Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Musings: Pesticides, Politics and Power

The Garden Island has been running a poll with a loaded question that reflects the “guilty until proven innocent” mentality that underlines so many discussions about agriculture:

Do you think there will ever be enough data collected to show that the use of pesticides is harmful to the health and environment of Kauai?

It's the same skewed mindset that drives today's Civil Beat editorial, which urges the state to spend whatever it takes to find the elusive smoking gun that will prove nasty ag is poisoning the citizenry of Hawaii.
Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller
But then, what do you expect from a publication funded by billionaire Pierre Omidyar, who bankrolls the same activists who launched the anti-GMO/anti-pesticide/anti-ag movement in Hawaii and just hijacked the Islands' Democratic Party?

The question now is, will the Hawaii Democratic Party let itself be ruled by the self-same group of witch-hunting vigilantes who have relentlessly pursued an anti-ag agenda these past several years? Lest it's tempted, remember that by its own admission, this movement comprises just 1 percent of the state's population.

And will Gov. Ige, state Ag Director Scott Enright and lawmakers let a billionaire's vanity press pull their their strings? Lest they're tempted, remember that Civil Beat has achieved only 2 percent market penetration, a dismal readership that no doubt informs its jealous attack on competitor Star-Advertiser, now the 12th largest paper in the nation.

Though Civil Beat “reader rep” Brett Oppegaard, who studiously avoids looking at CB's glaring conflicts of interest, could find much to fault in the S-A, he focuses instead on the noise of the moped that delivers it. Then he questions whether it could possibly be that popular, since none of his students admit to reading it.

That's the same sort of unscientific bias that informs the Civil Beat editorial, which unquestioningly endorses every recommendation in the Joint Fact Finding report, post haste, and then takes a nasty poke at JFF members Sarah Styan and Gerardo Rojas, who resigned:

Big Agriculture had seats at the table as part of that volunteer group, but petulantly walked away from the process over input it found objectionable. Industry reps continue to be harshly critical of the group’s work.

Not exactly the way a truly good neighbor should behave.

Tell us, oh Civil Beat, how should a truly good neighbor behave when it has been falsely and viciously accused of crimes it didn't commit, its workers demonized and demoralized, its practices intentionally mischaracterized, a fear-mongering campaign waged by well-funded propaganda experts against its very existence? Just bend over and keep taking it? Or say no, this, is wrong, this is unfair, and I'm not going to dignify this charade with my presence?

Sarah, Gerardo and Roy Yamakawa, the other person who walked away, all left for good cause, and without petulance. Since they were the only members of the panel who didn't espouse anti-GMO/anti-pesticide or anti-“Big Ag” sentiments, their departure allowed those remaining to shift the initial assessment from “The JFF study group found no causal relationship between pesticide use and human health problems and no evidence indicating harm to flora and fauna” to “the JFF can't make any determination about anything.” That's a pretty significant spin.

It's only unfortunate that JFF facilitator Peter Adler failed to acknowledge, much less address, the concerns that prompted a third of the panel's members to leave. But then, to do so would have required him to admit his own failings and bias in this process. And that might jeopardize his ability to secure more fact-finding work. 

Neither Civil Beat, nor the antis it represents, have been able to explain the sole focus on agriculture:

Beginning steps outlined in the report are appropriate now, but the 2017 Legislature must address the data gaps head on and require those businesses using toxic chemicals in farming to meet a new level of disclosure that the public both wants and deserves.

The JFF itself found that ag applies just 23 percent of the restricted use pesticides on Kauai, compared to 41 percent by pest control companies and 36 percent for water purification using chlorine. With the Good Neighbor Program, we already know what ag is using, how much and how often. How can anyone seriously whine about data gaps — and then ignore 77 percent of the RUP use?

But in any case, it's not lack of data that is "fueling the deepest fears regarding pesticide use," as Civil Beat maintains. It's a relentless, well-funded, well-organized, fear-mongering political campaign waged by the anti-GMO movement and financed in part by Omidyar.

Which is why Hawaii folks — especially locals and kanaka — need to wise up and realize that at core, this isn't about GMOs and pesticides, or even land and water. It's about social and political control —with wealthy whites, like Omidyar and his antis, keen to grab the reins of power. [Clarification: Omidyar is not white. He's Iranian. However, the general reference still holds for many of the antis.]

