Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Musings: Difficulties of Discernment

It was dark when the dogs and I went out walking this morning in a misting rain that wasn't heavy enough to soak, but was damp enough to chill. The landscape was just barely beginning to brighten, enough so that it was possible to identify the outline of the mountains, but not so much that one could easily discern a rubbish can from a human being, as Paele attested with his growl of warning.

Even in full light it's becoming increasingly difficult to discern rubbish cans from human beings and Democrats from Republicans, at least in terms of ideology, as evidenced by the extremely alarming National Defense Authorization Act now making its way through the Senate.

Introduced by Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan and championed by failed GOP Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the 680-page bill primarily authorizes military spending. But buried within its verbiage is a provision that would authorize the military to jail anyone it considers a terrorism suspect, anywhere in the world — even the U.S. — without charge or trial. Another provision would repeal the executive order banning torture.

As Democracy Now! reported:

So we’re talking about indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens, of lawful U.S. residents as well as of people abroad.

So, you’re picked up off the street and you have no trial.

And it could be for things you’ve done here in this country. If you communicate with Al Qaeda, you’re suspected of being even a supporter of Al Qaeda in some way or of Al Qaeda’s associated forces. And the U.S. gets to decide who they think is associated with Al Qaeda, and that list grows longer almost every day.

Now again, suspected. This is not that you’ve been convicted.

Yesterday, in a 38-60 vote, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have withdrawn the provision about detainees. Our own Sen. Daniel Inouye, who is seeking re-election, was among those voting against the amendment.

As Huffington Post reports, the President has threatened a veto — but not because it represents a radical encroachment on civil liberties. No, he's got a different concern:

"It is likely that implementing such procedures would inject significant confusion into counterterrorism operations," the White House argued in a Nov. 17 statement.

In other words, a turf battle between the FBI, Homeland Security and the military.

I loved the naïve comment from Sen. Dianne Feinstein: "We are not a nation that locks up its citizens without charge."

No, we assassinate via drone instead.

The Democracy Now! guest, Daphne Eviatar of Human Rights First, made an interesting observation about another motivation for the controversial provision, which was approved by the Armed Services Committee without a hearing:

[I]t extends the transfer restrictions. It means you can’t transfer anyone out of Guantanamo. And the worst it would prevent the transfer of detainees out of Bagram and Afghanistan. So, we have about 3000 detainees being detained indefinitely in Afghanistan at the Bagram Air Base. Now, the U.S. wants to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. This would make it almost impossible to do that, because you wouldn’t be able to transfer these detainees to Afghanistan because Afghanistan could never meet the conditions that are set out in the bill to accept detainees from the United States.

How convenient. And now we've got Biden over in Iraq, trying to prolong the occupation by leaving behind 3,000 to 4,000 troops under the title of “trainers.”

The message from Washington is clear: The wars must continue at all cost.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Musings: Monday Mix

This morning's utterly gray and gloomy skies likely won't make it any easier for folks to trudge back to work after a four-day weekend ushered out last evening by a thin moon drifting in a swirl of sunset hues above the mountains.

I always feel a little sorry for tourists who visit this time of year, as so often the weather doesn't serve up the tropical idyll that Hawaii marketing promises. I reflected on this while eating lunch at Anini Beach a few days back, watching visitors gamely spreading their beach towels in a wind so brisk it was blowing the locally-grown greens right off my fork while enroute to my mouth.

Yet still they keep on coming. As The Garden Island reported, quoting a First Hawaiian Bank forecast:

“[T]he snapback in Kaua‘i’s tourism has been strong” and has led Kaua‘i’s economy, with visitor numbers easily topping other islands and the state as a whole. It attributes the gains to strong brand image and a stable time-share segment.

But as economist Ken Stokes, now under contract to the county, notes, although a high visitor count does generate money for the local economy — and right now, it's about the only thing that is — it doesn't appear to stimulate job creation, especially in the hotels.

That's because so many are now staying at the aforementioned timeshares, as well as vacation rentals, both of which generate fewer jobs, typically with no benefits.

Still, in working on an article about “farm-to-table” endeavors on Kauai, it's clear that tourism does help to boost agriculture — except, of course, when ag land is sold to them for second homes, a trend that may be on the decline, seeing as how the island has lost 40 percent of its Realtors.

Visitors also comprise the bulk of those attending farmers' markets — they account for a whopping 75 percent of the traffic at the Waipa market — and many of the veggie farmers count on sales to the high-end restaurants, which are frequented most often by tourists, to help keep them afloat.

Speaking of the high-end restaurants, I've noticed that many have begun using brown, waxed-cardboard boxes for leftovers and take out orders. I don't know how the price compares to the ubiquitous white foam containers, but there's definitely a workable alternative should the County Council see fit to ban the plate lunch boxes that surely clog the landfill to a much higher degree than the now-prohibited plastic shopping bags. And unlike the bags, foam boxes can't be recycled here and are not typically re-used.

