Friday, October 30, 2015

Musings: Bustin' Craven Moves

In what is perhaps its most craven move to date, the Hawaii Center for Food Safety is fanning the fears of those who care for sick children.

Yesterday, the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Honolulu hosted a misnamed “Lunch and Learn Presentation” with Hawaii-CFS director Ashley Lukens. According to a notice sent to staff and others:

Summary: Come and hear about the key findings of a 2015 review regarding pesticide use, genetically engineered field test sites and public health risks. The full 44-page version of the report is available upon request from the Education Office.

Odd, how Shriners has all those doctors on staff, yet they allow a partisan political scientist from an anti-GMO group to educate folks about pesticides — using cherry-picked data that has repeatedly been criticized in public meetings as inaccurate and/or misleading. 

Indeed, the education director at Shriners said doctors approved of Lukens speaking because their patients want more information on the pesticide issue.

Yet they then claim on their website:

...there is no better place to learn than Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Uh, sure, if you're not picky about whether what you learn is accurate.

As for Ashley, can she really sink any lower than exploiting the fears and worries of parents and staff caring for desperately ill children? 

Yeah, probably. These demagogues will stop at nothing.

Meanwhile, Hawaii-CFS sent out an email yesterday claiming it had “pressured one Hawaii legislator to release the records of her correspondence with pesticide-seed companies and groups representing their interests!”

It goes on to state:

With access to these records, we can better assess the influence of the agrichemical industry on policymaking, demand reform, and protect our allies in office from this pressure.

So without even reviewing the records it just got, or seeing the correspondence it's requested from four other Hawaii lawmakers, CFS is already convinced that undue pressure is occurring, reform is needed and its allies need protection. 

Ironically, CFS exults in the success of its own pressure tactics, which are somehow OK because it's doing it.  CFS, which refuses to disclose who is funding its own Hawaii lobbying efforts, then has the chutzpah to claim:

We need to remain vigilant in our demands for a fair civic process.

Yes, we do. And that includes demanding transparency from political advocacy groups like CFS and Gary Hooser's HAPA, which masquerade as nonprofits.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that sugar beet growers, who have overwhelming adopted genetically engineered varieties that have higher yields and require less herbicides, are losing market share. It seems food manufacturers are starting to shun GMO sugar beets in favor of the cane sugar.

The Reuters article goes on to say: 

Critics believe GMO crops contribute to the industrialization of farming.

Yet over on Maui, folks are trying to shut down Hawaii's last sugar plantation, deriding it as “industrial agriculture” and claiming that cane smoke causes health problems. They're supported by anti-GMO activists who say they're opposed to pesticide use, yet reject GMO products that actually use less pesticides.

It's becoming increasingly clear that the food fear movement isn't very well thought out — except by groups like CFS, which profit mightily from it.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Musings: Dispelling Rumors

On an island, or perhaps everywhere, some rumors just refuse to die.

Like the ones about Lauren Kagawa, the 27-year-old woman who was found dead in her Puhi driveway back in August 2009. She'd sought a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend, former KPD cop Joseph Bonachita, and I've gotten comments over the years claiming she'd been badly beaten before her death.

Recently, someone left this comment:

After the [Kauai police] Chief said Lauren Kagawa's death was a unattended death by overdose, he lost all credibility.

So I decided to look at the autopsy report myself. The final pathological diagnoses states:

Lauren Kagawa died of a mixed chemical intoxication. There was no evidence of foul play at the scene. At autopsy, there was no evidence of significant bodily injury although some superficial abrasions with drying artifact were noted over the face and neck. A contusion with central laceration was present below the right chin. These injuries were not considered significant or life threatening. Internal examination showed no evidence of significant bodily injury or natural diseases. Hydrocodone levels were in the toxic range. Cyclobenzaprine and Temazepam approached the toxic range. Carisoprodol concentrations were present above the recommended therapeutic level. The manner of death is undetermined.

Don't blame the cops. They can only go by what's in the autopsy report.