Last weekend's Hawaii Democratic Convention offered a serious heads-up on how those dynamics are playing out. As longtime political commentator Richard Borreca observed:

Hawaii’s new Democratic Party chairman, Tim Vandeveer, is a former unexploded-ordnance technician, which is a good thing, because today’s party is a ticking time bomb.

Vandeveer, active in the Keep the Country Country movement that fought to block development along the Windward and North Shore Oahu areas, over the weekend won election as party chairman, thanks to hundreds of enthusiastic Sen. Bernie Sanders supporters joining the party.

With Sanders’ troops inside, old-time Democrats are asking what do they want and will they stay.

What do they want? Whatever bumper sticker slogans their social media echo chamber advocates. Will they stay? Not likely. Most are about as committed to the Democratic Party as they are to farming. Heck, look at Bernie, who adopted the mantle solely to facilitate his presidential run. But they'll wreak havoc while they can, with no thought to the consequences of their actions, like the demise of agriculture, the ascent of Donald Trump.

Though Vandeveer had the numbers to become chair, he captured a plurality of only about 30 percent of the delegates. To win, he employed scorched earth tactics that effectively dissed much of the party infrastructure, prompting many party faithfuls to wonder how he'll be able to effectively fundraise. 

The powers that be need to figure how much they're willing to concede to the insurgents, which though loud, organized and focused, comprise a fringe faction. 

If the Dems roll over, they'll end up in the short term — like as soon as Clinton becomes the Presidential nominee — with a weak and divided party.  But in the long term, we'll all suffer with these folks at the helm, imposing levels of elitism and social engineering that will make the Big Five look like pussycats.

Don't say you weren't warned.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Musings: Conflict and Conciliation

It's so ironic to hear the Hawaii Center for Food Safety talking about getting along when conflict is its raison d'être. Heck, it's the only way this anti-GMO group can amass power and money.

Which is why I nearly gagged while reading today's phony Civil Beat commentary by CFS program director Danya Hakeem, who was endorsing the Joint Fact Finding (JFF) report on Kauai agricultural pesticides. She first wrote:

The debate over genetic engineering and pesticides has become so personal and contentious that as a collective we are losing sight of the real people behind the corporations and organizations that share our home.

And then in the very next sentence espoused:

The agrichemical industry left unchecked could severely impact the health of our keiki and aina, now and for future generations.

This is after Danya asserted that Kauai moms living on Hawaiian homesteads “are fighting to protect their keiki and the aina from toxic pesticide drift” and “small organic farmers on Hawaii Island [are] struggling to earn a living because the system favors large agrichemical companies over local farmers.”

Oh, yeah, pass the olive branch, please. Her piece comes just two days after CFS sent out an email with a petition demanding Gov. Ige take action NOW on the report's recommendations.

I guess Danya had to write it because CFS Director Ashley Lukens was too busy posing and pontificating on subjects about which she knows nothing but lies:
Yes, CFS's call to “merge our differing viewpoints” sounds so sincere.

About as sincere as JFF facilitator Peter Adler, whose cover letter for the report noted, “we want to take a point of privilege and offer three personal thoughts.” As if his own personal thoughts and beliefs aren't already mirrored in the report, and the process that led to its creation. 

Adler then goes on to toot his own horn by proclaiming, “Joint Fact Finding was a wise approach, and remains a wise choice” — yeah, because that's how he makes his living — before writing:

Retrospectively, some who originally thought the JFF panel was reasonable in its composition at the start now argue otherwise when the substantive results don’t favor their opinions.

Once again, Adler failed to grasp what’s really bugging some of us. First, the “substantive results” aren’t substantive at all, though they’re presented as such. Second, he chose anti-GMO consultants, none of whom were initially vetted with the community. And third, the panel lost the only three members who weren’t on the anti-GMO bandwagon, which greatly changed the outcome of the report. That's why some of us who initially supported the effort are now crying foul.

It really is unfortunate that Peter never took any responsibility for those three resignations, characterizing them as “bumps in the road,” and failed to incorporate their concerns into the report.