I was thinking the other day, while using a fork made from corn to eat the salad purchased from the Lilikoi lunch wagon at Anini, of the massive amounts of trash generated by our relatively new desire/need to eat and drink on the run. But rubbish, whether biodegradable or not, is only part of the story. China alone is producing some 57 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks each year, primarily for export, contributing to the rapid loss of Asian forests.

So now that I know that, why haven't I slipped a pair of non-disposable sticks into my purse, backpack, glove box? Note to self.....

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Musings: Bottom Line

The dogs and I went out walking this morning to find the mountains clear and a breathtaking sky all streaked with orange-red in the east and above that, a pale blue sphere edged on the bottom with the thinnest sliver of gold.

Yes, we're headed toward a new moon tomorrow, another fresh start, and in a similar fashion, the County Council is taking up measures that will be considered by the state Legislature when it reconvenes for a new session in January.

Among them are a resolution calling for a ban on aquarium fish collecting in the state, which the Hawaii County Council approved last month and our Council endorsed last week. And today the Intergovernmental Relations Committee again takes up a resolution proposed by Maui County that would require all genetically engineered foods to be labeled.

It's an issue that's been hotly debated around the world, so it's not surprising that it's generating controversy here, as well as some of the usual bogus arguments spouted by the GMO companies. One of my favorites is that those who produce foods without GMOs are free to label their products as such. Um, yeah, great, except remember how Monsanto, which created the disgusting bovine growth hormone, Prosilac, sued a Maine dairy to prevent it from doing precisely that?

Then there was the perennial claim that requiring such labeling would be burdensome and expensive. I'm sure the same argument was made when food manufacturers had to start disclosing the presence of additives and preservatives, as well as nutritional information. But hasn't that been a good thing?

What it really comes down to is the GMO/chemical companies, like Monsanto, Dow and the rest, are opposed to labeling because they know some consumers won't buy products containing genetically engineered ingredients. If consumers won't buy them, the food industry won't purchase GE crops, which means the farmers won't grow them. And then the chemical companies won't be able to sell their GE seeds and accompanying herbicides and continue to monopolize the world's food supply.

Awww, poor tings dem!

Bottom line: consumers have a right to know what they're eating so they can make a choice.

If the chemical companies think their products are so safe and so great, they should be proud to have that fact disclosed to consumers, instead of fighting labeling tooth and nail.

But even if the Kauai Council joins Maui in passing the resolution, there's still a big battle ahead at the Lege, where the chem companies have a substantial lobbying force and wield a lot of clout, which is why it's been so difficult to get any kind of controls on the GMO seed industry here.

Still, the “neighbor island” counties can have an impact, which is how proposals to protect coffee and taro from genetic engineering have prevailed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Musings: That Militaristic Ooze

The rain came heavily in the night, but before it did I had the good fortune of being outside, where I could see Jupiter, Pleiades, Triangle and millions of stars I don't know burning white against a background of endless black.

It's the time of year when white things bloom and fruit: snow bush, pungent noni, naupaka berries, spicy mock orange, musky hinano hanging from hala. It's also the time when workers all around the island, as I observed yesterday, are roping off sections of parking lot that will soon hold imported Christmas trees. A Salvation Army volunteer was already soliciting contributions to the kettle in front of the Big Save in Eleele.

I was out at Kekaha recently, and shocked to see that the Navy still has a miles-long stretch of sandy beach — you know, the land that unquestionably, absolutely for sure belongs to the public, all the way up to the highest seasonal wash of the waves — closed off in front of PMRF.

It's been 10 years since 9-11, and coastal military installations all around the nation have reopened the beaches that front their bases, but for some reason PMRF is still excluding us from our public beach.

“I thought the Navy reopened all this,” I said to the westside friend who had taken me down to that stretch of sand. “Why aren't you guys fighting against the closure?”

“We have been,” he said. “We fought for a long time and they finally reopened part of it. But I think people just got burned out.”

It seems there's another dynamic at work. The base, like the GMO seed companies, is a big employer on the westside, so a lot of folks don't want to speak against it. What's more, some of the local guys who work there apparently have developed a syndrome known as identification with the aggressor, and have tacitly endorsed the closure as a way to keep haole surfers out.

All I saw that evening were local fishermen, who had to turn around at the place where an armed civilian guard sits, 24-7, watching DVDs in an SUV and telling folks who don't already know that the beach is closed, so beat it.

How can PMRF justify this closure? The guys I know who work on the base tell me there's really nothing that sensitive going on there. If that's true, then why close the beach? Equally disturbing is the lack of enforcement action by the State of Hawaii, which leases the land to PMRF. How can the state justify this closure?

Some may dismiss the public's loss of the beach between Kekaha and Polihale as no big deal. After all, there's still plenty of sand on either side and folks can access some points if they get a pass to get onto the base. But it's very important to pay attention to this blatant and ongoing land grab.