Dayne “Aipoalani” Gonsalves, self-proclaimed king of Atooi, has long advised his followers that the kingdom has “diplomatic immunity” that precludes the need to follow some Hawaii state laws, like the ones that require a valid state driver's license and motor vehicle plates. But now that Dayne himself has gotten a driver's license, hopefully those who listened to his bad advice, and ended up with a mess of legal trouble, will realize he steered them wrong.

Despite a full-scale call-to-action and social media blitz, the Babes Against Biotech failed to marshall any crowds to rally against the GMO banana at Tuesday's Board of Agriculture hearing. They started by spreading the rumor that the meeting hadn't been properly noticed, which was false, and then continued to lie, claiming “they [BOA] sped thru public comments right in the beginning and several members of the public were unable to testify.” 

Total BS. Only six people showed to testify in opposition, and they all got a chance to speak. In the end, the Board approved permits to conduct field trials on a banana genetically engineered to resist the bunchy top virus. If all goes well, Hawaii could have a brand new GM product that benefits farmers, not corporations, reduces pesticide use and was developed by the public sector. In other words, another "likable GMO," like the SunUp and Rainbow papaya varieties, which are resistant to the ringspot virus.

A friend who follows the biotech battles, and was surprised at the tepid reaction to a new GMO crop that would have been banned under a Hawaii County law that was overturned by the courts, sent me this email:

Can it be the the anti-GMO movement is losing momentum because they can't hide behind and use the Hawaiians who are busy with nation building and other issues like Maunakea — movements that have no place for them? Can that be why Gary Hooser is trying to align himself with the Aloha Aina movement?

Could be.

Or perhaps the anti-GMO activists are busy on other fronts. They're now badgering Chipolte, which made public relations hay by banning GMO ingredients from its menu, due to concerns about glyphosate use on GE crops, to stop serving meat, now deemed a possible carcinogen, as well. A petition sponsored by “Americans for Science” maintains:

Just as GMOs were removed from most of their menu items because glyphosate is a class 2A carcinogen, pork and beef now need to be removed as well. Given the concerns surrounding red meat, and the herbicide tolerant mutagenic sun flowers used to cook it in, we feel it is particularly important to seek out alternative ingredients.

What's that old saying? Oh yeah: “Give 'em an inch and they'll take a mile.”

And as Congress grapples with the GMO labeling issue, which is rumored to give American consumers the much-ballyhooed right to choose what they eat, I was interested to find this assessment of European labeling by international biotech policy expert Greg Jaffe:

The European Union has mandatory labeling, and food manufacturers use more-expensive, non-engineered ingredients to avoid having to put "genetically modified organisms" on their labels. They fear losing even a small percentage of consumers who are scared off by that phrase (the "organisms" are merely bits of DNA or protein, if they are present at all) or a blacklist campaign. In many countries with mandatory GE labeling, local farmers are not permitted to grow engineered crops, so domestically produced foods are GE-free. [Though GE soy and corn can be imported to feed livestock.]

Imported packaged foods arrive without labels, whether or not they would require labels under that country's law; enforcement of labels on imported packaged foods is non-existent. Mandatory labels have not given consumers a choice between cereal boxes with and without GE-ingredients--just non-GE cereal that costs more to produce and is no safer.

Hmm. So often things just aren't what they're cracked up to be.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Musings: Yes, We have No Bananas

Now that the World Health Organization has determined processed meats fer shure cause cancer, will the anti-ag folks expand their call for a ban on glyphosate (Roundup) — deemed by WHO as a mere probable carcinogenic — to include Spam, bacon and Vienna Sausage, too? 

Will we now see a spate of class action suits against Hormel by people who claim they were harmed by eating their products? 

And if west Kauai residents are, indeed, suffering health problems, how will we be able to determine whether it's due to pesticide exposure or a lifetime of Spam musubi and Portuguese sausage?

The conclusion puts processed meats in the same category of cancer risk as tobacco smoking and asbestos. This does not mean that they are equally dangerous, says the International Agency for Research on Cancer — the agency within the WHO that sets the classifications. And it's important to note that even things such as aloe vera are on the list of possible carcinogens.

