Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Musings: Where Fluff Meets Puff

It was hard not to laugh at the timing of The Garden Island's super-gushy articles today about PMRF commander Capt. Bruce Hay and kooky Terry Lilley getting his own reality show.

The nexus between the two, aside from the plethora of fluff and puff? To quote TGI:

Lilley admits that the work he has been doing is controversial. One of his recent hypotheses is that the [coral reef] disease is caused by the Navy’s use of sonar and electronic microwaves along the North Shore.

OK, Terry, whatever you say....

It couldn't possibly be the Princeville pesticides, well-fertilized shoreline landscaping and all those ancient cesspools now stretched beyond capacity serving the sleeps-14 vacation rentals in Hanalei and Haena.

Besides, you wouldn't want to make Pierce Brosnan — whose practice of planting the public beach in front of his TVR and fertilizing it with chicken shit was documented on this blog — uncomfortable when he makes a guest appearance on the show.

The program, featuring Lilley and thus aptly named “Reef Madness,” promises:

The audience will become fully immersed into the eccentric life of biologist, reef talker, fish whisperer and ocean savior Terry Lilley.

Add a dash of political conflict and chaos with the military, local mayor, congressional reps and even the governor of Hawaii who can’t get out of Terry’s vortex.

Gag. What exactly has Terry saved? And has he ever spoken in a whisper? He's usually yelling at the top of his lungs to draw attention to himself.

But vortex — defined as whirling mass, black hole — is an appropriate word choice for anything associated with Lilley, a full-fledged flake and publicity hound. What's surprising is that Sylvia Earle, or anyone with any credibility, would touch this project with a 10-foot pole.

Terry is quoted as saying:

My hope is that the people I have conflicted with come forward and be part of the project.

Be careful what you wish for, Terry. You've burned a lot of people, and have a lot of a skeletons in your closet that could be outed.

As for Capt. Hay, it's really great to hear he's giddy about whales and turtles and seabirds. I feel that way myself.  

Still, I'm having a little trouble reconciling his role flying missions on an Iraqi Freedom Flight and his statement: "I did something that mattered."

Looking at the hell hole that is Iraq in the aftermath of the American invasion, it's hard to imagine just what that might be.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Musings: Rights and Wrongs

In today's The Garden Island, Dominic Acain of Kekaha bemoans the fact that “industries, profits and jobs were always placed before safety, health and environmental concerns.”

Yes, it's an age-old scenario that is still playing out in so many ways today: poachers wiping out entire species; women and children sold as sex slaves; endless wars; mounting carbon emissions in the face of perilous climate change — all due to placing profits and jobs above all else.

So Dominic and I are very much in agreement on that point.

Dominic then goes on to draw a parallel between the regulation of lead paint and the “battle here on Kauai, or Hawaii for that matter, regarding the use of pesticides.” He ends his piece with:

Regardless of which side of the pesticide issue one stands on, the bottom line is what is morally just. It’s easy for people to find facts and supportive evidence that works to ones [sic] own interest. It’s easy to find a way to discredit or supposedly debunk claims on each side. However, what matters most is moral responsibility. The true test of moral citizenship is when you uphold what is morally right even when it is a personal, political or economical inconvenience.

What has concerned me deeply in this “battle” that Dominic references — and it has included GMOs as much as pesticides — is the murky moral muck trod by so many in thick of the fight, coupled with the self-righteousness that frequently permeates the rhetoric and actions of those who believe they inhabit the high moral ground.

It seems, at first, an easy moral call to oppose pesticides — they are designed to kill life forms, and we have ample evidence they can harm ecosystems and humans in sufficient and/or prolonged doses.

Yet in today's paper we also have a letter from voyager and artist Keala Kai, writing on behalf of the Hikianalia and Hokulea crew to thank Aloha Termite Kauai for fumigating the handmade koa gifts that will be presented to dignitaries as Hokulea continues on the fourth leg of her worldwide journey.

Is the use of pesticides in that situation morally wrong? What about to treat water to destroy pathogens that historically killed millions? Control mosquitoes that infect humans and animals with diseases? Remove termites from a home that represents someone's lifelong investment? Increase crop yields so as to help stave off starvation?

Similar moral questions can and should be raised and deliberated about our energy use, the plastics that are an integral part of our daily life, the heavy metals employed by industry, the sweatshops that produce the cheap goods we buy, the deadly emissions produced by motorized transport, pharmaceuticals that can heal and kill, the species destruction caused by overfishing, over-logging, overgrazing, over-population by the dominant human species, the rampant destruction of life and land by war.