As I reported in a 2007 article on the military's plans for PMRF — an issue that escaped the attention of many Kauai activists, who were instead obsessed with the Superferry — the Navy intends to ooze far beyond the boundaries of PMRF:

Future plans call for extending military activities well beyond the boundaries of the 1,800-acre base. The Navy also wants to test unmanned boats at Kaua’i’s Port Allen and Kikiaola Harbor, install a new antenna at Makaha Ridge, enhance its fiber optics infrastructure at Kokee State Park and add an underwater training area off Niihau.

As the Navy starts stretching out its tentacles, what other accesses and public lands might be lost, temporarily or permanently, on the westside?

While we're on the topic of the Navy, you might be interested to know that it wants to buy the two fast ferries that Austal built for Hawaii Superferry. Well, surprise! surprise! surprise! As the Virginian-Pilot reported yesterday:

The Navy "is working with the U.S. Maritime Administration to permit the transfer of the two high-speed vessels, formerly Hawaii superferries, into the naval service of the United States," Lt. Cmdr. Alana Garas, a Navy spokeswoman, said Friday.

The Maritime Administration took the ferries, the Alakai and the Huakai, in July 2009 after a bankruptcy judge ruled that the owner - Hawaii Superferry Inc. - could abandon them to lenders, who at the time were owed nearly $159 million.

And finally, I'm always blown away by America's blatant hypocrisy, as in the warnings issued to banks in an effort to enforce compliance with sanctions against Iran. As Reuters UK reports:

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said any bank that deals with Iran's central bank or other financial institutions runs the risk of supporting Iran's "illicit activities" such as its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons, support for terrorism and efforts to evade sanctions.

Ummm, let's not forget that the U.S. is the only nation that has ever used nuclear weapons against another country and our reliance on unmanned drones in nations where we are not even at war can most certainly be defined as terrorism — especially by the civilians who are so frequently targeted.

But looking past all the sanctions and saber rattling, is Iran's so-called race to build a bomb even real? As journalist Seymour Hirsch noted in a recent Democracy Now! Interview:

It’s just this—almost the same sort of—I don’t know if you want to call it a "psychosis," but it’s some sort of a fantasy land being built up here, as it was with Iraq, the same sort of—no lessons learned, obviously.

I can tell you, there's not much you can do in Iran right now without us finding out something about it. They found nothing. Nothing. No evidence of any weaponization. In other words, no evidence of a facility to build the bomb. They have facilities to enrich, but not separate facilities for building a bomb. This is simply a fact. We haven’t found it, if it does exist. It’s still a fantasy. We still want to think—many people do think—it does.

He then goes on to tell how the only thing that's different is there's a new head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, a guy the U.S. pushed hard to put in place, and since he shares our views about Iran, voila, he releases a report to that effect.

It's called propaganda — you know, the same thing we're always accusing other nations of doing — and it has one purpose: to feed that militaristic ooze.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Musings: Something's Missing

The proposed settlement between OHA and the state over revenues from the so-called “ceded lands” points out the big failing of daily media in Hawaii: it's press release and press conference driven. As a result, it continually reinforces a certain viewpoint that is reflective of government and its agents, but not necessarily the people.

In reading the reports published by Hawaii Reporter, Star-Advertiser, AP and Civil Beat, I was struck by how they all contained essentially the same information, which was provided by the governor's office and OHA.

Not one of the articles included comments from any Hawaiians who are not in government, even though the settlement proposed in 2008 was highly contentious and heavily contested, as I reported in a Honolulu Weekly cover article at the time.

So I'm left wondering, do the reporters who wrote these articles not know any kanaka in the independence movement to call for comment? Or have they just decided that their voices and views don't count?

As a result of their coverage, which is pretty much all that's out there right now, folks are left with the impression that this proposed settlement is "landmark" and the greatest thing since sliced bread — though one email I received likened it to OHA getting one slice while the state keeps the bakery.

The same is true of the Associated Press and Star-Advertiser reports on the Army's successful test flight of a hypersonic weapon, which traveled from PMRF to Kwajalein Atoll in 30 minutes. It's part of the military's plan to develop technology that could deliver a warhead (supposedly nonnuclear) anywhere in the world within an hour.

Both stories are essentially a reprint of the Army's press release. Again, no one sought out an opposing view, even though Kyle Kajihiro of DMZ Hawaii had something interesting to say in a comment posted on the Moana Nui Facebook page:

I would imagine that it can also deliver a nuke warhead. We spoke out against this when the navy did its programmatic eis years ago. At the time there was little to no information abut the hypersonic weapons, so the environmental impact analysis was incomplete. I never saw a supplemental study prior to their actual testing of this weapon. They are using the entire north pacific as their playground.

It's sad, even tragic, that journalism has deteriorated to such a state. Still, there is some humor to be found in the firmly entrenched belief that mainstream media is providing fair and objective reporting.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Musings: Nation of Wimps

I was driving along yesterday, listening to the radio, when musician Makana came on the air for a live interview.