Adler then wrote:

Absolutists on each end of GMO/Pesticide debate spectrum will continue to be severe critics of any and all proposals that do not suit their goals. That is their self-declared mandate, and they will continue to make the most noise as they attack their opponents’ beliefs while defending their own.

Nice way to end-run legitimate critics by characterizing them as fanatics. That sounds so conciliatory, Peter. And I guess that explains why CFS is loving the report — it's a custom fit to its goals. Almost like it was written to order. Oh, wait, that's right — it was.

Though Adler and the panel received hundreds of comments on the draft JFF, they blew most of them off, including this one from Department of Health Director Virginia Pressler:
But then, it mustn't be allowed into the report because it doesn't fit the activist narrative of the chem companies poisoning school children.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii Democratic Party will be considering a packet of resolutions at its convention this weekend, including one on “responsible legislation regarding pesticide application.” In pressing for the adoption of buffer zones, it advances the totally outrageous claim:

Whereas some large industrial agricultural operations in Hawaii do not use modern best practices that farmers elsewhere use to protect the environment, their neighbors and the land.

WTF? Why, just yesterday state Agriculture Director Scott Enright told those big ag operators: “You folks apply pesticides better than anybody in the state ever has. You are not my concern.”

Despite the JFF — or more likely, because of it — the old misperceptions about agricultural operations remain, hyped by hypocrites like CFS, which call for cooperation even as it dishes out discord and fans the flames of fear.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Musings: Final JFFG Report

The final report of the Joint Fact Finding group is asserting that extensive monitoring must be done before any claims can be made about the impact of agricultural pesticides on west Kauai.

It's a sharp departure from the draft, which maintained there was no evidence linking pesticide use with any health or environmental impacts. But though the final report makes a stronger call for monitoring and identifies pesticides as a priority for state funding, it offers no strong or new data to support that stance.

Instead, it tells us that pesticides can be harmful, and agriculture uses them. Therefore, the state and county must embark on extensive and expensive monitoring to ferret them out — even though the studies that have been conducted have found no indication that harmful levels of pesticides are migrating from the coffee and seed fields.
Other than changing its “no evidence of harm” stance — and adding some outtake quotes strategically selected to highlight alarming assertions — little has changed between the draft and the final, despite hundreds of public comments.

The final report takes the same bizarre approach to assessing health impacts: identify diseases linked to pesticide use, then look for incidences of those ailments. Problem is, the diseases have many other causes besides pesticides.

It continues to give unwritten (much less published) activist studies the same weight as those conducted by professionals and state agencies, and makes no apologies for including anti-GMO activists as consultants and panel members.

And it notes only that JFFG members Sarah Styan, Roy Yamakawa and Gerardo Rojas resigned, while making no mention of their detailed and extensive concerns. But then, that's the MO of the anti-GMO movement. Those who disagree are first denounced as shills, then shunned.

Because let's not forget that anti-GMO activists comprise a majority of JFFG members.

So it's no surprise that this report serves up all the anti-GMO demands, most notably, the call for real-time pesticide use disclosure:

The capability exists to determine how much pesticide application occurs at a specific location and at a given time; however it is not currently being done. This information is essential for performing future environment and health impact studies.

This is patently false. Even California, which the report holds up as the gold standard of health and environmental monitoring, does not require this specificity of disclosure. It's absurd to assert that no monitoring can be done unless it's known exactly where pesticides are being used.

There's only one reason for this kind of disclosure, and that's so the anti-GMO activists can tailor health claims and nuisance litigation to match pesticide application sites.

The also report tells us that some JFFG members are exploring the possibility of raising private funds, with a committee doling out grants to conduct studies. Oh, goodie. More activist science. Of course, these groups could have conducted studies already (and some did, but found nothing serious) because they've been given hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants. Instead, they used the dough on propaganda, like Vandana Shiva x3 and the “Aina” film, which features JFF member Kawika Winter.

But now they've got a report that shifts the financial burden for their agenda onto taxpayers and private businesses, while maintaining a climate of fear and uncertainty that fuels their fundraising and advocacy efforts.