When you look at these practices, singularly or as a whole, it's quite easy to pronounce them all morally wrong. We know they are harmful, and yet we continue, out of greed, laziness, selfishness, short-sightedness, convenience, habit, or what have you, to engage in these activities. We are none of us exempt from this immorality.

Which is why it is impossible for the “red shirt” movement to claim the high moral ground in the GMO/pesticide “battle,” smugly portraying itself as the good and just defenders of the land, saviors of the keiki, and the “blue shirts” as the evil and corrupt land poisoners, baby killers.

But it not only has claimed that ground, it has justified the most immoral activities — lying, cheating, harming farmers, misusing money, rampant egoism, propaganda, fear-mongering, slandering, intentional deception — under the shaky rationale that the end justifies the means. In their belief system, anything goes when you're fighting “evil,” which they have defined solely as the “other,” and never themselves, even though they all use products made by the companies they're fighting.

This “battle” can never be moral because it has been funded, in large part, by the heirs of manufacturers and oil barons who have wrought their own devastation upon the Earth and humans. What's more, it has been waged unjustly.

We know pesticides can harm, but we have no proof they are being misused by the seed companies. We know other entities on Kauai use pesticides, in greater concentrations, and in proximity to homes, schools, hospitals and waterways, yet only the seed companies have been targeted. We know other businesses — and even the “red shirts” themselves — are not transparent about their operations, but only the seed companies are being ordered to disclose.

We know that tourism results in a certifiable number of deaths and injuries each year, but only the seed companies, which have no verified deaths or injuries, are denounced as dangerous businesses. We know that certain politicians, like Councilman Gary Hooser, have waged this “battle,” fed and fomented divisiveness and deception for political gain, yet he continually portrays himself as the righteous David fighting the Goliath of craven multinational chemical companies.

We have allowed some of our political leaders to engage in a sanctioned witch hunt, openly discriminate, abandon the rule of law as we know it and declare the seed companies guilty as charged by an angry mob, with no evidence, no trial, just Facebook memes, rumor, hysteria and innuendo. And when the courts finally stepped in and said, Kauai County, you were wrong, those same politicians said no, we reject your ruling, we will carry on.

That is why I have found myself, a one-time GMO/pesticide foe, curiously on the side of the "blue shirts." I don't like pesticides, approve of the chem companies' business practices or unequivocally embrace GMOs. Nor am I a paid (or unpaid) biotech shill.

I'm just, to use Dominic's words, a moral citizen, trying to uphold what is morally right. And sometimes that means condemning actions, and movements, that are morally wrong, but trying to pass themselves off as morally right.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Musings: Dirty Lickings

When the video tapes and media accounts revealed NFL players knocking out their girlfriends and beating their kids, I thought first about the ugly history of my own family and then about all the local guys I'd known or dated in Hawaii who had been subjected to dirty lickings.

They all believed they'd deserved the abuse — whipped with garden hoses, belts, electrical cords, switches, getting kicked, beaten with wire coat hangars and hairbrushes, pounded with fists — because they'd been kolohe, smart-mouthed, intransigent.

Back in the day, they used to say, their parents had told friends, neighbors, teachers, older siblings, that it was OK to haul off and slap 'em upside the head, twist their ears, give 'em dirty lickings, if they felt it was needed to bring them into line. Because, of course, they must've deserved it. The violence couldn't possibly be attributed to the adults' own abusive upbringing, lack of control, alcoholism, inability to find another way to discipline, or deal with a situation.

It was always the kids' fault. They were bad. They deserved to be beaten.

And they all, every single one of them, grew up with some major problems: substance abuse, most often; low self-esteem that prompted self-destructive behavior; violent behavior toward others, including me; uncontrollable tempers; sudden outbursts of rage; power and control issues; an abiding sense that they never were worthy of anything good.

Because they'd been told, over and over, that they deserved the beatings, the dirty lickings. Not surprisingly, many of them modeled what they'd been taught, even though it filled them with self-loathing, which was such a familiar feeling.

I remember one time, when I had to call the cops and the policeman told my then-husband, hey, you can't be treating haole girls like that — like maybe it's OK to brutalize, terrorize, harm local women?

I remember the man at Lihue Court Townhomes who confessed to me that he'd brain-damaged his son, beating his head against the wall in an alcoholic rage, and though he was sober now, he could never forgive himself for disabling his own child. When I asked if he'd been beaten as a kid, he shook his head, yes, then added, "But that's no excuse."