“You're my hero,” gushed the programmer, echoing the sentiments of thousands who have left comments on the youtube posting of the protest song he sang at last Saturday's dinner for APEC's big cheese, as well as the many web accounts of his subversive action.

I've been fascinated by the response to Makana's decision to sing that song because it again raises the question: why is it so hard for Americans to speak truth to power? Even in, as Makana described his own actions, “a low-key, subliminal way?”

Some have attributed the reticence of locals to speak up to the lingering effects of “plantation mentality,” but that doesn't explain the apparently fear-driven silence among so many on the U.S. mainland.

Henry Curtis broaches the same topic on Disappeared News, recounting a litany of wrongdoings, from the bank bailouts through the atomic tests in the Marshall Islands to Honolulu police surveillance of an interfaith gathering in Waikiki, while repeatedly asking, “where are the voices of passion and justice?”

To be sure, there have been some voices of passion and justice raised; indeed, generalized outrage is largely what's fueling the two-month-old Occupy Wall Street movement that has spread to cities around the world.

But even though thousands have recently taken to the streets in America — a pretty paltry number in a nation with more than 300 million citizens, some 46 million of them impoverished — and hundreds have been arrested, for hundreds of thousands more, it's business as usual, even though at least some of them sympathize with the outrage. As BBC news reports:

Gene Williams, a bond trader, joked to the Associated Press that he was "one of the bad guys" but said he empathised with the demonstrators.

"They have a point in a lot of ways," he said. "The fact of the matter is, there is a schism between the rich and the poor and it's getting wider."

Mike Tupea, a taxi driver and Romanian immigrant, had been stuck amid the traffic and protesters for 40 minutes.

"I have to make a living. I pay $100 for 12 hours for this cab. I am losing money every minute,'" he told Reuters. "I have all my sympathies for this movement but let me do my living, let working people make a living."

Yes, the cops have gotten rough. Some “Occupy” protestors have been tear-gassed, and at least two seriously injured from rubber bullets that police fired into the crowds. But we haven't seen anything even close to the seven-month-long lethal crackdown in Syria that has left some 3,000 dead.

Yet Syrian protestors keep returning to the streets, even in the face of death, while folks in the U.S., who risk little or no danger by exercising their First Amendment rights, are thrilled by the daring of a musician who softly sings a protest song at a dinner of big wigs.

How did people get so fearful, in the near-absence of real threats? Or to put it another way, how did a nation founded on revolution produce such wimps?

Which is not to knock Makana, who has used the publicity surrounding his performance to urge people to “speak truth to power," as well they should. Because even those who don't feel comfortable with civil disobedience surely see wrongs every day that could begin to be righted if they would only speak up and out — or as the Quakers would say, bear witness to truth and integrity.

Surely everyone who is feeling uncomfortable about the state of our nation, the course of the world, can find the courage to at least do that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Musings: Moving Past Fear

A fat, more-than-half moon was directly overhead and the eastern sky was streaked with red when Koko, Paele and I went out walking this morning. Before us, Waialeale stood as an imposing blue hulk, her flat top visible as white puffy clouds billowed up from the lowlands.

It's decidedly fall, heading toward winter — the time when even folks who like to sleep late can see the sun rise, and the Laysan albatrosses return to Kauai. It struck me, as I drove through Kealia the other day, that this is the first year in 24 that I haven't encountered a dead Newell's on the road. I'd like to think it's because the factors that contribute to the fall out have been controlled, but I believe it's more likely due to the fact that their numbers have dropped so dramatically that there are far fewer left to be killed.

Though I really don't mind getting older, it's sobering to think I've been around long enough to see species disappear, both on this little island and in the rest of the world. But then, at the rate we're going, with humans causing the greatest mass extinction since the demise of dinosaurs 65 million years ago, that's no longer such an anamoly.

I visited a 95-year-old friend of mine yesterday, and she showed me a photograph taken from a Japanese Zero that was preparing to drop bombs on Pearl Harbor. I was struck by how barren the landscape was around the harbor in those days, the massing of truly sitting-duck ships. She had been sent the picture as part of a fundraising appeal from the aviation museum there, in advance of the 70-year-anniversary of the attack.

Wow, 70 years already. I remarked on how World War II had still seemed fresh when I was taking history classes in college during the late '70s and early '80s, and she replied that it was still fresh to her, because she had been in it.

We talked of the recent Veterans Day events, and she reminded me that it had begun as Armistice Day, marking the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month when fighting ceased between the Germans and the Allies in the first World War — the “war to end all wars.”

“And there have been so many armistices since then,” she remarked.


It's obvious there will be no war that ends all wars, unless it's a nuclear holocaust that ends us, too. But still, we act as if militarism is the ultimate answer; it's the threat so frequently levied when leaders casually remark that everything — as in killing, maiming, destroying, extinguishing — is still on the table.

I thought about all this as I saw the Star-Advertiser headline reporting news that Ian Lind had broken the day before, about how the Marine Corps plans to dramatically increase airfield use at Kaneohe Bay. It's yet another indication of the ramp-up that reflects Hawaii's ongoing, and increasing, military importance in the Pacific.

