Thursday, January 31, 2008

Austal a JHSV Contender

Austal USA — the company that built the Superferry — is indeed a contender for the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) project.

The Navy announced today that it has awarded preliminary design contracts worth $3 million each to Austal, Bath Iron Works and Bollinger Shipyards Inc.

Austal is now in the position of being able to scrutinize the performance and cost of two American fast ferries it designed and constructed — the Hawaii Superferry and Westpac Express — in developing its proposal for the JHSV design.

That puts Austal on more solid footing in competing against Bollinger, which partnered with Incat to design and build three high speed vessels that have been used by the military: the Joint Venture, Spearhead and Swift.

Both the Swift and the Westpac Express were leased to the military so it could evaluate the JHSV concept. The Hawaii Superferry design is similar to the Westpac Express, but larger and faster.

The JHSV program is intended to produce a vessel that can carry personnel and a large cargo load, travel at high speeds and operate in both near shore and deep waters.

The third contender is Bath Iron Works, which has built numerous Navy ships, but no high speed vessels or ferries, so far as I could tell from its website.

So what’s at stake here?

Well, as I previously reported, one company will be chosen to build all eight of the JHSVs the Navy plans to buy, with the first slated to cost $150 million and the remaining seven projected to cost $130 million each.

The Navy press release states:

"Once delivered, the Joint High Speed Vessel will be a key component of the U.S. military's expeditionary warfare capability," said Rear Adm. Charles Goddard, program executive officer for ships. "This high speed transport will carry soldier or Marines, with their gear, to harbors that would normally be unusable by conventional maritime assets."

Once preliminary design is complete, the Navy will receive detail designs and construction proposals from the three teams. The Navy intends to award a single Phase Two detail design contract with construction options in late 2008. The first ship, an Army vessel, is expected to be delivered in 2011.

The JHSV program is a joint effort between the Army and the Navy to acquire high-speed vessels for the two branches of the U.S. military. JHSV will be used for fast intra-theater transportation of troops, military vehicles and equipment. Currently the U.S. military leases two HSVs [Swift and Westpac Express] each capable of achieving speeds of more than 30 knots.

The current program calls for a total of eight ships, three to be operated by the Navy and five to be operated by the Army.”

Gee, it looks like the Hawaii Superferry needs to get back in service pretty quick so they can start identifying the design kinks — like maybe that pesky rudder.

Smoking Gun

Well, surprise, surprise.

Buried at the end of an article about Austal — the company that built the Hawaii Superferry — getting contracts for new ferries is the following nugget:

“In addition, Austal said it is expecting to hear in the first quarter of 2008 the outcome of a preliminary design contract for the US joint high-speed vessel program. The US Navy intends to purchase eight vessels for joint use by both Navy and Army.”

So with that bit of information in mind, you might want to read my Honolulu Weekly piece on U.S.S. Superferry and see if it’s all starting to make sense now.

High five to Maui's Brad Parsons for sending me that link.

Superferry Still Stuck

Once again, things aren’t quite adding up with Hawaii Superferry.

KGMB reported last night that the ferry is having rudder problems that are apparently serious enough to capture the attention of the Coast Guard, which advised HSF officials to keep the boat in port until it’s fixed.

The station has Superferry officials saying it’s the auxiliary rudder, while “the Coast Guard said the trouble is with the rudder post, which houses the rudder and is controlled by jet drives that help stabilize the Alakai.” Why the differing accounts?

Further, the report states: “The Superferry said it's a one day fix and insists the rough seas have kept it from sailing, not the repairs.”

So if the problem was discovered on Monday, and it’s a one-day fix, why wasn’t it repaired by the time of the newscast on Wednesday? We're now at day five of no service, so you'd think they'd want to have it up and running ASAP.

And the big question: how, exactly, did it get damaged?

These, of course, are the kinds of questions that apparently don’t get asked, or answered. And meanwhile, The Advertiser’s coverage is limited to running voyage cancelled announcements pulled from the company’s website.

Musings: Cash Cows

It was so pretty when Koko and I went walking this morning, with that soft, golden sunrise light, a rapidly shrinking moon still bright, clouds on the mountains occasionally lifting to reveal waterfalls.

Met my neighbor Andy on the road, and as the dogs chewed grass and sniffed around, we talked about dementia and scams perpetrated on senior citizens — a discussion prompted by an interview I had yesterday with attorney Michael Ratcliffe, who runs the Seniors Law Program.