Today I saw an editorial cartoon, first published by Scott Stantis in the Chicago Tribune, that perfectly conveys the soul mangling effects of child abuse –– and yes, dirty lickings are abuse, no matter how culturally acceptable they may be.

And I had to share it, because it's something we all need to talk about, especially in the Islands, where far too many women and kids are getting dirty lickings, which leads to a downward cycle of more dirty lickings, more pain, more addiction, more suffering, until one day, I pray, we can all say, no, that's not acceptable, it must stop.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Musings: Acing the Litmus Test

How important is it to you that a Kauai County Council candidate purchase locally grown food, compost or have a solar hot water heater installed on his or her house?

According to a political litmus test being circulated by Surfrider, Apollo Kauai, the Kauai branch of the Hawaii Farmers Union and Zero Waste Kauai, it's essential information. More valuable, say, than a candidate's morals, ethics, intelligence or knowledge of government.

And much more crucial than his/her stance on such non-issues as affordable housing, drug abuse, spending priorities, shoreline protection, vacation rentals, preservation of ag lands, roads, parks, tourism, youth programs, homelessness or the elderly — none of which are addressed at all.

In keeping with the black-white, bumper sticker mentality that has come to characterize “progressive environmentalists” on Kauai, all the survey questions must be answered yes or no, or in 20 words or less. No chance to explain, elaborate or even question the question. You're either with us, or against us. And an answer is required for every question, no matter how ludicrous.

These questions were given a 20-word limit:

What are the three most dangerous environmental hazards facing Kauai?

Not counting the shallow, superficial, self-interested, ill-informed groups trying to make bad policy?

What percentage of the food you purchase each week is grown or produced on Kauai? 

Do you figure it by pound, or volume? What if you're growing your own, not buying? And what, pray tell, is the politically correct percentage, especially if you don't like kale? 

What is your level of concern regarding water resources on Kauai? (high, medium or low and why)

Do you mean surface water, ground water, municipal water or ag water? Availability or purity? Cost or abundance? Dammed water or flowing water? Fresh water or salt water?

How would you support expansion of Kauai Bus services?

Notice this comes from the premise that expanding bus service can only be a good thing, whether people use it or not. And what if you thought they should do stuff like put up bus shelters before adding more stops? Nope, not allowed.

Do you believe that Waste to Energy is an appropriate solution for Kauai? Why or why not?

Mmmm, exactly which model are they referencing? Giant incinerator? Magic box that transforms tons of waste into a small, completely innocuous black pebble? Technology untested elsewhere but sure it'll work on Kauai, just sign right here and give us your money? Don't overthink it now, you've got 20 words or less.

These get a yes or no only:

Will you, as a Council member, initiate actions to help reduce greenhouse gases on Kauai and address climate change consequences?

You mean like forbid any members of these groups from flying off the island, driving cars or buying anything imported so they don't contribute to carbon emissions? Oh, wait, you can only answer yes or no.

Do you support more extensive County testing of streams, reefs and beaches for pesticides and other pollutants?

OK, this is a trick question. If you think the state should be doing the testing, and vote no, you'll be dinged. If you don't think County money should be diverted to a biased group like Surfrider for testing, as has happened with the bee pollen testing money that Councilman Jay Furfaro pushed through, and you mark no, you'll get dinged. If you check yes on what is an open-ended, blank check, you're stupid.

Would you support establishing recycling requirements for commercial entities (e.g. businesses, hotels, agencies, construction projects, etc.)

Again, it depends. How much would it cost the county to enforce such a requirement? Is there a market for all these recyclable materials? Does it make carbon cost-effective sense to, say, ship our cardboard to China? Who will be deputized as the dumpster monitors? Could we possibly start with education and incentives, or must we jump right into regulation? How many are doing it already, voluntarily?

Then comes the question that reveals the groups' bias in favor of Councilmen Tim Bynum and Gary Hooser: 

Would you support a separate zoning classification for ag land used for research and development of new patented seeds and proprietary ag chemicals? 

Yup, that's Timmy's bill they're referencing, and code for, are you against GMOs?

Oh, and here's the self-serving one for the Moloaa farmers who got their land cheap because it had a zero density zoning, but now they want to increase their property values by getting a house approved under guise of worker housing: 

Do you support amending the Farmworker Housing Ordinance 903 to allow new farms that were not dedicated to agriculture prior to 2010 to apply for a use permit if they meet all other criteria in the Ordinance?

Again, no discussion. Just yes or no. But curious, no questions about CPRs and TVRs on ag land, or enforcing the farm dwelling agreement — all major factors in the destruction of farm land, but issues that hit too close to home for Tim and Gary and many of these groups' members.