Meanwhile, Obama has forged a new security agreement with Australia, even as he claims we're not afraid of China.

Well, then, what — aside from medical marijuana, just about everybody in Pakistan and all those people still occupying public places — are we afraid of?

How do we move past that fear?

And I recalled the words of shamanic healer and teacher Sandra Ingerman: “It is not what we do that changes the world, but who we become.”

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Musings: A Different Sort of Future

After checking out the garden, which is chugging along on nature's cruise control, juiced up on interspersions of rain and sun, the dogs and I headed down to the sea. It was a shimmering expanse of sparkle, with big, white-frothed waves repeating the pattern they've perfected over countless eons: open and shut, open and shut.

And as I sat there, lulled by the shush and the boom, I got to musing about the very different world views reflected in events surrounding the APEC meeting, and what sort of future each would usher in, should it prevail.

First, there was Sec. of State Hillary Clinton's speech, with its ominous reference to "the Participation Age, where every individual, regardless of gender or other characteristics, is poised to be a contributing and valued member of the global marketplace” and equally ominous pledge to "systematically and relentlessly pursue more economic opportunity in our [?] lands" and beef up America's military presence in a vast area that extends "from the Indian subcontinent to western shores of the Americas:"

One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in this region."

“After a decade in which we invested immense resources in these two theaters [Iraq and Afghanistan], we have reached a pivot point. We now can redirect some of those investments to opportunities and obligations elsewhere. And Asia stands out as a region where opportunities abound.”

"A more broadly distributed military presence provides vital advantages, both in deterring and responding to threats, and in providing support for humanitarian missions."

"What will happen in Asia in the years ahead will have an enormous impact on our nation's future. We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and leave it to others to determine our future for us."

And then there was the earnest antithesis to Clinton's comments articulated in the statement produced from the three-day indigenous-led Moana Nui conference, the antithesis to APEC:

We, the peoples of moana nui, connected by the currents of our ocean home, declare that we will not cooperate with the commodification of life and land as represented by APEC's predatory capitalistic practices, distorted information and secret trade negotiations and agreements.

We invoke our rights to free, prior and informed consent. We choose cooperative trans-Pacific dialogue, action, advocacy, and solidarity between and amongst the peoples of the Pacific, rooted in traditional cultural practices and wisdom. E mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono. A mama. Ua noa.

It was bolstered, inadvertently, but just as earnestly, by Makana's artistic/political statement at APEC's gala world leaders dinner last night. Once on stage, he opened his suit jacket to reveal the words OCCUPY WITH ALOHA written on a tee-shirt, and for 45 minutes played different versions of a strongly worded protest song, “We are the Many,” he'd released earlier that day. A few sample lyrics:

Ye come here gather round the stage-- the time has come for us to voice our rage – against the ones who trapped us in a cage --to steal from us the value of our wage

From underneath the vestiture of law --the lobbyists at Washington do gnaw – at liberty the bureaucrats guffaw --and until they are purged we won't withdraw

We'll occupy the streets --we'll occupy the courts --we'll occupy the offices of you – until you do --the bidding of the many not the few

In a separate video, released after the show, he discussed his song choice:

It was an incredible experience to sing those words to that group of people.

I found it odd that I was afraid to do it at first. I found that disturbing. I didn't like the idea of being afraid to sing a song I created. If that's what we've come to in the world, where we're afraid to say certain things in the company of certain people, I think that's a dangerous place to be. And so for me to move out of that space I had to sing the song, and that's what I did.

So what if we, the many, all dropped our fear and sang our songs, our truth, our longing for a different sort of future than the same-old-same-old pitched by APEC and its participants?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Musings: Choose Love

Driving along the Kapaa bypass last night, full moon on my right, dense clouds and rain on my left, looking, hoping, for a moonbow crowning the Giant, though none appeared. Just as I arrived home, the rain overtook the moon and each time I awoke from sleep — or perhaps that is what woke me — I heard it drumming on the roof, splattering against the window, pouring from the eaves.

It's the season of rainy weather, and so of rats trying to come inside to stay dry. Paele is out on the screen porch, whining and circling the washing machine, beneath which a rat may very well be hiding, but it ain't coming out so long as Paele is there, and he won't leave unless I drag him away.

And so they continue their game of hide and seek, in much the same scenario that is being carried out on battlefields around the world.

It's Veterans Day, and though I hate war, I have nothing but respect and compassion for the men and women sent, willingly or not, to risk or give or mess up their lives fighting for causes that generally have nothing to do with truth, justice and the spread of democracy, even though that's how they're invariably packaged.

In his remarks at an Arlington Cemetery ceremony, Obama, ignoring the blood on his hands, proclaimed: "The tide of war is receding."

Would that it were true. But even as he ends the occupation of Iraq, mostly because they're kicking us out, we are stepping up drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and god knows where else, and pouring billions into a vague “war on terror” even as programs that benefit veterans and others are slashed.