It seems that only a particularly low life form would take advantage of the loneliness and memory problems that many seniors suffer to bilk them out of money. Like identify theft, it’s a growing industry, largely because the perps make big bucks and rarely get caught.

In that respect, it’s not unlike so many of the private contractors in Iraq, except that some of them are literally getting away with murder, and taxpayers are the ones getting bilked. I can’t help but wonder what kind of person can look at a nation with a million dead and millions more displaced as a cash cow.

The ever money-strapped Department of Land and Natural Resources is taking a similar cash cow approach to Kauai’s beloved Kokee and Waimea Canyon state parks, two of the few places on the island to have largely escaped the scourge of rampant tourist-related development.

Residents last year were up in arms over the agency’s master plan for the parks, which was geared at building a revenue stream, even if it meant ruining so much of what makes them special in the process. Plans called for adding concessions, charging admission, enlarging the overlooks and even building a small hotel.

Worse, the money generated would not even be used specifically for the two parks, but funneled into a larger state parks fund.

Following a public outcry, the agency backed off for a bit and folks got complacent, but reportedly DLNR has not dropped its plans to turn the parks into a bigger money-makers.

In response, Sen. Hooser has introduced SB 2528, aimed at ensuring that all monies collected from Waimea Canyon and Kokee state parks can only be spent on maintenance and operations at those two parks.

I wonder if DLNR would proceed with its plans for Kokee and Waimea Canyon if it couldn’t funnel the funds elsewhere.

But the bill needs support or it will die. The Committee on Water and Land will hold a hearing on the measure Feb. 4. You can email comments in support of the bill — be sure to reference the bill number, SB 2528, and Chairman Sen. Clayton Hee and Vice Chairman Russell S. Kokubun — to

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Musings: Bogus "News"

It was chilly with a few drops of blowing rain when Koko and I set out for our walk under the light of a bright half moon, with the Big Dipper and Orion’s belt clearly visible. They were the first stars I’ve seen in a while.

Although we haven’t seen any reports or evidence of “ice houses” here on Kauai, that didn’t stop the drug hysteria machine from pumping out a report on that topic in today’s Garden Island.

The article starts with: “An increasing number of rental properties on-island doubling as methamphetamine labs prompted U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo yesterday to explain how to get such tenants evicted and arrested.”

But it never does present even one instance of that happening on Kauai, or provide one shred of evidence to back up that assertion.

In fact, the article states: “Though Kubo said law enforcement has been putting a ‘stranglehold’ on the trafficking of methamphetamine, or “ice,” he said recent Hawai‘i tragedies demonstrate there is still a strong need to put an end to the drug.”

Uh duh, we all know we don’t want ice around, but why a public meeting and front-page story on a non-existent problem when there are plenty of real life ice stories to tell?

Doesn’t Kubo have anything better to do?

Or perhaps he likes to stoke a sense of alarm as it keeps money flowing to the never-ending war on drugs, which is the main reason why Hawaii's prisons are so full that now the state is planning to build tent cities on all the islands to house inmates.

I'd rather see inmates housed in tents here than shipped to mainland prisons, which is a cruel and unusual punishment.

But I'd much prefer to see us getting serious about the social and economic issues that are at the heart of the drug problem in Hawaii.

And then there's the persistent lack of treatment options and reintegration programs —including some that Gov. Lingle has refused to release funds for — that lead to so many guys going right back to jail after they get out.

It's so much easier to sound the alarm, even if it's false, than to put out the fire.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Musings: Wondering in the Wind

While walking on the beach yesterday afternoon in a gusting wind that blew the sea into white foam and turquoise slicks I got to thinking about the report I heard on Democracy Now of the 23-year-old journalist in Afghanistan who was sentenced to death — following a secret trial, in which he had no legal representation, that convicted him of blasphemy — for distributing articles he’d downloaded from the Internet that said the Prophet Mohammad had ignored the rights of women.

And that got me thinking about an email I received from someone I don’t know who said he admired me as a writer because I’m not afraid to speak truth to power, and while I’m not at all sure I know what “truth” is, although I’m pretty sure I can spot a lie, I do know that it takes very little courage to speak up in America, with First Amendment rights and all that to protect me, as well as a certain malaise among those in power who are used to being criticized and so aren’t generally inclined to do much about it, unless you step on really big money toes and end up dead, but that doesn’t happen often enough that it should scare folks into silence.

Not like the journalists and others who are routinely murdered in Iraq and Russia and other nations for daring to scrutinize and criticize, and so have reason to be afraid, and still they are not. They are the ones with courage.