Do you support the return of the Super Ferry? 

Which one? The one that was sold to the navy, or the one that hasn't been built yet?

And I love this one, emphasis added:

Do you support the concept of an Environmental Public Health Impact Study to determine if any detrimental health or environmental effects have occurred or may occur from the extensive use of restricted use pesticides on Kauai?

Again, what exactly do they mean? Are they talking about concept because the EPHIS was struck down along with Ordinance 960, so now nothing is gonna happen? Do they mean the crappy EPHIS that fortunately was struck down because it would take years to come up with any results, and even then, they would be suspect, because the group overseeing the process would be highly politicized and driven by an anti-GMO agenda? And are they talking about a study that looks at all RUP use? Or just that by the seed companies? And when you get into what may occur, well, isn't that a bit speculative?

Can the County Council significantly help the county reduce its own energy consumption? 

Like funneling all that hot air from the Council chambers into hand dryers in the bathrooms? Oops, yes or no only.

And my favorite: 

Are you an environmentalist?

To which I would reply, by whose definition? Al Gore's, or Edward Abbey's? Earthjustice, or Earth First? Or in this case, the hypocrites who don't practice what they preach?

But again, it's just yes or no. So dear candidate, take off your thinking cap, put on your blinders and you'll do just fine. 

Though signed “respectfully,” the email with the survey link includes a club: Failure to respond will be so noted in the display ad in the elections publication.

That's the line that prompted Police Chief Darryl Perry to post on Facebook that he “respectfully declined to participate." The chief, in his first bid for public office, wrote:

Their BOLD "encouragement" to participate lacked any sincerity to allow transparency when the response is "yes" or "no". It took me all of 2 seconds to decline.

I am about having honest, well reasoned and researched-supported discussions.

Let's change the models of communication. Let's model the behavior we need to see in our Kauai County Council.

Vote For Change!

Malama Honua!

You'd think he'd score points for knowing the difference between honua — earth — and aina — the land that feeds — which puts him heads and shoulders above those administering the survey. 

But no, that wasn't on the test. And the lock-step “Kauai greenies” do not allow anyone to color outside the lines or think outside the box. Especially not for themselves.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Musings: Munchables

It seems there's an issue the entire County Council, and even an anti-GMO activist can agree on: Kauai kids should not have their school lunches dumped because they don't have money in their accounts.

Councilman Mel Rapozo, who introduced the resolution calling on the Department of Education to change its practices, read a number of accounts at yesterday's Council meeting about children who had their lunches snatched away and dumped because their meal accounts were in the red.

Aside from the sheer stupidity and vindictiveness of that policy, I couldn't help but think of how shamed and humiliated the kids must have felt. Perhaps DOE administrators and lunch room monitors should be required to take the same anti-bullying workshops offered to their students. As the old saying goes, shit rolls downhill....

The subsequent Council discussion had all the members thanking Mel – top primary vote getter and the next Chair-apparent — for bringing up the issue so that they, too, could show their deep concern for Kauai kids. 

The discussion also touched obliquely on whether the Council was overstepping its kuleana by wading into a state matter. The same question has been widely debated in regard to the Council's decision to pass Bill 2491, which was overturned on the grounds that county laws are pre-empted by state laws when it comes to regulating pesticides and GMOs.

Councilman Mason Chock, who was brought on board specifically — and through a process of questionable legality — to override the mayor's veto of 2491, was quick to weigh in:

Our public servants need to be empowered enough to, when they see something happen, like lunches being thrown away and students being shamed or feeling emotion and distress because of it, especially when they have health issues, that they should be willing and able to step up and say something about it. And I’m not just talking about at the DOE, I’m talking about everywhere in our communities.

Councilman Gary Hooser, who introduced 2491, was right behind, justifying the rationale for his failed ordinance:

… It is our kuleana. This is where citizens can get up close and personal with their government. You can say it's a state issue, a federal issue, a county issue, but at the end of the day it's a community issue. We should speak out loudly when the community brings it to our attention, whether it's [through] a resolution, an ordinance or speaking out.”

Yes, it's extremely important that citizens can approach their most localized form of government, which in this case is the County Council. But there's a big difference between approving a resolution that formalizes the Council's position and passing a law that attempts to take over the school lunch program. And there's an even bigger difference between responding to citizens' concerns and instilling fear to provoke citizen concerns.

Which may help to explain why Mel came in thousands of votes ahead of Gary in the primary, and Mason didn't even finish in the top seven.