In light of all that, it's interesting to note that on this day of honoring warriors, we're also observing the date 11-11-11, which in metaphysical circles is seen as extremely significant, since 11 in numerology is a master number. As The Cosmic Path describes it:

We are all here in this lifetime, at this point in time and space on this planet, to master our lower selves and evolve into more enlightened beings. It’s why we’re here and here we are. We are getting it, at last, that it is a group consciousness, made up of individual aspects of the oneness. Step into Love today, which is another way of saying step into your Self, because from here on in it will be a different world.

I don't know if a line up of the numbers actually can initiate change, but certainly, change is needed, and as I see it, part of “getting it” is honoring and supporting the re-emergence of the feminine. And here's one good reason, articulated in an article about why all those coaches and Penn State officials failed to call the cops when they learned of allegations that Sandusky was abusing young boys:

Also, female groups tend to connect around doing the right thing. “When women get together,” says [Harvard Medical School associate clinical professor William] Pollack, “they assess what the right or best thing is, and then decide as a group how to accomplish it.

“But male groups bond by suppressing shame and promoting the idea that their group is invulnerable,” he continues. “So their focus is on one another and not—in this case—the victim.”

In light of that alone, wouldn't you rather see women run the world — or at least have equal standing in it? Which is not to knock men, just some of the systems they've created, largely because they've been conditioned and programmed, like all of us, to behave certain ways.

But that which has been layered on can be peeled off.

So when I set my intention, both personal and planetary, on this potentially portentious day — because why not behave as if our thoughts matter? — it will be to peel off the layers that prevent us from choosing love.

And on that note, let me leave you with an amazing little video that serves as a good reminder to keep looking up.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Musings: Sparkling, And Not

Heavy downpours in the night left puddles in the road for Koko, Paele and me to skirt as we took our morning walk beneath a sky that was trying to brighten even as dark clouds were rolling in. And sure enough, rain began falling while the sun was out, making the whole world sparkle.

Similarly, some sparkling bits of news have emerged amid the usual dark doom and gloom. Mississippi voters rightly rejected a Constitutional amendment that defined life as a fertilized egg, which would have greatly restricted women's rights and opened the door to a serious attack on Roe vs Wade.

I'm also glad that those who protected the perp in the Penn State young boy sex scandal are going down. Most people have no idea just how devastating sexual abuse is to the victim. And it's great that more women are finding the courage to speak up about sexual harassment from GOP President candidate Herman Cain, despite the usual backlash that further victimizes them.

Uncomfortably closer to home, I've learned our planning department is facing its own allegations of sexual harassment from a female employee currently on administrative leave. Or in other words, her career is on indefinite hold. So now we've got allegations of sexism and racism plaguing that department. What's it gonna to take to clean that place up?

In the meantime, the county Planning Commission, at the recommendation of Director Mike Dahilig, denied appeals by three ag land vacation rental owners whose applications were initially turned down as incomplete. Their attorney, blogger Charley Foster, missed the deadline for filing an appeal, arguing that the clock should have started ticking when the denial letter was postmarked, rather than signed. That may be legit, but still, if you had any doubt about the deadline at all, wouldn't you check, rather than make an assumption?

None of the three applicants live on island, and at least one bought the property recently, which underscores the objection that many of us have to so many of the ag TVRs: they have nothing to do with supporting local farm families and everything to do with commercial investments for mainlanders.

The Garden Island has Dahilig saying “only” 81 ag TVR owners had applied by the Aug. 16 deadline, which doesn't sound like a lot — until you consider that we had only 48 farms growing veggies and only 45 producing taro, according to the most recent (2009) Dept. of Ag stats. And how many ag TVR owners do you suppose didn't even bother to apply, because they figured, quite reasonably, given the county's history, that the likelihood of getting busted for their illegal operation was pretty darn slim?

Getting back to national news, it's obvious the “Occupy Wall Street” movement is having some impact on both voters and the media, with Reuters publishing an article that outlines just how the 1% have been able to accumulate so much more wealth than the rest of us:

Income inequality couldn't be more of a mainstream issue as some 70 percent of Americans surveyed want wealth shared more equally.

The reasons for the growing disparity, which the CBO [Congressional Budget Office], without irony, measured by an increasing "Gini coefficient," were buried deep in the report. It's how income was taxed that allowed the ultra-wealthy to keep more of what they earned compared to middle- or lower-class Americans.

Of course, fixing that disparity becomes more challenging when you consider that so many federal legislators are part of that 1 percent, with the 10 richest members of Congress — all of whom voted to extend the Bush tax cuts — worth an estimated $2.8 billion, according to a report in Mother Jones.

And finally, I was amused to read a report from a former Navy SEAL who rejects just about everything in the official account of how Osama bin Laden was killed. So if we can't believe the Obama Administration's story of how he was killed, how can we, in the absence of any sort of documented proof, reasonably believe that they took him down at all?