Aloe vera? Yes, despite these highly-publicized  announcements, it seems the real world comprises many shades of gray — and blasts of vibrant color, too.

But in the stale, stagnant, soporific world of Babes Against Biotech, it's all black and white, good and bad. And now the misnamed “Babes” have decided that bananas genetically engineered to resist the destructive banana bunchy top (BBT) virus are evil incarnate.
They're rallying the other knee-jerk no-nothings to flood the inbox of the state Board of Agriculture, which today is considering the University of Hawaii's request for a permit to import genetically engineered, BBT-resistant, tissue-cultured banana plants for greenhouse and field research.

Lead Babester Nomi Carmona wasn't even in Hawaii when BBT devastated banana plantations across the state, especially Kauai. But some of us can still remember guys having their entire farms wiped out, their livelihoods destroyed with no compensation, during the state-mandated eradication, which I covered for the Honolulu Weekly.

Currently, farmers use pesticides — including the aforementioned dreaded glyphosate — to control BBT and kill diseased plants. With a BBT-resistant banana, pesticide use would decrease. So which will it be, girls? GMO or chem? Or should we just say nevah mind, and keep importing most of our bananas from Central America? So much for improving food security and minimizing carbon footprints.

Ever notice how many ethical and logical conflicts exist in their warped world view?

In yet another example of the odd alliance between self-proclaimed greenies and tourism, the Babes are also urging non-residents to contact Hawaii Tourism Authority to say they're not sure they want to visit a state with GM bananas or other biotech. Fine. Then stay home. We've got enough misinformed whiners here already.

Hector Valenzuela, who disingenuously claims he's not anti-GMO, helpfully provided the Babes with their “scientific” talking points, since they're not really bright or educated enough to suss it out themselves. But Hector dished his own bullshit with his claim: “Little research has been conducted by UH to find alternative ecologically-based, low input, practices to manage the bunchy top virus in Hawaii.”

Isn't that part of your job, Hector? Or are you too busy running to anti-GMO rallies to actually conduct research? And what is more "ecologically-based and low input" than a BBT-resistant variety? As for managing the virus, two very effective, low-cost methods are cutting down diseased plants and not moving infected keiki. But the general public isn't willing to do even that.

Hopefully the state BOA will tell BAB to stick to what it knows — meme-making and fear-fostering — and leave the agricultural decisions to the experts.

Speaking of silly memes and fear, I noticed that GMO Free USA employed both to totally twist what happened on Molokai when Ashley Lukens and the Center for Food Safety showed up to lecture folks there. As the group posted on Facebook: 
What happens when someone does a presentation about pesticides and health on the Hawaiian island of Molaka'i in the heart of GMO experimentation? Dr. Ashley Lukens, of the Hawai'i Center for Food Safety found out. 100+ employees of Monsanto, et al showed up to bully, intimidate and harass her. Thank you, to Ashley for being brave enough to take this on. Hawai'i is on the front line of the GMO and pesticide battlefield. Watch the video to the end to see the true colors of the agrichemical industry.

Yeah, and check out the true colors of the anti-GMO crowd, writ large in the comment thread:

Beba Hojt‪ You can make money without selling your soul to the devil. If they have sold their soul to the devil they should be forced to eat the crap they produce in jail. That is where they all belong.‬

This woman also has stuff on Facebook about how 90% of breast cancers are linked to root canals and vegetarian hot dogs contain human DNA. Uh, OK, sure...
Joanna Wheeler‪ I feel so bad for this workers. It is the only job they can get in Molokai and they go there MADE by their bosses, come or else. It is heart breaking to see how their bosses do not care for them‬. ‪They are truly victims of the chem cartel.‬

Yes, Joanna, but you and the rest of the Kauai anti-GMO contingent are so compassionate in calling for the complete elimination of all their jobs. As in, "Let them mow lawns for rich folk if they want to eat!"

