Monday, July 7, 2014

Musings: Possessed

In the high desert, summer dawn is typically a calm, cool, clear affair. Grateful for long pants, sweatshirt zipped up against a low-50s chill, I walk and watch the first rays form a halo behind a blue-black ring of mountains, hulking on the horizon. Slowly, the light shafts lengthen, the sky brightens, the slopes turn green-blue and the sun peeks over a softly-rounded summit. 

In a flash, it will rise and fully possess the day.

I was reading a New Yorker article the other day about the bloody, costly mistake that was the American intervention in Iraq. But I wasn't struck by Dexter Filkins' account of the latest violence, or even his premise that it's deja vu all over again, so much as his description of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki:

His long face conveyed, as it almost always does, a look of utter joylessness. Having spent much of his life hunted by assassins, Maliki gives the impression of a man who learned long ago to ruthlessly suppress his feelings. “He never smiles, he never says thank you, and I've never seen him say, 'I'm sorry,'” a longtime associate of Maliki's told me.

And I thought, what could possibly possess a person to seek out such a life? Who but a psychopath would choose to live in such an emotionally stunted way?

Then I flashed on all the people like Maliki — and his would-be assassins — strung out all over the world, in positions of power great and small, deeply wounded individuals possessed with a need to control, exert their will upon others, indifferent to the misery they mete out.

How does the world change, can the world change, with such an entrenched dynamic in place?

Being away from the Islands has allowed me to view our populace and politicians — some of them similarly possessed — in a slightly different context. For example, the huhu over Kauai Councilman Tim Bynum's petulant pencil-pitching appeared particularly petty when compared to, say, the Espanola, New Mexico, city councillor who was arrested for allegedly pistol-whipping a man and firing gunshots at his car.

And even the most rabid of the “lil fistees” look pretty dang wimpy in comparison to the pistol-packing populace allowed to roam the “roundhouse,” as New Mexico's capitol building is known.

Still, I've been struck by some stunning similarities. Like how the City of Santa Fe passed a half-assed vacation rental law that it doesn't enforce, either, so there's an estimated 700 units operating illegally.

Like how Councilman Gary Hooser, Kauai Rising, and Babes Against Biotech are using the exact same rhetoric — mobilizing democracy, opposing tyranny, grassroots opposition, empowered constituents, the rights of citizens to protect themselves — as the fanatical folks fighting any form of gun control in New Mexico. 

Or to paraphrase Shakespeare: that which we call extremism by any other name would smell as stink.

I see that extremism rear its ugly head daily in letters to the editor, and The Garden Island's  comment section. Most recently, there was outrage over Dow donating corn to the food banks.

Not outrage over the fact that North Shore residents, the wealthiest on the island and the most vocal in their opposition to GMOs and pesticides, gave the absolute least in a recent food drive.

And not a speck of outrage over how many hungry people there are on Kauai — a whopping 20 percent of the population. Yeah, that many. One in five. Most of them keiki and kupuna.

Nope. Just outrage over a company that has been repeatedly pressed to grow food for local consumption growing food for super-specific local consumption: its own employees, with the excess going to the food banks.

Which brings me back to Tim and his pencil. He threw it in a hissy fit because the Council wouldn't quickly pass his anti-ag bill, which seeks to levy higher property taxes on ag land used for seed crops and experimentation. Tim pressed for rapid passage — before the election — saying it's urgently needed to defend “real farms” and make chem companies pay their share.

Of course, we all know by now that Tim himself got around paying his fair share of property taxes by signing a farm dwelling agreement that falsely claimed he was engaging in ag on his CPR lot. And he seriously undermined “real farming” by pushing the bill that allowed vacation rentals on ag land.

So it's hard to buy the sudden urgency, much less Tim as an effective poster boy of this particular cause. 

Still, we'll have another chance on Wednesday to see whether fair and equitable property taxes are indeed a concern for Tim and the Council — when it's the mayor poised to squeeze some political juice. The administration has introduced two bills, which are on the Council's Wednesday agenda.

One, proposed draft bill 2548, corrects a process that has resulted in the majority of timeshares being assessed lower than condominiums.

The other, proposed draft bill 2549, establishes a new property tax class of “residential investor” that would apply to residential properties valued over $1 million that do not have a homeowner exemption. County finance director Steve Hunt articulates the rationale in a memo to the Council:

This new tax class recognizes that high-valued residential properties tend to be more speculative in nature, are not typically offered as affordable housing, and often serve as second homes or investment properties.

Seems reasonable to me.

Finally, imagine my surprise when I noticed, on that very same Council agenda, a request to spend $30,000 in special counsel fees to represent defeated prosecutor Shaylene Iseri, her former first deputy Jake Delaplane and the county in yet another lawsuit stemming from her reign of darkness at the OPA.

And as so often happens, serendipity brought my post brought full circle.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

What's the lawsuit about this time?

Joan Conrow said...

Discrimination and retaliation.