In other action yesterday, Judge Kathleen Watanabe denied a motion by Hanalei boatyard owner Mike Sheehan to recuse herself in his lawsuit against Public Utilities Commission Chair Mina Morita and her husband, Lance Laney.

Gee, I think defeated county Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri was the last person to bust that move, and she met with a similar fate. Is that a whiff of desperation in the air? Interesting, that Sheehan also employs Shay's lawyer, Richard Wilson.

Wilson unsuccessfully argued that Watanabe had a conflict because she was county attorney when Sheehan sued the county for trying to shut down his unpermitted boatyard. In the resurrection of a 20-year-old grudge, Sheehan claimed he had questioned her ethics way back then, contending she had “defamed him.” Hmm. Sounds like a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, even when it's done, according to the motion, “with the utmost respect for the Court.”

Sheehan supposedly had forgotten all about it, according to his motion, until he was “recently reminded” of the lawsuit. That's what happens you're sue-happy. It's hard to keep track of all the people you've sued or are suing. 

Wilson also apparently forgot that he himself had said, back in February 2011, that he would not be seeking Watanabe's recusal from then-pending court proceedings because “the fact that Watanabe was the County Attorney for a period of time in the mid-1990s does not merit recusal.”


The judge did grant the county's motion to be dismissed from Sheehan's lawsuit. Attorneys for the county and the Laneys argued that the state, not the county, has jurisdiction over the conservation district where Lance and Mina live.

Sheehan turned in Lance and Mina for running an unpermitted vacation rental in a payback for Mina's role in halting tour boats in Hanalei River 16 years ago. Though his complaint was made in 2008, the state DLNR didn't move to enforce until this year, when Gov. Abercrombie was looking to dump Mina as PUC chair because she wouldn't go along with his busness-friendly program.

Lance and Mina were fined $31,000 and ordered to tear down the structures — even as other unpermitted TVRs in the conservation district continue to openly operate.

Sheehan went on to file a civil suit claiming the couple had polluted Hanalei River and altered its flow, then conspired with the county to cover it up. Lance and Mina have filed a motion to dismiss, which is scheduled for a hearing on Oct. 1.

In reflecting on Sheehan's two defeats in the courtroom yesterday, I recalled how Gary, earlier that day, had bemoaned the income disparity on this island — a disparity that Gary and some of his campaign supporters have helped to perpetuate through their real estate practices — even though Gary bizarrely blamed the state.

And I thought, gee, if Mike had spent even a portion of his legal fees on school lunches for the needy, Kauai would be a much better place.

But as Mel noted, it's never a question of money, it's a question of priorities.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Musings: On Shorelines and Seed Companies

The County Council will have an opportunity today to clean up the mess of a shoreline bill approved last week by the planning committee.

Bill 2461 has far-reaching implications for Kauai's coastal lands. As written, it serves to facilitate coastal development and redevelopment, and could exempt an untold number of lots from a shoreline review. As one example, the nefarious vacation rental remodels exposed in the Abuse Chronicles would get a free pass. No shoreline certification would be required for repairs or cesspool relocations, cutting the public out of the process in an area that is known to be extremely problematic.

The planning committee passed the bill last week without having access to the complete document. The final draft bill, with its many amendments, was only compiled late last week, after the vote.

Hopefully they've all had a chance to read the thing and will take the time to deliberate the consequences of its language, including the “bright-line exemptions” proposed by developers. Even UH Seagrant has identified a few problems with that particular provision, and also submitted testimony clarifying that the maps it created don't represent all the properties that would be exempt from the "bright line" test.  
In fact, no one really knows how many properties will be affected, since there is no GIS dataset that reflects the location of rocky shorelines as defined by the bill.
Unfortunately, Council Chair Jay Furfaro has been pushing to have all the work done in committee — the same poor strategy he employed in dealing with Bill 2491, the overturned pesticide/GMO regulatory law. But this is serious bill, with long lasting impacts, and it deserves the full Council's scrutiny. 

The Council also seems too inclined to follow the advice of Chris Conger, the former Seagrant shoreline locator. However, they seem to be forgetting Chris' “no-history” strategy for setting shorelines was thrown out by the Hawaii Supreme Court. He may be an “expert,” but he's not always right. Plus now he's a consultant for developers, not a public servant.

In other land use issues, Luke Evslin and his father, Dr. Lee Evslin — a respected pediatrician who testified in support of Bill 2491 — recently took the time to visit the Dupont-Pioneer operation in Waimea. Luke, who believes biotech can co-exist with other agricultural practices on Kauai, was motivated, in part, by this quote from Howard G. Buffet:

The vast majority of farmers in the world farm because it is their only option.  In many cases, it is a failing option. The global food ecosystem is complex; we need to develop a deeper understanding of where food comes from and what people who grow it have to endure.