Pamela Gardiner Johnston‪ The GMO/Agrichemical industry is afraid of an INFORMED PUBLIC!!‬

Well, given the comments on that thread, there's no danger of that happening any time soon.

Charley Watkins‪ They are afraid of the pure white light of the truth‬

Which he, no doubt, has a lock on.

So does Ashley, knowing the photo and text is all a lie, make any attempt to correct it? Nope:

‬‪Ashley Barbara Lukens‪ Mahalo for sharing!

And Ashley and her cohorts claim they want to have a civil discourse on these issues.  

Ya might want to start with a little of that "pure white light of the truth," Ashley. If you can stand the brightness, that is.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Musings: Listen Up

So what do you think? messaged a friend on Facebook.

Is the Kauai County Council's new rule prohibiting members from questioning folks during testimony warranted? Or is it a mad power grab by Chair Mel Rapozo, driven by his beef with the loquacious Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura?

Well, it could be warranted, I replied. I think we've all heard Councilmembers — JoAnn perhaps foremost among them — yammering on, so that public testimony drags out way longer than is tediously typical.

But since their purpose is to contemplate and then decide on policy, my friend messaged back, and the sunshine law ensures that all debate happens within council chambers, I think that yammering is strongly preferable to silence?

The statement of opinion, followed by a question mark, indicated that my friend still had an open mind on the issue, as did I. But since all we had was The Garden Island's report, I knew I had to watch that part of the Council meeting myself. So I did.

For starters, this is not the first time Mel's been accused of power mongering for proposing rule changes. When he first assumed the Chairmanship, Councilman Gary Hooser falsely claimed that Mel was trying to reduce public testimony and ““deny Councilmembers the right to introduce bills.” Though the rule changes were approved, none of Gary's fears to came to pass.

The most recent change, which Gary again opposed, states:

The Chair may allow Councilmembers to ask speakers to repeat or rephrase statements made during their testimony, but Councilmembers shall not ask questions that give the speaker a greater opportunity to testify than others. Councilmembers shall not ask speakers about the substance of their testimony, or comment on testimony or speakers during the testimony period.

Mel's stated rationale for the rule change is “to encourage testimony from the public.” Apparently some folks have told him they're not comfortable with the Council questioning that often follows public testimony, with Mel quoting one guy who said, “Why I gotta be badgered when I'm just making a statement?”

The streamlined meetings that would result from shutting down the often extensive back-and-forth would be a by-product of the rule change, not the primary goal, Mel said.

“This is an extraordinary action that demands at minimum a public hearing,” Gary said, noting that he knew of no other legislative body that prohibited its members from asking questions.

But Mel said he'd basically taken the language from the rules of the Maui County Council, "where it works just fine."

The few who regularly testify before the Council weighed in on this issue, too, and they didn't like it, though John Patterson and Matt Bernabe could understand why Mel wanted to rein in the dialogue. 

“Some would use the word badgering, some would use the word waste of time, sound would use the word pandering,” Matt said, recounting citizen comments made to him. “This is the language that comes back to me on some of you and I's engagement.”

JoAnn wondered whether Mel, as chair, couldn't simply “exercise his prerogative to cut off conversation when it's not fruitful” rather than impose a no questions rule.

He could, but I think we've all seen JoAnn challenge him whenever he's tried to stop her from talking. It's not easy to get any Councilmember to shut up once they've got the floor.

As KipuKai Kualii noted: “Some of us might have attorney-style tactics, in the courtroom what they would call feeding the testimony to make our point.”

And that's what's really at the crux of the rule change. Asking questions to gain clarity or more information is one thing — a good thing. As JoAnn said, it makes it harder for the Council to gather information needed to make good decisions.

But as I listened to the Council going back and forth, I recalled Gary badgering the seed company reps during the 2491 hearings and lecturing a man who made a negative reference to haoles. I remembered how JoAnn had coddled the Cowerns and some of the other people who were testifying on behalf of the B&B ordinance, drawing out their own particular sob story.