Some might ask, why not do all these studies? Why not "err on the side of caution"? That's fine — if there's unlimited money and no self-serving groups involved, neither of which is true here. The report could have suggested a staged approach: if initial monitoring turns up evidence of pesticides, expand to x, y, z. Instead, it is already calling for wholescale revision of pesticide laws and policy, with no evidence that it's needed.

In short, it's agenda driven, not science-based.

So a better question is, why act when there's no indication of any problem? An example was Councilman Gary Hooser's demand, which the JFFG echoed, that the Kauai Department of Water test for chlorpyrifos. It did, and found nothing, just as it expected, because DOW's decision not to test was based on science.

There's another reason why this report should be largely dismissed: it rewards demagogues like Hooser and Ashley Lukens of Hawaii Center for Food Safety by giving credence to their claims, so many of which have been proven false, and their fear-mongering tactics.

And that's no small consideration. If the state keeps caving in to nonsense, and acting like the concessions are nothing, when they aren't, where will it stop? Why give demagogues that kind of power?

It's clear from the report — and the entire dysfunctional process that created it — that the JFFG, under the direction of Peter Adler, is merely trying to wave a flag rather than address the community fears and concerns stoked by the activists.

So how much fault for this report's failings can be laid at the feet of Peter Adler? Well, most of it, since he and his team selected anti-GMO activists as panelists and consultants, wrote the document, botched the proceedings so that three panelists resigned and courted publicity on a draft report.

The rest lies with Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho and state Agriculture Director Scott Enright who apparently trusted Adler to act ethically, rather than create a monster.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Musings: Sacrificial Killing

An email arrived in my inbox today, advertising an event that seems great on first glance, but has so much ugliness festering beneath the surface:
It's a pitch for a June no-kill conference, with the stated goal of turning the Kauai Humane Society into a no-kill shelter.

It comes on the heels of a relentlessly vicious social media attack on KHS Director Penny Cistaro, waged in large part by the Kauai Community Cat Project — a group that wants to save all the feral cats on the island by putting them into managed colonies and the shadowy Kauai Coalition for Animals.

So what has Penny done to incur all this hate and wrath? Euthanizing animals that nobody wants — not even the animal lovers.

Minutes after I skimmed the no-kill conference email, I happened upon a news story from Taiwan, about a shelter veterinarian who killed herself after on-line haters attacked her following a TV appearance where she talked about her job.

On the TV program, she had begged people to adopt dogs, not buy them, because the shelters were packed with unwanted canines. She told of crying herself to sleep, and feeling guilty about putting dogs down. But she said they had no choice, because they had no more room. Her honesty, good intentions and appeal for public support counted for nothing with the haters,Instead, they brutalized her in comments, calling her “female butcher” and “beautiful executioner.”

It's not unlike the attacks that have been leveled against Penny. Google her name, and the first thing that comes up is a website that has appropriated her personal domain name to offer such links as “why does Penny Cistaro order employees to euthanize puppies?”

Next up is the Facebook page of the Kauai Coalition for Animals. Though this group is busily trying to destroy Penny's good name, and a solid professional reputation built on 30 years in the business, they've too cowardly to identify themselves. But videos link them to the Kauai Community Cat Project, which is headed by Basil Scott.

It's followed by another Facebook hit page by a Central California no-kill group attacking her policies at a Sacramento shelter, then a change.org petition seeking her ouster. It's not until the second page of results that we start seeing nice things about Penny. The haters know well how to optimize search engines so that their slime rises to the top.

I went back to look at the email. It said the conference will start with Nathan Winograd, a no-kill missionary, presenting his film “Redemption.” It purports to be about “a social movement as noble and just as those that have come before. But most of all, it is a story about believing in the community and trusting in the power of compassion.”

Oh, yeah, that sounds really good. But ya know, I'm not so sure about the “believing in the community” part. Especially when we've just witnessed the fanaticism and mob mentality of the anti-GMO movement. And especially when we're seeing the supposedly kind and caring  animal lovers engaged in horrible attacks against Penny.

Are cyber bullying, character assassination and other despicable tactics how Winograd, Basil Scott and their followers define "community" and "compassion?" How can they claim to be “noble” when they're causing horrible harm to someone who loves animals, and is tasked with the very hard job of euthanizing those that can't find homes?