Anonymous said...

"The other, proposed draft bill 2549, establishes a new property tax class of “residential investor” that would apply to residential properties valued over $1 million that do not have a homeowner exemption."

Be careful what you wish for. That sounds like a tax on long term rental properties to me. Enjoy your rent increase.

Anonymous said...

Why come nobody talks about how Yukimura and Nakamura changed the language on the original bill?

Everyone was up in arms when Charlie got his 30K raise but no one talks about Nadine's 50K raise.

This Chem/Bio bill has more problems than its cover but one thing Kauai is great at is covering up things.

The lawsuits against the county of Kauai rises faster than Viagra to a dirty cops erectile dysfunction.

Anonymous said...

When you mentioned all the feverish little bastards and bastardettes that hunger for power and when they get it, usually become tyrannical it brought to mind how different and noble Hawaii╩╗s own Queen Lilio╩╗ukalani was.

Anonymous said...

11:32 AM said "Enjoy your rent increase."
Last time I checked, there didn't seem to be too many landlords that were foregoing raising their rents because their property taxes remained low. Most landlords I know price their rents on what they can charge (supply vs. demand) and will pocket the profits when rents go up or absorb the difference when rents go down. I don't think they can raise their rents just because their real property taxes increased, as the same market forces that establish rent levels are in play. Higher property taxes to this market segment would simply mean lower margins of return on their investments.

Anonymous said...

I don't think many $1 mill properties are being rented out long term.

Anonymous said...

I do not know about this new lawsuit. Can you tell us who it is?

Is it possible that the former County employees might be wrong, and maybe instead of spending money defending the lawsuit, the County should negotiate a settlement?

Has that ever happened in recent years?



Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for many years now. Generally, enjoy it very much.

A pervasive theme of this blog is getting weary: wealthy people are evil or unkind.

Are there evil rich people? Of course!! However, I doubt the proportion of evil rich people is more than the proportion of evil poor people. Being evil or unkind has less to do with money than the overall nature of the individual themselves.

In fact, it could be argued that rich people are less evil since they have so much to lose.

Sitting around complaining about rich people is not going to make anyone more successful. Time to stop feeling sorry for yourselves, quit being envious and make your dreams a reality.

Anonymous said...

Jackpot Timmy's Farm Dwelling agreement didn't decrease his taxes. The home (and homesite) are taxed just like any old house. A Farm Dwelling agreement is a promise to engage in Ag activity to get the approval to build a residential house (ag dwelling) on Ag land. It is an agreement with the State. Timmy didn't do no farmin', but he may have been a singular horse rancher. Only the Shadow knows for sure. He did have the illegal rental (rice cooker and all), that inspired Shay to press him. Too bad Shay didn't run for Council. She'd get elected. Shay may have had a few hiccups, but she loves Kauai, knows the people and would have been great on the Council. She ain't no pencil poppin' hypocrite.
The farm agreement is violated all over the island. It is BS anyway, hard to do Ag on many Ag properties and especially hard if you are old and overweight.
Tim's girly hissy fit is another thing. Between arm waving, throwing a pencil and storming out of a meeting, in which the Chair, Joann gave Tim, a non-member a courtesy to dominate the meeting, it's embarasskin.
Between Tim's disciplining of Joann, trying to remember his questions and the umbrage he felt at some white haired guy's letter which referred to Tim's "vendetta" against big Ag, the meeting was a true absurd spectacle.
Mel deserves an award for patience. Joann deserves an award for calmness and Tim should apologize to the Council, get anger management and get organized. I feel sorry for Tim, but admire his sense of self-entitlement.
Kauai is a peaceful place and we luckily don't have a whole lot of violent nutjobs. But, what we do have are some very smart Fistee manipulators who seize on the Fads of the Day, use fear and lies to get public reaction. And in the case of the Anti Farm law, actual legislation. Every council person who put the County in legal jeopardy and split the island into hostile camps, should apologize , go home and collect their fat County pensions....The State and Feds will likely put a lid on these fantastical anti-GMO fistee ejaculations, anyway.
GMOs feed, fuel and clothe the world.
Oh BTW, I eats organic, have my house Feng shui, drive an electric car, do yoga and love cats, but believe in Big Ag and property rights. My recycling system is similar to Gary and Bynum's politics, I throw all my opala over the fence and let others clean it up.
Thank you, Mr. Nice Guy
cut n paste for calm Joann, white haired guy and arm waver.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pro-GMO-Hawaii/615389521823058

Anonymous said...

Why continue to extort money from property owners. Why should property owners be the main source of income for the County ? We paid our taxes when we earned the money to buy the property.

Anonymous said...

"Tim's girly hissy fit"

Please check your metaphor, it is 2014 and attributing bad behavior to girls is sexist.

You can say it is not an insult to females, but your words attribute hissy fits to females.

Luke Kambic said...