And it always seemed inappropriate for Councilmembers to comment on the testimony – good, bad, moving, compelling, flawed, etc. It often seemed, from their interaction with the public, that they did already have their minds made up, and their questions/comments were intended to either let someone who shared their view testify way longer than was fair, or discredit someone who didn't agree with them.

So the problem isn't the Council rules, but the Council. Or more specifically, the ego maniacs on the Council who can't simply listen to testimony with an open mind, without trying to influence the process.

Though everyone but Gary and JoAnn went along with the rule change, Ross Kagawa noted that he did so with reservations. “We want to get more people to testify,” Ross said. “If this is a cure, let's give it a shot, and if it doesn't work, we can pull back at some point.”

If the Council wants to encourage testimony, it might consider making its meetings more user-friendly. As in holding hearings in the evenings, with testimony taken at very specific times, so that people don't burn an entire day in Council chambers waiting for their turn to speak. I can't count how many people have told me it's soul-deadening to hang at Council. And it's costly if you have to take off work.

It seems extreme to forbid any questions at all. But it's also aggravating as hell to listen to the prolonged back and forth between speaker and Council, which so rarely seems to result in any meaningful exchange. Folks should be able to share all they know in the six minutes allotted to them, which is double what any other county in Hawaii allows.

And since some Councilmembers have shown they're unable to exercise self-control, perhaps a total shutdown is needed so they can learn how to really listen to what people have to say. Once they've got that down, then perhaps the rules can be eased.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Musings: Food Fears & Tech Terrors

American farmers are joining the push-back against food fear-mongering.

Chipolte was the first to get cracks for making PR hay out of its GMO-free menu. Now Subway is getting dinged for vowing to serve antibiotic-free beef and pork by 2025, upping the ante after McDonald's and Chick-fil-A promised not to serve poultry with antibiotics.

The Subway shift was driven largely by bullying from the Natural Resources Defense Council and self-proclaimed, self-promoting “Food Babe” Vani Hari, who is getting yet another take-down in a new book entitled “The Fear Babe: Shattering Vani Hari's Glass House.”

But farmers are crying foul. They contend most livestock producers are using antibiotics responsibly, and under a veterinarian's direction. And since federal regulations require a “withdrawal time” to ensure that drugs pass through an animal's system prior to slaughter, they say all American meat is antibiotic free.

The Peterson Farm Bros. — Kansas grain and cattle farmers who have seen their "agvocate" parody videos go viral — disputed the contention that farmers “pump their animals full of antibiotics:”

That is simply not true. A typical dose of antibiotics for one animal is 5-10 ml. This 500 ml bottle of Draxxin (one of the antibiotics we sometimes use) costs almost $2,000. It would never make sense for any farmer (even so-called "factory farmers") to overuse antibiotics, they are too expensive!

There are never antibiotics in your meat! So, when restaurants like Subway promote that they are going to have "antibiotic free meat" it is very misleading.

The Bros. also linked to a blog post on Agriculture Proud about how antibiotics and hormones are used in feedlots that was quite informative, perhaps because it was written by a real cattleman.

As Midwest farmer Megan Dwyer told TV station WQAD:

To me this is a marketing ploy to drum up business and feed on consumers fears and misconceptions. It wasn`t based off of science or safety or concern for the consumer.

She says Subway should instead be promoting farmer's hard work and reassuring their customers their food is okay.

There's the belief, fanned by advocacy groups, that farmers are largely unregulated, and thus pumping people, plants and animals full of toxins. In reality, all aspects of American food production are highly regulated, which is why it's some of the safest in the world. 

Sure, there are some unscrupulous bad apples, and yes, antibiotic resistance is a valid health concern. But instead of blaming farmers for everything, people need also to look at their own misguided drug practices, such as demanding antibiotics every time they get a cold or their kid gets an earache.