Even PETA, an animal rights' group, has denounced Winograd's movement. Blaming shelter workers for euthanasia, PETA says, is akin to blaming hospitals for deadly diseases. PETA continues:


This false “logic” lets the real culprits off the hook: people who breed (or fail to spay or neuter) their animals and people who buy animals from pet stores or breeders instead of adopting homeless animals from shelters. No one wants to see animals euthanized—least of all, those who have to perform it—but denying that a crisis exists and blaming those who have devoted their lives to ending it is misguided and solves nothing.

PETA went on to offer several examples of how the no-kill approach to shelter management resulted in dangerous policies and practices that harmed animals. 

This mainland-based no-kill movement is a repeat of what happened with the mainland-based anti-GMO movement. You get people all fired up about an emotional cause, simplify the issues, offer an equally simplistic solution, wreak lots of havoc and rake in some dough along the way.

And just like the anti-GMO movement, its real objectives are hidden by the emotional appeal. In the case of the no-kill movement, its true goals on Kauai are this: derail efforts to control Kauai's huge population of feral cats, which are killing endangered native birds and monk seals.

It's unrealistic to imagine that some 20,000 feral cats can be managed humanely, healthfully and economically in colonies on little Kauai. It's pure fantasy to think they'll all find homes.

And it's downright wrong to support movements and individuals who sanction the sort of tactics used against Penny and the veterinarian in Taiwan. 

On Kauai, all this stink-talk has included urging people not to take animals to the shelter. Like abandoning them elsewhere, or giving to an unsuitable home, is supposed to be a solution?

If those folks want to start a Kauai no-kill shelter of their own, go for it. (Though PETA offers numerous examples of the downside of these feel-good shelters.)

But we all need to condemn their attempts to sacrifice native birds — and destroy Penny and KHS — in the process.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Musings: Proud as Punch

Ashley Lukens of the Hawaii Center for Food Safety is so dang pleased with herself.
And why not? She's shown us, through the group's 2015 annual report, that she's a master at deception and spin. To wit:

I often wonder if our next generation were telling the story of the food movement in Hawai╩╗ i, how they would tell it. I know that I speak for the entire HCFS team when I say we are honored to play a small part in this story.

Actually, HCFS has played a very, very big role, bringing in money, legal support, relentless PR, lobbying at the state Legislature, organizing tactics and some super slick propaganda, which it highlights in the annual report.

Their propaganda pieces include a fantasy-based, Makana-narrated animated piece that's just right for indoctrinating school kids. To wit:

[T]he video was a great learning tool, and the animation helped make the concepts accessible and understandable for our middle schoolers.” — Abigail Rotholz, Hawaii School Garden instructor

Then there's the oft-discredited, but never corrected, “Pesticides in Paradise” report, which has been unquestioningly quoted in anti-GMO media coverage and characterized by the misinformed as “educational tools.” To wit:

“These educational tools have played a key role in my efforts to bring pesticide and food issues to the fore with Hawai‘i health providers and early childhood professionals.” —Lynn Wilson, PhD, children’s health advocate

Ashley boasts that her biggest audience for the "Pesticides in Paradise" report was at Hoolehua, Molokai. You may recall that I wrote about that presentation:

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?”

But in Ashley's world, that sincere, spontaneous expression of public outrage became “the industry’s use of intimidation tactics to discredit the report.”

Why, the incident, and her subsequent spin, even earned its own quarter-page in the 16-page annual report, where Ashley gushed:

“This incredible story earned national attention and was shared on social media by the Food Babe, Dr. Bronner's, GMO Free USA.”

Wow. The Food Babe AND Dr. Bronner's. Now that's saying something. Though nothing I'd want to be associated with.

Also interesting was the report's section on Partnership Development, which listed such echo chamber inhabitants as the AiKea Movement, Aloha Aina Project, Babes Against Biotech, Beach Road Farms, Down to Earth Hawai‘i, Earthjustice, GMO Free chapters on all islands, Hawai‘i Alliance for Nonprofit Organizations, Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action, Hawai‘i Farmers Union United, Hawai‘i Food Policy Council, Moms on a Mission (MoM) hui, Shaka Movement, Sierra Club of Hawaii and Surfrider.