And as the wind tugged at my sweatshirt hood and a boobie rode the air currents, fishing close to shore, and Koko raced through untouched sand, I could only wonder why so many journalists are so lazy, meek and timid in America, where it is so safe and easy to be otherwise.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Musings: Stormy Weather

The moon, just a hair more than half full, guided Koko and me on our nippy 5 a.m. walk this morning, but brisk winds soon blew in thick, gray clouds that made for a wet, chilly dawn.

Those same strong winds have also whipped up the seas, prompting Hawaii Superferry to cancel voyages yesterday and today, and tomorrow’s service — to use the word loosely — is also in doubt. So that means anyone who took the boat to Maui on Saturday is stranded on the Valley Island. Do you suppose that unreliability might have anything to do with the vessel’s steadily dwindling passenger load?

I keep wondering when all those gung ho Oahu residents are going to put their money and barf bags where their mouths are; after all, they were the ones clamoring for a service RIGHT NOW that they’re obviously not using.

Meanwhile, the Star-Bulletin, apparently operating under the premise of better stale than never, today picked up the KKCR institutional racism story.

It’s fascinating to see little bits of the story, which are slightly different each time, come out in the press. For instance, this one has station manager Gwen Palagi saying there was no reason to hear suspended programmer Kaiulani Huff’s side of the story because her argument with fellow programmer Noel Brooks was broadcast and recorded.

Huh? What about the charge that she was abusing station equipment by throwing headphones? That couldn’t possibly have been recorded. And Gwen, I know you admitted human relations are not your forte, but each person should have a chance to tell his or her side of the story in a personnel dispute.

Jimmy Trujillo, who was also suspended, along with Katy Rose, for discussing the situation on air, noted in the article that “only a few voices are being heard on KKCR.”

And gee, they just happen to be white, middle-aged male voices. But no, there’s no institutional racism at the station.

The article concludes with Gwen repeating the fiction of KKCR as "a community. We are a community radio station."

She still doesn’t seem to get the real problem here, which is that KKCR does not fully represent the cultural and ethnic diversity of this island. It is entirely staffed by white people, and white people make up the overwhelming preponderance of its programmers.

This is not to say that those individuals are racists.

But anyone with any sense of island culture knows that local people are not going to participate in any numbers in an organization they perceive as being predominantly haole — and North Shore haole at that.

That’s the reality here. Call it good or bad or whatevahs, it’s still the reality.

And until the KKCR board, staff and overly defensive programmers get that into their noggins and take steps to change it — and those steps are actively recruiting locals and making them feel welcome so they bring in some of their friends and so on — it ain’t gonna be a community radio station.

Or at least not a radio station that moves beyond the haole community in any significant way.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Musings: Unholy Alliance

The wind is still blowing briskly, making it a great day for laundry, which is currently hanging on the line. As I waited for it to wash at the Laundromat, I sat and watched the sailboarders having a good old time in the wild, choppy eastside surf.

It seems like all that energy could be harnessed to serve up some electrical power to us insatiable humans, although the downside with wind farms is their ugliness and the toll they take on birds.

Still, those and other alternative energy projects are reportedly going to be heavily plugged here in the Islands under a new energy initiative between the state and federal government.

Gee, it sounds great at first blush, the thought of federal money pouring in to wean Hawaii from the fossil fuel feed trough, while showcasing models of alternative energy in the Islands.

So why am I suspicious?

For starters, it’s an initiative between the feds — you know, the same guys who still haven’t signed on to the Kyoto protocol and aren’t convinced of global warming and America’s need to help curb it — and our guv, who cannot by any stretch of the wildest imagination be considered a friend of the environment.

That’s why I was rather alarmed when I read this paragraph in a Star-Bulletin article on the initiative: The Energy Department has already begun requesting information. The agency says it wants to hear from financiers, developers and other stakeholders about what would be needed to "create an environment conducive to streamlined, cost-effective development and financing of clean energy supply, delivery and end-use projects in Hawaii."

In other words, what's needed to push these projects through without those costly, time-consuming, bothersome environmental reviews? We’ve already seen the Lingle Administration jam an “alternative transportation system” through without an EIS. Surely she could find political support for the same “streamlined” process by dangling the prize of federally subsidized “alternative energy” before the cowardly lawmakers who caved once, and a populace that pays more for energy than anyplace in the USA.