Luke wrote a blog post about his visit that is well worth reading. Here's one excerpt:

So, what goes on behind the intimidating guard shack across the Russian Fort is less sinister and more mundane than I'd imagined. Farmers from around the world come to Pioneer with a request for certain traits: including adaptation to regional soil type and rain fall, disease resistance, plant architecture, time to maturity, pesticide resistance, etc. Breeders around the world will send kernels of plants with desirable traits to Kaua'i for the scientists here to plant, so that they can be pollinated for testing in other locations, to cross pollinate to test hybrid performance, or to add particular traits through breeding. They do it in Hawai'i because our extra growing season allows them to develop inbreds twice as fast as it would take in a temperate climate.

He also discounted a claim commonly uttered by Councilmen Tim Bynum and Gary Hooser and their followers: the seed companies spray pesticides more intensively and often than other farmers. Luke wrote:

Just to reiterate, because this part is important, the traits themselves are developed on the mainland. What they are doing on Kaua'i is merely growing out the inbreds in order to enable the breeders to eventually pick the best inbred parent to be crossed with another inbred to get a hybrid that will (hopefully) be good enough to sell to farmers. Because the development of the traits (including, for example, genetically modified herbicide resistance) is done on the mainland, the crops on Kaua'i are grown under the same conditions that they ultimately will be on the farm.

Each test plot is roughly 36 sq feet and contains about 25 plants, and pesticides are applied to each particular plot based only on need (i.e. an insect infestation). So, while the companies are spraying more than 250 days per year, the average application area is very, very small. Whereas, on a conventional farm, pesticide application occurs less often, but over a thousand-fold more area.

Luke goes on to write about other changes that are needed in our food system and asks some questions about barriers to agriculture on Kauai, which I will get into in another post.

In all, his piece was a thoughtful, intelligent assessment. And when he posted it on Facebook, he got some of the usual knee-jerk reactions from the anti-GMO crowd. Like this from Sol Kahn, who worked with Hooser to draft Bill 2491:

These companies use Kauai and other places as a TESTING site to see how much poison their crops can withstand without dying while killing lots of other animals and plants in the process disrupting our fragile ecosystem. That's what these companies do. Yes they also use hybrid techniques and others. Don't belive their lies Luke. These are not good companies. They create death and have a history of death. There's always a way and this is not the path.

They use fear to get minds to follow them. You're stronger than that. Release yourself from your analytical mind and follow your intuition. You have a strong gift Luke you'd be wise to use it.

Luke the chemical companies aka 'seed companies' are profit driven corporate stock holders. They don't care about helping people.

Funny, how the seed companies are the only “profit driven corporate stock holders” being singled out for attack — not the resort chains, or the rental car companies or the clothing companies that sponsor MMA fighters like mayoral hopeful Dustin Barca. And even funnier how Sol fails to recognize the fear-mongering strategy still used by the antis.

But my favorite came from the self-described “rabid reporter” Andy Parx, who last year was lauded by activists as “the voice” of the 2491 movement. His misinformed spiel — he admits he hasn't even read Luke's post — is a classic representation of the anti-GMO mindset:

I haven't gotten to read your piece yet Luke But Katie [Horgan's] and Sol's comments indicate you are buying the "big lies." Info from "Good Neighbor" is limited, completely untrustworthy and manipulated. And cross breeding and genetic manipulation are totally different things. It's a ridiculous argument designed to bamboozle people who can't tell the difference. I'll try to make time tomorrow.

You want to argue opinion. I don't. As a journalist I'm skeptical of anything presented as factual. What I've found if [sic] that what they are telling you is not factual. You're being sold a bill of goods by these guys. But since it lines up with your opinion you don't have the same kind of skepticism and so don't challenge it. As they say you're entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts. That's the nice thing about science- it doesn't care what your opinion is.

Yes- I'm a tough audience. When I see slight of hand and illusionary magic I tend to tell the crowd where the smoke and mirrors are. It's easy to misunderstand this stuff without a basic understanding of genetics from Mendel to Crick and Watson to genome mapping. And it seems they are taking advantage of that to confuse people. Do you understand the basics of cross-breeding? 