Ashley also boasts that HCFS “hosted two powerful 'Movement Building for ea' Workshops in partnership with native Hawaiian organization Movement for Aloha no ka Aina (MANA).” 

In case you haven't heard of it, MANA was founded by Ikaika Hussey in 2008. Ikaika is also on the board of Gary Hooser's HAPA, and publishes the Hawaii Independent (an on-line website I wrote for some years back, until Ikaika failed to pay what was promised) and Summit Magazine.

One of those who participated in these “powerful” workshop trainings was Maui fashion designer and self-proclaimed ag expert Tiare Lawrence, who cites membership in the Aloha 'Aina Project — one of HCFS' new partners. In case you're unfamilar, it's headed by the Putin-friendly "man who would be king" Edwin de Silva, and his ali'i mana'o advisor, Lanny Sinkin.

Neither MANA nor the Aloha Aina Project are registered with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

But they do get funding from Common Counsel, a California-based foundation that also began giving money to the HCFS this year. And they're both active in the anti-Thirty Meter Telescope project on Hawaii, with Sinkin speaking for the “king.”

Yes, it's not just an anti-GMO, anti-pesticide movement. It's an anti-ag (except for organic), anti-science, anti-technology (aside from the kind that allows them to use social media) pro-independence movement.

All snuggled up together with overlapping members and funding. In short, it's a small, fringe group of people with some sizable dough trying to make their movement look a lot bigger — and a lot more mainstream — than it really is.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Musings: No Takers

Could it be that the rose is off the bloom? The dream of self-sufficiency is fading? The fantasy of feeding the world has smacked up against the reality of hard fricking work and weekend play time?


Gosh, you mean that guilt and shame aren't sufficient motivators? It sounded so good when they held the SHAME banner at the Lege. But hey, if all else fails, Dustin can always resort to intimidation and threats.
Sad indeed. Especially when these folk are claiming they're the ones gonna heal the aina and feed the planet, and they don't need no help from the stinking farmers or GMOs. Also sad are their piss-poor writing skills. The contraction of "you are" is "you're," Katie, not "your."

Equally sad are the misinformed folks who wasted a couple of hours waving anti-GMO signs in front of Safeway when they could have been helping Dustin plant mauka. 

They used to irritate me, but now I mostly just feel sorry for them, because it's clear they're missing a few screws. Like nurse Marghee Maupin, who has spread so much fear on the westside. (Thankfully, she is no longer working at KVMH.) Yet she still believes she's out there "raising awareness," even though it's clear from comments like this that she doesn't know WTF she's talking about:

“I used to work at the hospital over there on the Westside, where they’re testing between 70 and 90 pesticides every day,” Maupin said. “I got Guillain-Barre syndrome and I had to leave. When you look at the list of causes, the only one that fit with me was the pesticides.”

First, they aren't testing any pesticides, much less 70 to 90 per day. Where in the world do they come up with this stuff? As for G-B syndrome, a quick browse of the Mayo Clinic site turned up this:

Guillain-Barre syndrome may be triggered by:
  • Most commonly, infection with campylobacter, a type of bacteria often found in undercooked poultry
  • Influenza virus
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • HIV, the virus that causes AIDS
  • Mycoplasma pneumonia
  • Surgery
  • Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Rarely, influenza vaccinations or childhood vaccinations
There ain't nothing about pesticides — until you go to an autism-vaccine site. And this deluded woman is in charge of people's health?

Joanna Wheeler, another anti-GMO ignoramus, chimed in:

"Kauai is called GMO ground zero because they’re testing here and it affects us more than anywhere else. They’re testing chemicals here on Kauai that are banned in their own countries, where the companies are headquartered.” 
Again, they aren't testing anything. But this is what happens when Councilman Gary Hooser, Center for Food Safety, Hawaii SEED and GMO Free Kauai tell a lie loud enough and often enough: People who aren't too bright believe it, and crappy newspapers like The Garden Island reprint it.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Musings: Stupid or What?

From today's The Garden Island:

Councilman Gary Hooser believes the Planning Department overreacted when it issued cease and desist orders to homestay operations operating outside the Visitor Destination Area.