While we're on the topic of misinformation, I wanted to address erroneous claims made by Michael Coon in a recent letter to the editor of The Garden Island. He wrote:

GM supporters also like to mention how the technology will create drought tolerance. Note that this claim is for an unlikely future benefit. GM technology has little if anything to offer in terms of creating organisms than can better tolerate drought, simply because drought resistance involves a number of genes on different chromosomes — and existing procedures simply cannot deal with such complexity.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Monsanto is conducting field trials:

DroughtGard™ Hybrids is the world’s first and only drought-tolerant biotechnology trait for corn. It is designed to help corn plants resist drought stress and minimize the risk of failure in drought conditions.

Public sector researchers in India and South Africa are also moving ahead with drought-tolerant varieties of rice and maize (corn).

Coon also claims:

The “gene gun” used to insert foreign genes into existing cells is more akin to a sawed-off shotgun than a laser beam.

Again, Coon really needs to update his info. Like any technology, biotech is advancing rapidly. The gene gun is becoming passe as new, more precise techniques emerge. Among them are genome-editing platforms like Crispr, which can remove, replace or silence genes without adding any new DNA. As a result, modifications achieved with these techniques may be able to skip the regulatory process altogether.

Speaking of regulatory processes, the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is currently reviewing the existing U.S. Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology. It's a big deal, and a chance for scientists to be heard.

It's ironic that anti-GMO activism, which is often driven by a fear of corporate control over seeds and food, has made it almost impossible for anyone but the hated big corporations to pursue biotechnology. When it can cost $100 million to take a new GM product to commercialization, scientists at public sector universities and small companies are effectively sidelined. 

And as I outline in a story I wrote about South African researcher Jennifer Thomson, this sounds the death knell for projects that could help smallholder farmers, but promise no big economic returns for corporations.

We need to stop painting agriculture and biotech with a good-bad broad brush and recognize that it's complex, nuanced and very diverse.

To end on a slightly lighter, and somewhat related note, check out this collection of photographs that illustrates just how addicted we've become to another technology.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Musings: Tables Turned

Something monumental happened on Molokai last week. The people didn't get played.

Ashley Lukens, director of the Hawaii Center for Food Safety, brought her anti-GMO/anti-ag/anti-pesticide dog and pony show to Kaunakakai. And frankly, she got her ass whooped, metaphorically speaking.
Facing a crowd that included not her usual true believers, but folks who actually work in the seed fields, Lukens was peppered with questions she wouldn't answer and criticisms she couldn't deflect until she turned tail and ran.

“I'm gonna shut it down here because I don't see it going in a good direction,” she told a crowd that began calling out, “why won't you take all the questions?” and “why didn't you bring someone from the health department?” and “what kind of doctor are you?”

When Ashley replied she had a doctorate in political science, one man replied, “Yeah and you want to spin this politically, for your own agenda.”

Robert Stevenson, president of the Molokai Chamber of Commerce, asked Ashley, who was there pimping the biased CFS “Pesticides in Paradise” report, why she was using cherry-picked data “that promotes the entrepreneurial agenda of the conflict industry.”

Visibly shaken in the face of pushback far more polite than what her own movement regularly dishes out, Ashley folded and beat a quick retreat.

But from the safety of her Honolulu office, Ashley employed a twist-and-shout tactic favored by the anti-GMO movement. In a blog post and mass email, she turned it all around and upside down, portraying herself as the victim of corporate bullying, staring “Goliath in the face, in all his shifting forms.”

Uh, no, Ashley. Them's just regular folk. Locals. Many of them kanaka. And they were calling you on your shibai.

Like why you claimed that pesticide data was only available for Kauai, when Monsanto has been disclosing its pesticide use in Maui County since 2012. Like why you said that school kids were getting sick from agricultural pesticides, when the Department of Agriculture published a report showing not one school evacuation was caused by seed company pesticide exposure. And why you failed to include that report in the Molokai presentation when people had already called you on it on Kauai.

As I read her blog post, I was reminded of the mindset that gave birth to manifest destiny and the white man's burden. It's still alive and well, resurrected in Hawaii by Ashley Lukens and the Center for Food Safety. Because when she writes stuff like:

Although seemingly there to intimidate me and oppose our message, these 100+ people are the most at risk from the growing GE Seed industry in our state. Communicating the very real risks posed by this industry to the workers and their families, implicating their employers in these dangerous practices, is difficult... but necessary.