Maliki has a master's degree in literature, and he's married with children. It's not hard to find photos of him smiling. There are evil people in the world, and Maliki may or may not be one of them. But it sounds like your assessment of his character is reading too much into a brusque personal style.

Anonymous said...

Hey 4:47 PM. Way too much PC in your comment. I'm guessing most people did not had a problem with the girly adjective. The comment did not say that only girls or females have hissy fits but that Tim's was a "girly" style one. I saw it on TV and I get it.

Anonymous said...

4:47 get over yourself, descriptive words are apt and in no way insult females. Hissy fit over Joan's choice of words is silly.

Anonymous said...

Jeez, a psychopath? Based on what?? Maybe you need to step back a little and not take yourself so serious Joan. It's not all doom and gloom out in this big old world. And definitely, don't believe everything you read.

Anonymous said...

Everyone was up in arms when Charlie got his 30K raise but no one talks about Nadine's 50K raise.

Nadine moved into a new job with much greater responsibilities and more time demands. Charley got a raise for blogging favorably about his boss. BIG difference.

Anonymous said...

Shay engaged in race discrimination, targeted her political enemy, used County resources for her outside job and her campaign, used the County car to go bar hopping, cost the County hundreds of thousands in payments to her victims and more than a million in legal fees but other than that, she was terrible.

Anonymous said...


Moral of the story?

So send your kids to college to become lawyers......either make more useless laws, or represent the county and the police department when sued. Plenty business here on Kauai.

Lawyers always win (they get paid even for losing)

Zero Seven

Anonymous said...

Doctors get paid for losing too.

Anonymous said...

12:16pm, you obviously don't read the County's budget. Nadine's raise was because she went from Councilmember at about $55k to a COUNTY MANAGING DIRECTOR about $100k+. These have always been the salaries for these positions. So stop your bitching and moaning. OH, and Charlie got his raise from SHAYLENE.

Anonymous said...

If the EEOC determines there is a "right to sue" on behalf of the complainant, that means THERE IS A RIGHT TO SUE based on the evidence provided against the defendant. So it's not some conspiracy, the feds determined that there is evidence of wrongdoing by shaylene...these are our rights as employees, these are the laws to protect us, what if this happened to YOU. think about it...the lawsuit has every right to be made.

Anonymous said...

And obviously Nadine is worth every bit of her salary . The entire council fell apart after she left, making it a reality that her professionalism was above and beyond that of other council members. Smart move of Mayor B to notice her excellence and offer her the managing director job.
Interesting also how often Ken and Glen call for a county manager when we have one, a good one too.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
12:16pm, you obviously don't read the County's budget. Nadine's raise was because she went from Councilmember at about $55k to a COUNTY MANAGING DIRECTOR about $100k+. These have always been the salaries for these positions. So stop your bitching and moaning. OH, and Charlie got his raise from SHAYLENE.

July 8, 2014 at 9:48 PM

You people seem to forget about the Costa, Aiu, Heu, Janine, Lenny, Ernie, Rolf, Renae, numerous consultants fees, and the gas theft that has plagued this scandalous admin.

If someone offered you a position that gives you a 50K raise to change the language of a bill to make it susceptible to a lawsuit and to stall the implementation of the bill so the industries can get rid of evidence, would you do the deed?

It's like a judge asking an attorney to sabotage a client and in return the judge offers to give that law office more than their fair share of pro bono cases to supplement their income, would you do it?

Now ask these questions to the above name persons.

You all must have forgot. The Devils are in the details.

Anonymous said...

@4:48 if Nadine was doing the Mayor's bidding re 2491 she just would have stayed on the Council for one more meeting and voted no, sparing the Mayor from having to veto it.

The problem with conspiracy theories is that when you start pulling on the threads the whole thing unravels.

Anonymous said...


It's like a judge asking an attorney to sabotage a client and in return the judge offers to give that law office more than their fair share of pro bono cases to supplement their income, would you do it?
Wondered if the person who wrote this is being funny or an idiot? Wondered ?
Could it be that Nadine is a very smart lady and the mayor recognized her as the best possible candidate? Not everything is a conspiracy, some just good decisions.

Anonymous said...

The problem with conspiracy theories is that when you start pulling on the threads the whole thing unravels.

July 9, 2014 at 9:58 PM


Could it be that Nadine is a very smart lady and the mayor recognized her as the best possible candidate? Not everything is a conspiracy, some just good decisions.

July 10, 2014 at 6:42 AM

So what about the Kauai county furloughs? Was it a conspiracy or did the county have a surplus of 40-60 million?

What about the planning dept, was it conspiracy that illegal and unlawful TVR's were grand fathered in? If it was illegal in the first place than what makes it legal there after? Did they back pay the GE tax, insurance, and federal taxes?

I could give you more examples but you people are set in your ways. The good ol boys and gals believe that the world revolves around them.

Anonymous said...

The county furloughed because the rest of the state did and they would have a weaker argument for getting the TAT back from the state had they not.