“I don’t know what the problem is,” Hooser said. “If it’s parking, we’ll deal with parking. If it’s noise, we’ll deal with noise. But we can’t solve the problem with a sledge hammer because that will hurt people and ruin their lives.

Uh, hello! The people had no permits. They were operating illegally. They were given an opportunity to come in and get permits. But some were unable to qualify, either because they had zoning violations or were operating on ag land. Others were denied, but are in contested case hearings to appeal that denial.

Come on, Gary. Are you really that ignorant of this issue? Or are you just playing dumb to cater to the TVR/B&B crowd? Or are you simply taking your usual approach, which is to spread lies and misinformation?

In any case, to answer your question, the problem is clearly YOU.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Musings: Sharp Contrast

I continue to be impressed with the thoughtfulness and common sense displayed by Kauai County Councilman Arryl Kaneshiro. He's also shown he's not afraid to go against the grain.

In recent weeks, he's expressed an unwillingness to legislate every aspect of people's lives and a desire to focus on education rather than criminalization. He accepted the reality of imposing a very small tax increase to help improve the island's rotten roads, rather than pandering to voters in an election year. He's never thrown a pencil, talked beyond his allotted time or created an outburst that prompted a recess.

And he recognizes the pitfalls of a county manager system — especially in the hands of the dysfunctional Council.

Yes, that badly flawed concept is still alive. Even though the Council's own legal analyst, as well as the county attorney, have told them the county manager they wish to control would have to go through the civil service process, the Council refuses to give it up. Now they want the AG to weigh in. Meanwhile, The Garden Island still has not revealed the full scope of this power grab, including longer Council term limits and giving the manager authority over the police and planning commissions.

Arryl stands in refreshingly sharp contrast to his colleagues, some of whom can barely articulate a coherent thought, or are so immersed in their own narcissism that they are incapable of seeing the big picture or the public good. Truly, this is one of the worst Councils I've seen in nearly 30 years of following county politics.

While we're on the topic of incoherent narcissists, I see the annual March Against Monsanto is set for Saturday. I just had to laugh at the way it's billed as “a chance to educate.” Mmm, since when has carrying signs with simplistic slogans and falsehoods been educational?

Similarly deluded is Jeri Di Pietro, president of Hawaii SEED, who said the group's strategy is to increase education and awareness on genetically modified food in general. But how can they do that when they themselves are so woefully — even willfully — misinformed? To wit, Jeri's claim that “they shoot in the foreign DNA randomly. Depending on where that viral promoter of the foreign DNA lands, it can turn on dormant cancer genes.”

WTF? Where do they come up with this stuff?

Not to mention the willingness of some, like Councilman Gary Hooser, to flat out lie: “The high volume of restricted use pesticides necessary for the development and production of both parent seed and the experimental test fields too often drift into neighboring communities and sensitive ecosystems such as streams and nearshore waters.”

Shoots, even tests conducted by the antis themselves don't bear that claim out.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Health has released the scores of applicants who were awarded medical marijuana dispensary licenses. Unfortunately, they have yet to release the scores and rankings of the folks who didn't get it, because they're still in the process of notifying them. Talk about slow. It's been three weeks since they announced the winners.

At any rate, Green Aloha, the Kauai licensee, got the lowest score in the state. Yet another example of Kauai bringing up the rear.

And Politico has an interesting article about the downside of the Colorado legalization: the smell of production and processing facilities, many of which are located in Denver's poorest neighborhoods. The complaints of activists there are not unlike those leveled at the seed industry here:

Mayor Michael Hancock views the neighborhood outcry as unsurprising. City rules required grow operations—which favor warehouse-like structures—to locate in industrial-zoned areas. "Certainly, nobody wants to live under the clouds of those odors everyday," Hancock said, adding that it’s incumbent on the marijuana industry to work with communities to reduce the negative effects of their operations.

In recent weeks, Hancock signed off on an ordinance change that will require businesses seeking new licenses or renewals to submit "good neighbor" outreach plans. And next year, grow operations, which take widely varying approaches to reduce the smells they emit, will have to present odor-control plans to the city.