What she's really saying is:

They're too stupid to understand this for themselves. We know better than they how these crops are grown, what kind of exposure occurs, what dangers they face. They should listen to us, even if they don't want to. Because we know best.

Ashley then got into how 20 or so workers “leaned in, eyes wide, chin on hand” supposedly “absorbing” her message.

Uh, did you ever think they were incredulous that you, a city girl with zero background in ag, had the nerve to come to their island and lecture them about their livelihood?
Ashley Lukens
She goes on to say:

Many were elders who have seen what large agricultural companies can do to communities.

Oh, yeah, they know what ag can do to a community – and what happens to a community when it folds up and disappears. Mass unemployment. Welfare. Hungry kids. Looking for work on Maui. Depression.

Ashley continued, cluelessly:

I wondered, as I saw the executives shift uncomfortably in their seats, if they regretted inviting their workers. Did they realize that seeds were planted? That we will continue to water these seeds and that this is how transformation grows?

No, Ashley, you plant propaganda. They're the ones who plant seeds, and believe me, they know the difference.

Ironically, Ashley ended her blog post by saying: 

But standing up and speaking out is important.

This is rich, coming from the leader of a movement that has worked relentlessly to shut people down, using ridicule, cyber bullying, personal harassment and other ugly tactics to silence those who have opposing views. And it's doubly rich considering that Ashley refused to take any questions at all when she later spoke on Maui.

As I watched the video of the Molokai meeting, I thought back to January 2013, when Walter Ritte appeared on stage alongside Vandana Shiva. They were exhorting Kauai folks to give the seed companies the boot. "Why don't they start on Molokai, Walter's own island?" I wondered at the time.

Now I know. Folks there aren't so easily played.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Musings: Gleanings

It's fascinating, the diverse things that cross my desk, infiltrate my consciousness.

Like the motion filed by Craig DeCosta and Dan Hempey, seeking to have charges dismissed against their client, the Kauai police officer who ran over a stricken pedestrian while rushing to his aid.

As I previously reported, Officer Irvin Magayanes was charged with one count of negligent homicide in the second degree for the traffic death of Michael Sheehan Kocher Jr. The 19-year-old Kocher reportedly was walking in the eastbound lane of Kaumualii Highway on Jan. 3, 2015, when he was hit by a car. Kocher was lying in the road, but alive, when a police car driven by Magayanes reportedly struck him and killed him while responding to the call for help.

In their motion, DeCosta and Hempey cite a police investigation that determined Kocher was not legally in the highway, and was wearing dark clothing, when he was hit by a car driven by Alan Yamagata, who was not charged. They note:

According to the police reports, Mr. Kocher tried to get up and out of the middle of the road after he was struck, but bystanders held him down and kept him there, laying in the east-bound lane of Kuhio Highway.  None of the bystanders engaged any emergency flashing lights on their vehicles or set any flares to warn oncoming traffic of the person lying in the east-bound lane of the highway.
Instead the bystanders covered him with a dark blanket or a tarp. 

En route to where he was dispatched, [Magayanes] saw something dark in the road, like a tarp or a blanket.  He swerved to avoid it, but it was too late.  His police vehicle struck Mr. Kocher, who was lying in the middle of the eastbound lane of the highway, covered in the dark blanket or tarp. 

Based on the police car's GPS, investigators determined that Magayanes was driving 19-24 mph over the speed limit, but “concluded that the same result would have happened, even if the officer was going 50 MPH.”

Defense attorneys argue there is no evidence that Magayanes acted with “gross negligence” at the time of the incident, or that his alleged speeding was “unjustified.” As they noted: 

Indeed, society’s basic understanding that police officers should speed to the aid of the public during emergency calls is enshrined in law.

They further argue that Kocher, who had a blood alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit, does not meet the definition of a “vulnerable user“ because he was illegally in the highway.

