that happen, and that we do have a choice. If we can’t do this in Hawaii, where can we do it? We might go so far as to suggest Hawaii is the canary in the cavern. As Hawaii goes, the world goes, too.”

Thursday, October 4, 2007

How Nutz is That: Ice Age

The Garden Island reports today that Kauai police officer Darla Abbatiello has settled her federal lawsuit against the county. Abbatiello, you may recall, contended she was “harassed, hospitalized and demoted” after reporting claims made by a suspected drug dealer that an alleged ice dealer had paid a police sergeant, who retired last Friday, $6,000 for protection from arrest.

Abbatiello’s settlement brought to mind this piece, which I wrote last year about a time when federal investigators were on the island looking into allegations about local cops involved in the methamphetamine, or ice, trade.


It’s long been rumored that the cops control Kauai’s ice trade, prompting calls for federal reviews that have been officially demanded and reportedly launched, although the FBI will neither confirm nor deny the existence of any such investigation.

But the tweakers on the North Shore know the rumors are true because they’re pale, bulking up — code words for an ice drought. All the lost boys who aren’t sleeping, or eating, stop each other at the beach parks, or on the street, where they exchange a standard greeting: “Who’s got the shit?”

The small time dealers have no supply to meet the demand, but still their customers keep calling, pressing for a big bag, a little bag, something, anything, unwilling to accept the response: “How many times I gotta tell you guys, I no more da shit?”

It’s totally, utterly dry, and word spreads quickly through the coconut wireless that the flow has stopped because the feds are in town, interviewing disgruntled police officers who claim that other cops do run the shit.

The bruddahs don’t care who makes the deals; they just want the shit. It’s been ten days, longer than many of them have been clean in ten years, and they’re getting restless, irritable, sharp-tongued, abrupt.

A few say they’re over it already, but more roam about incessantly, looking for somebody, anybody, nobody’s got the shit. One or two catch an occasional crack and claim they’re flying; abstinence, it seems, heightens the rush, a revelation that fuels the excitement of others impatiently awaiting their turn at the glass pipe, hopefully certain it won’t be much longer because, after all, the feds can’t stay in town forever.