Elyria-Swansea was among a few neighborhoods identified by the Denver Post early this year as having roughly one marijuana business for every 91 residents—a clustering that intensifies problems like smell, but that also claims precious real estate.

"We have people who have tried to start businesses, and they weren't able to lease the spaces because the marijuana industry came in and could make a higher offer—and do it instantly," said [community activist Candi] CdeBaca. "We've borne the burden of the state and city's growth at the cost of our residents."

What's the old saying? Oh, yeah: one man's meat is another man's poison.

And finally, I ran across this cartoon, which I dedicate to all the folks who bitch and moan when I don't print their comments:

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Musings: No Defense

The Kauai County Council yesterday passed a bill limiting homestays/B&Bs to the visitor destination area (VDA), where other resort uses are allowed.

It also limits the number of homestay applications that will be considered to 10 per year in 2015 and 2016, with the cap expiring at the end of 2016. Other restrictions include no more than three guest rooms in any house. 

The owner must live on the premises and be “physically available for the needs and concerns of their respective homestay guests.” Each bedroom must have a paved parking spot and the house must be on a septic system.

The bill effectively halts the legal proliferation of homestays on ag lands and in residential neighborhoods, as many residents requested. It was opposed by Councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura, Gary Hooser and Mel Rapozo.

“This is my fourth year and I don't believe I ever advocated on enforcement against homestays and B&Bs, it was more TVRs,” Hooser said.

So tell us, Gary, how can you possibly justify enforcing the law against some people, but not others?

And Mel, since you “feel sorry for these people” operating without permits, and are “so conflicted” about how the Council never dealt with the B&B issue back in 2009, why didn't you act to address the issue in the seven years since? Why wait until now to whimper, when the public is finally fed up and the situation is out of control? Worried about re-election?

Alexis Boilini and Lorna Hoff, who are operating B&Bs in the agriculture district, argued for relief, claiming their rights had been violated when the planning department moved to shut down people who were operating B&Bs and TVRs without permits. 

Hoff and her husband John, along with Bill and Cathy Cowern, Darcy Summer and Patricia Enderlin, are facing misdemeanor criminal charges for zoning violations and unsworn falsification stemming from their unpermitted accommodations.

Councilman Ross Kagawa asked whether the Council could consider amendments that would grandfather in existing unpermitted B&Bs.

“There's nothing this body can do to grandfather them in,” said Kaaina Hull, deputy planning director. “If they don't have a use permit, they're not operating legally. And if they're not operating legally, they can't be grandfathered in.”

Such uses on ag land also require a special permit under state law, he said.

County Attorney Mauna Kea Trask also spoke of the challenges that arise when the law is changed while his office and the planning department are in the midst of litigation and contested case hearings on homestay applications.

He also said the Council cannot pass a law that exempts certain individuals, such as those who claimed they didn't know they needed a permit. “Ignorance of the law is never a defense.”

So what is the defense, other than self-righteousness, of those who took it upon themselves to illegally erect signs, impersonating the state Department of Health and embedded in concrete no less, on the public beach at Mahaulepu? 
Bridgette Hammerquist and Jay Kechloian, two vigilantes from Friends of Mahauelpu, don't seem at all bothered by the fact that it's illegal to post signs on state land without permission. They've vowed to keep posting their “contaminated water” signs because they think the public has a right to know.

Is anybody even swimming in that murky little trickle?

Robert Zelkovsky, membership coordinator of Surfrider, thinks the illegal signs are just fine, too. Because Surfrider, with its publicity-seeking water testing program, knows more and better than DOH, doncha know? And since they declare it contaminated, then it must be so.

DOH has already said it's going to conduct a study of the area, at the urging of the EPA, to determine whether people, or plants and animals, are the cause of the high bacteria counts. The agency only posts when the e.coli comes from a human source.

But FOM and Surfrider can't wait for that. They have to drum up some publicity, and keep sticking it to Grove Farm and the proposed dairy, by posting their illegal signs.

Well, here's the end result: DOH wants Grove Farm to close access to Mahaulepu for four months this summer so the agency can study the stream.

Good work, Surfrider and FOM. I'm sure closing down Mahaulepu will help you win a lot of converts.