A hearing on the motion to dismiss has been set for 8 a.m., Dec. 1 before Judge Randal Valenciano.

One thing's clear: it was a tragedy all around.

On a much lighter note, I had to laugh at this comment on TGI's article about Councilman KipuKai Kualii's revamped noise ordinance:

I would be so thankful if the dog barking ordinance went back into effect. The dogs in Hanapepe have gotten extremely noisy ever since the Ordinance was dropped.

Such clever dogs, to understand not only that the ordinance had been rescinded, but that they could bark with impunity as a result.

The question now is whether KipuKai also has the guts to address the guys who house hundreds of  fighting roosters, making a cacophonous racket day and night.

Speaking of dogs, folks are banking on the novelty factor of Kauai mutts to find mainland owners for dogs that are unwanted here. On the one hand, it's great if they're adopted. On the other, let's not pretend this transfer program is actually saving canine lives. For every poi dog that's adopted, a mainland stray is not. Still, I did chuckle a bit when TGI reported:

Cassidy, a former resident of the Kauai Humane Society, was about to begin a 2,500-mile trip to Marin County, California, where he would more than likely soon be placed with a home.

Now if only Marin County would reclaim some its transplanted residents, who are bound and determined to re-create the Bay Area on Kauai.

In skimming Brittany Lyte's ridiculously long and gushy paean to the late Bill Porter, I noticed this interesting tidbit:

Another of Bill and Joan’s philanthropic endeavors on Wai Koa Plantation is Kauai Fresh Farms, which specializes in supplying the island with produce that’s organic and local. The farm grows lettuce, kale, tomatoes, cucumbers and basil in state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouses.

So this is what it takes to produce organic, local veggies on Kauai? A wealthy patron? And it's so weird that people reject GMOs as “unnatural,” but blithely consume food that has never seen soil or sunlight, just because it's labeled “organic.”

Which reminds me of a recent poll that determined 87 percent of voters think political candidates should have a basic understanding science. And 77 percent of Americans believe public policies should be based on the best available science.

Wow, what a concept. The public actually prefers science to propaganda — provided they can tell the difference. Of course, that spells trouble for woo-woo candidates like  Felicia Cowden, Gary Hooser and Dustin Barca. 

Speaking of the latter, Barca was quoted in “Tracks, the Surfer's Bible,” as saying this about GMOs (while also recounting his numerous fist fights):
"They’re splicing the genes with the chemicals they make, into the genes of the plants. Bugs will eat it and they will die instantly and they will be weed resistant, but after two years what they don’t tell people is that it creates super weeds. So now they have to make even heavier chemical resistant crops.

“What a biotoxin does is it kills a bug. When a bug eats a plant and the biotoxic gene, they pretty much implode and poop their whole stomach out and die right there. Basically, we’re giant bugs.”

Uh, speak for yourself, Dustin. The rest of us are clearly mammals.

It's hard to know whether this kind of gibberish is the result of drugs, repetitive brain injury, skipping school to surf or just plain stupidity.

Which brings me to a comment recently left on an old post about that scientifically-challenged “scientist” Terry Lilley, with his wild claims about military chemtrails and microwaves killing the North Shore reefs. As opposed to, say, runoff from the cesspools of the sleeps-12 oceanfront vacation rentals. Posted under the apt pseudonym Stay In School Kauai, it stated:

Wow. I have been on Kauai for 3 years now. At first, as a home owner in the conservation district, I did not like what I was reading on your blog. Now you have become the lone voice of reason and common sense on an otherwise dimly lit and misinformed community on Kauai. It is not that you just hear these wild tales on Terry Lilly's facebook page (aka the guy that literally lives in a van down by the river) it is that you hear them in conversations on the beach, talking story to your neighbors and from otherwise well educated friends.

Keep up the great work. I implore all of the people that read this to do some homework, read about science and come up with your own ideas and conclusions.

The keywords here are homework, read, science — before coming up with ideas and conclusions.