It's very frustrating trying to describe complicated scientific principles and history in a short sentence or two without using broad statements that are open to being misunderstood- especially when the multinational chemical companies are spending millions, intent on exploiting people's lack of expertise by using weasel words that have lay connotation and use outright misinformation to paint a picture that is false... even if it seems to "make sense." I'm almost sorry I happened to have studies [sic] this stuff in school because now I'm stuck trying to explain whole textbooks and lectures in a Facebook blurb "disputing the experts". Don't take my word for it- but at the same time don't take their word on it even more because their livelihood depends on imparting basically false impressions through specially designed PR campaigns That song "She Blinded me With Science" comes to mind...

Don't worry, Andy. We won't take your word for it. Not on this, or any other topic.

In looking at the comment thread that followed Luke's post on both his blog and Facebook, I felt heartened. Some people were asking sensible questions. Others were thanking Luke. This time last year, he would've been crucified and vilified — like the mayor, me and everybody else who dared to oppose the frothing fistees.

I see that as a very positive sign. Reason is slowly starting to return, and people are getting bolder about speaking up on this issue. We need to reclaim this debate from the ill-informed spewers, the fear-fanners, the ideologues who can't possibly entertain another train of thought, a different point of view.

Contrary to what some of our Councilmembers and their fistee followers like to pretend, this isn't an all-or-nothing, us-against-them game. They are the ones who drew up those rules. We don't have to play.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Musings: Fleeced

It was so odd reading Councilman Gary Hooser's letter to the editor today, like he actually wants and hopes to learn that westside Kauai babies are being born with defects, just so he can advance his political agenda.

Instead of welcoming the news from westside ob/gyn Dr. Graham Chelius, who last week publicly assured us, “There is not an increased rate of cardiac defects of any kind on the Westside of Kauai,” Gary disputes it.

Well, he doesn't actually come right out and dispute it, because he's not a doctor, and he doesn't have one tiny shred of proof that Dr. Chelius is wrong. But in the smarmy, deceptive rhetoric that is so typical of Gary and his followers — most notably Andrea Brower, who used the same tactics in a guest editorial on Saturday — he casts vague aspersions on Dr. Chelius' report before noting:

I sincerely hope Dr. Chelius is correct.

However, other physicians on Kauai’s Westside have submitted public testimony indicating their increased concern about high birth defect rates and the need for further investigation into this area.

What Gary doesn't say is those physicians made that testimony more than a year ago, and since then, further investigations have been made. These include updating the birth defects registry, which Gary himself acknowledges is under way, and conducting the review of Kauai birth defect data upon which Dr. Chelius based his letter.

I also find it curious that Gary claims he got a letter from the state Department of Health on July 1, advising him that the birth defects registry was in the process of being updated. Yet in an Aug. 31 letter to the editor and a Sept. 16 post on his blog, Gary makes the case for the county taking matters into its own hands, stating:

the State birth defect registry has not been updated since 2005.

Seems that an honest person would've revealed the full story:

The state is working hard to bring current the most recent few years of Kauai data, however 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 and 2013 remain incomplete. Data collection from 2010–2012 and input for Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital is complete and for Wilcox Hospital they have completed 2010–2011.

Instead Gary waits until now to disclose that tidbit, hoping it will cast aspersions on Dr. Chelius. Whatta guy. Can you spell sleazy?

In his letter today, Gary goes on to reference the EPA and American Pediatric Association, both of which say — duh — that “people who live and work in areas that are subject to regular pesticide use have higher rates of various ailments including certain cancers.”

What Gary refuses to acknowledge is this: 1) the state DOH did a cancer study that showed no elevated rates of cancer anywhere on Kauai, save the North Shore, where haoles have higher rates of melanoma; and 2) there is no indication that field workers — folks with the greatest exposure — are having health problems associated with pesticides, much less people who live nearby.

For Gary to continually raise the specter of “increased birth defects, nerve damage, cancer and autism," without having any proof that residents are, in fact, subject to pesticide exposure from the seed companies is classic fear-mongering. What's more, it's absolutely irresponsible, even perversely sick.

Look at the facts: Hawaii SEED, whose mission is to destroy GMO cultivation on Kauai, never found any evidence of pesticide drift, despite spending tens of thousands of dollars on studies. Surfrider, which has joined the lawsuit defending Gary's Ordinance 960, came up similarly blank with its bee pollen and water studies. And state Department of Health tests found pesticide levels were far below the acceptable federal levels in water samples conducted in rural areas, but elevated in Oahu's urban streams.

Yes, studies should continue, and even be expanded, but shouldn't Gary ramp back his rhetoric? I mean, he's been screaming "wolf!" for two years now and so far all we've seen are his huddled sheep, baahing in fear.