Or to borrow an old line from Pink Floyd: “Haven't you heard, it's a battle of words, and most of them are lies?”

Monday, November 7, 2011

Musings: Best of the Worst

Out in the night, watching Jupiter chasing a waxing moon across a star-dappled sky, clouds drifting lazily over the mountains, where the waterfalls have grown thick and vivid from a week of heavy rain, which returned this morning for another hard soaking before the dogs and I got up and walked in the yellow light — oh yes, the sun! — as thunder rolled in the distance.

Everything looks so vibrant, lush, alive — except the civilians the U.S. keeps killing with its not-so-secret drone attacks in Pakistan, our latest undeclared war. As Democracy Now! reports, the most recent victims are a 16-year-old boy, who attended an anti-drone meeting to learn how to document civilian casualties from strikes near his home, and his 12-year-old cousin.

I don't think most Americans have any idea how widely drones are being used, and how many people, including civilians and kids, are being killed. As journalist Pratap Chatterjee reports:

[I]n every village around Mir Ali, Miranshah, there are drones, often 24 hours a day.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, where I work, has created a database of everybody that has been killed since these drone strikes began a number of years ago under Bush. Eighty-five percent of them have taken place under Barack Obama. And we have used the most conservative counting methodology that we can. It has to be reported by multiple sources. And using that methodology, we have counted over 2,300 people that have been killed, and as many as 3,000. Waheed Khan, age 12, and Tariq Aziz, age 16, were the 174th and 175th documented child casualties in this war.

Yet another example — and I've been meaning to post this one, about how the Obama Administration is cracking down on state medical marijuana dispensaries, even though he promised he wouldn't, by going after media outlets, including California's few remaining independent newspapers, that advertise the clinics — of how Obama isn't much different than Bush, except he vacations in Hawaii.

The Prez will be here again this week as part of the APEC meetings, which include not just the leaders of some 20 Pacific nations, but top-ranking business executives from the region, too. As a report in the Star-Advertiser noted:

"The summit is unlike any other event in the world, allowing senior business executives to engage with world leaders and have an immediate impact on economic policy decisions," [APEC 2011 US Host Committee Monica] Whaley said in a statement. "These discussions move markets."

In other words, Hawaii residents are paying millions for security measures, and enduring road and beach closures, though fortunately not drone attacks, so government and industry can do its usual back-slapping, glad-handing, arm-twisting, palm-greasing lobbying and deal-making in safety, comfort and style.

Aurai! We're so blessed!

Meanwhile, even though most citizens remain clueless about APEC and how globalization adversely impacts the masses and the aina, the high muckety-mucks are getting a tiny bit worried that the struggling peasants may wake up and pick up pitch forks:

"In the context of APEC, I would argue that the major problem we are facing this year is the increase of this disparity in income between the rich and the poor," [UH APEC Studies Center Director Tung] Bui said. "This is not only happening in the developing countries like China and Vietnam and the Philippines, but also in the United States."

He added that he expects that, in their declaration on economic growth, leaders will recognize "that growth has got to be inclusive for everyone -- there should be a fair share for the rich and the poor as well."

By George, that's it! Just make a bigger pie! Because even though we live on a planet with finite resources, and our back is right up against the resource-depleted, global-warming wall, we can just grow right out of the depression, grow right out of the inequity, keep on growing forever, right?

Is that the best that the supposedly best minds in government and business can give us?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Musings: Beliefs

The thunder rumbles, cracks, rolls on. Koko paces and pants nervously, her tongue dripping like the eaves outside as the mid-morning sky slowly brightens to a lighter shade of gray.

A virgin garden bed, freshly fluffed in the pale silver-pink of last evening's dusk, lies open to the nitrogen-fixing effects of lightning, awaiting the seeds that I will sprinkle upon it at some point this day.

It's been just nine weeks since I planted the first seeds in the first bed — one bed has grown to six, each progressively larger — and yesterday I completed one full cycle: pulling up the scraggly survivors of that original arugula crop, adding them to the compost heap, returning compost to the soil.

In the first light of day, I walk through the garden, pulling weeds as I go, checking on everyone and everything. Tiny beans hang from pink-flowered vines, cucumber tendrils reach out to the kale and must be re-directed to the trellis, daikon greens shoot out flamboyantly, encroaching on the green onions. I pull back the honohono grass and the strangling vine that snakes into the soft, fertile soil of the taro trench, re-establishing the always fluid border between wild and tended.

We humans aren't the only ones to go for the easy pickin's, sprawl, intrude on territory inhabited by others so they must struggle harder to survive.

Later, I look out my window through steady rain at my garden, go on-line, browse the news sites, feel the conflict, the polarization, recoil, and think of a recent conversation with a friend, who remarked, “People defend their beliefs like they are their children.”

It strikes me that I have an awful lot of kids; which ones are truly worthy of defending? And will any, if given an equal quantity of tending, yield a bounty equal to the plants in my garden?