Which brings me to Andrea, who took the exact same approach in her guest editorial, seizing on the health effects of one pesticide, chlorpyrifos. Once the seed of fear was planted, she fertilized it with bullshit:

On Kauai, chlorpyrifos is sprayed by the chemical and seed companies at a pounds-per-acre rate that is estimated to be 10 times the national average.

Strange, how everything is always 10 times the national average. Not five, or 20, but always 10. Guess because that's an easy number to repeat and remember.

The problem with estimates, as Andrea herself acknowledges, is they aren't precise — especially when they're being figured by a “reporter” whose "research" was funded by the same anti-GMO/anti-Big Ag Media Consortium that financed 10 biased reports.

But Andrea blames the seed companies, “because the industry has refused to give us precise data.”

Actually, if you go to the Kauai Agricultural Good Neighbor Program website — a restricted use pesticide disclosure site that Andrea claims arose from “more than 10 years of persistent community members’ efforts” when it was negotiated by Gov. Abercrombie's team — you'll find very precise data. The companies report exactly how much of each RUP they used, as well as the total area and total field area to which each pesticide was applied.

There's no need to estimate, just go in there and do the tedious basic arithmetic, which is how I discovered that Andrea, Gary and the rest of their flock have long been lying about overall pesticide use. Yeah, that "18 tons" they keep parroting is pure shibai. But apparently Andrea is too lazy and the reporter wasn't paid enough, because neither did the work.

But then, haven't we seen that over and over and over again among Gary and his flock of fistees? They don't actually want hard data, because it doesn't support ANY of their claims. And when evidence emerges that points out their falsehoods, they move on to another hazy accusation.

A perfect example: Right after Dr. Chelius reported the 10-times-national-average cardiac birth defect claim was bogus, I had someone persistently (and anonymously) try to leave the comment that gastroschisis, a birth defect in which the intestines stick outside the belly, is occurring on Kauai at 10 times the national average. There's no shortage of rumors spread by those disinclined to tell the truth.

Both Andrea and Gary again repeated the lie that the seed/chem companies are suing to keep their pesticide use hidden. Andrea made it the entire basis of her article, which was entitled “Why the facts make our 'right to know' more important than ever,” while Gary ends his letter with the disingenuous:

All we are asking for is basic disclosure, modest buffer zones and a health study. It shouldn’t be so hard.

Again, as I previously reported, the companies are already providing more than basic disclosure and they have voluntarily imposed buffer zones around homes, schools and hospitals. As for the health study, tell us, Gary, have you asked the CDC or any other agency to come in? Or are you putting all your stock in the EPHIS, which is now in the same legal limbo as Ordinance 960, and thus unable to provide any information for years, if ever?

But then, that will suit Gary and Andrea just fine as they can continue to make their claims without being bothered by the discovery of any new pesky facts.

At least Andrea is honest enough to admit, “We do not know the extent of current harm,” though it was negated by this comment:

While fear is never a good basis for politics, accusations of “fear-mongering” are serving to marginalize very real concerns and shield an industry that does not have the health and well-being of our community as a priority. A lot of misinformation has circulated around this issue, much of it intentionally manipulated by the industry, and some of it genuinely confused by well-meaning people trying to make sense of a scientifically, politically, legally and socially complex situation.

At the risk of mixing metaphors, what you are experiencing, Andrea, is a phenomenon known as "your chickens coming home to roost." You and your cohorts consciously chose the fear-mongering, misinformation-based approach to this issue. It worked to get Bill 2491 passed, but now it's backfiring, because the claims just aren't holding water under scrutiny.

So don't be blaming the industry for your own devious tactics, while claiming you and the other activists were “genuinely confused” and “well-meaning people.” Yes, you're confused, though you're too smart to pretend your manipulations weren't intentional, Andrea.

And no, I can't believe any of uou were well-meaning, because all of you continue to deliberately deceive the public to keep your agenda afloat.

If you're truly well-meaning, you, Gary, Councilman Tim Bynum, Council candidate Felicia Cowden  and the rest of the fibbing flock would sit down and figure out a way to get this important discussion into the realm of facts and truth.

You might even have a chat with your dad, Rob Brower, about his hypocrisy in denouncing the pesticide use by seed companies when he, as a contractor, used tons of treated lumber and sprayed chemicals on the ground beneath houses he built. 

But you're not doing any of that, are you? 

Which is why you're losing control of the debate to those of us who are not "seed company shills," but discerning citizens seeking some reality, and in the process, outing the real wolves in sheep's clothing — the ones that are preying ruthlessly upon their flock.