The thunder rolls on.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Musings: Miraculous

It's been the best kind of day, as in dominated by rain, and I had the chance to really watch it, falling straight, with spaces between the drops, floating in through the bamboo, creeping past the peaks of Makaleha. The sounds were mostly drips, and in the distance, the river, rushing ever more loudly, and much nearer, the birds, which chirped as they took cover during the heaviest showers and chirped when they returned, in the lull times, to feast on the insects and worms that must surface, or drown.

The dogs and I followed the pattern of the birds: taking cover in the screen porch, which though technically inside, feels almost outside, when the rain came; walking among the glistening plants, atop the quenched, nourished soil, in the short spells when it departed.

During one of the taking cover times, Farmer Jerry called — people who really love the rain call each other on days like this, to share in the exultation — and somehow we got to talking about how it's hard to be an atheist when confronted with a seed, especially on a day such as this, when everything is so alive and thriving. And from there it was an easy enough segue into how the legendary six days of creation did not end on the seventh, but continue each and every day, an ongoing miracle evident to anyone with a farm or garden or connection to things that grow.

I am a believer in miracles — the kind that grow, the kind we can't explain or barely understand, the kind that change people, upend beliefs and their associated systems.

I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in saying it feels like the world is waiting for a miracle, a paradigm-busting event on the scale of discovering the earth rotates around the sun, an atom can be split. It's gotta be something really major, seeing as how the global economy is teetering, the planet is warming, the population is skyrocketing, solutions are scarce, our collective will is weak.

But what if there isn't any savior out there who's gonna give us the answers, and instead, it's up to every one of us doing something really daring, like living as if each time we witness someone having an emotion, taking an action, the very same neurons that are firing in them, are firing in us, too?

Because they are. We're that alike, that interconnected.

What sort of profound impact do you suppose it would have on how we treat one another, behave in the world, heck, choose what to watch on TV, if we really, truly understood that dynamic?

Perhaps nothing short of miraculous?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Musings: Image Problems

The dogs and I managed to slip out for a walk this morning beneath a smattering of stars, between showers, which were looming in a black, billowy mass at the end of the street and resumed shortly after we returned to the house and then turned heavy in a winter-weather sort of way.

Flashlight in hand, I checked my car, where a rat had been captured the night before. It must've been in the bin of junk mail, which I'd carried from a shed out to the car that morning along with a pile of cardboard, enroute to the recycling center. Paele started sniffing around, and then I saw a flash of gray scuttling between the seats and he went nuts, madly pawing at the space beneath the glovebox where the rat had taken refuge. I left my doors open for the rest of the day, hoping it would leave, but it didn't, and since I couldn't bear the thought of driving my car with a live rat inside, I called a friend to bring over some traps after work.

Meanwhile, I found the empty, half-gallon plastic bottle at the bottom of the recycling bin where the rat, apparently pregnant, had made a comfy nest of leaves and torn bits of newspaper. And while I was sad that the rat hadn't escaped, I was glad not to have a litter of rat babies in either my car or shed.

Perhaps it was the thought of rat babies that led me to read the AP article about a pregnant woman's “horrifying experience” at a Honolulu Safeway, where she and her husband were arrested, and their toddler taken into protective custody overnight, after failing to pay for $5 worth of sandwiches eaten while shopping.

What struck me most, though, were the comments that were posted, with readers talking about how expensive Hawaii is, how stupid the state is and how racist the people are. One person noted that if the woman had been local, they would've congratulated her on her pregnancy and given her another sandwich.

Hawaii clearly has an image problem, because how many times have you heard the same complaints, or perhaps even voiced them yourself — anonymously, or privately, of course? We sometimes even see these simmering animosities taken to the extreme, like the Anahola man who allegedly chased down and punched out a visitor who had passed his car on the road.

Yet these deep-seated issues are regularly swept under the table, with the thought that if we just spend more on promoting tourism, if we just try to cast Hawaii in the most favorable possible light, no one will notice all the ways in which “paradise” is rough around the edges.

Elected officials like Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle play right into this. In response to citizen complaints about security measures that will block public access to public places during the upcoming APEC meeting, he was his characteristically callous and dismissive self. As The Associated Press reports:

"Even though we live in Hawaii, where the sun is shining and it's beautiful, there are some people who grumble every day," Carlisle said in an interview Friday.

"It's very clear to virtually all of the leaders in the entire state that APEC is a golden opportunity that we have to be extremely thankful to President Obama for affording us," Carlisle said.

And if takes spending millions on excessive security measures, ridding the city of its hordes of homeless — temporarily, of course — and making parts of Waikiki look like it was hit by a neutron bomb so that the delegates with their questionable business dealings can feel comfortable and Honolulu looks good on TV, well, that's what they're going to do.

Still, I can't help but think that one resident had it right when she suggested they could have met instead on one of the island's many military bases. Heck, they occupy some of the most beautiful beach fronts in Hawaii, and have lots of experience in keeping people, especially protestors, out.