Why else would the feds be coming here? The Kansas City Star (thanks, Ian Lind, for the link) offers this explanation: “It [Energy Dept.] also wants to find ways to tap into Hawaii’s unique resources to develop renewable sources of energy. These include harnessing the power of ocean waves, creating new biofuels based on algae or palm oil, and increasing the use of underground heat generated beneath the island state’s volcanoes.”

Now special as Hawaii is, there’s at least one other state with these same “unique resources,” including geothermal, which it gets from tapping geysers, and that’s California. That energy-sucking state has perhaps even more incentive than Hawaii to become energy self-sufficient, and indeed, Guv Arnold has taken more steps than Linda Lingle to get there.

So if this is such a great deal, why isn’t that Republican guv signing up his state? Could it be because California has much more stringent environmental regs than Hawaii — and lawmakers willing to ensure they're followed?

The Kansas City Star offers another motivation for the deal: “The Energy Department picked Hawaii for the initiative because of its … strategic location for national security….”

OK, now we’re getting somewhere. After all, the Pentagon’s plans to ramp up military operations in the Islands are going to use an awful lot of energy. Consider the high energy laser weapon they want to test at PMRF. It needs 30 megawatts of power, compared to the entire island of Kauai ‘s total energy requirement of approximately 70 megawatts.

Before we line up to accept the fed's money and expertise, which most surely will come with a price attached, we need to ensure that Hawaii’s environment and public health won’t be sacrificed along the way.

We also need to think about where all that energy will go. If it’s going to be used to subsidize more growth in inherently unsustainable industries like the military, tourism and luxury second-home construction, what’s the point?

When I talked to my neighbor Andy about this initiative while walking this morning, he recalled that when he was serving on the county planning commission, a developer came in seeking approval to build a hydroelectric plant on the Wailua River, promising to provide 10 percent of the island’s energy.

In voting against it, Andy recalls saying (and I paraphrase here): If it’s going to provide 10 percent of the island’s total energy needs, fine. But if the island just keeps growing and using more energy, soon that 10 percent will shrink to some meaningless percentage and we'll be right back where we started.

Except the Wailua River would be dammed, with all the associated environmental, cultural and aesthetic issues.

Sooner or later, we’re going to have to bite the bullet and deal with our over-consumption instead of desperately seeking new ways to keep on living the same old selfish, greedy, unsustainable way.

And in the meantime, let’s keep a close eye on this new unholy alliance between Lingle and the Dept. of Energy. Remember, it was her buddy John Lehman who predicted the Superferry would effect a paradigm shift in the way business is conducted in Hawaii.

Why would we possibly believe that Lingle would be any more sensitive to environmental concerns in pushing new energy projects that serve the very same military-industrial complex?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Musings: Blowin' in the Wind

Winds that were blustery, with a capital B, made themselves known all through the night and accompanied Koko and me on our walk this morning, as did a smattering of rain.

Ran into my neighbor Andy — btw, he is not, as my Mom inquired, the same Andy who so often comments on this blog — and from Koko’s perspective, the timing was exquisite, as he was passing out dog biscuits and graciously included her.

Andy was a little irked by a full-color supplement on the Lingle-Aiona 2008 initiatives that was included in The Garden Island the other day. He said it looked a lot like a campaign piece, and wondered if it was funded by taxpayers.

My hunch is it was, but I promised I’d check it out. Meanwhile, a state Department of Ag official is supposed to be on island today, checking out why — again — kids and faculty at Waimea Canyon School were sickened by a “noxious odor” coming from Syngenta’s nearby fields.

“At about 11:40 a.m., several piles of weeds in a field west of the school were discovered that authorities suspect might be the source of the noxious odor reported earlier," a county press release stated. "At a meeting held at the school at around noon, officials asked Syngenta representatives to take the piles of weeds away and dispose of them."

Apparently 10 students and a teacher went to KVMH complaining of nausea and dizziness after being exposed to the smell yesterday.

That sounds an awful lot like pesticide and/or herbicide exposure, although since it’s coming from Syngenta, which is growing experimental crops in the area, it could be anything.

This is not the first time that kids and faculty at that school have experienced such symptoms, and although Syngenta last year said it would shift its spraying to after-school hours, apparently that’s not enough.

Sen. Gary Hooser is taking steps to ensure it won’t happen again by introducing bill, SB 3170, "creating a pesticide-free buffer zone around elementary schools and requiring that all schools be given notice of pesticide use in the immediate area.”

The bill would prohibit pesticide spraying by backpack within 1,500 feet of an elementary school and by aircraft within a half-mile radius.

Additionally, commercial use of pesticides within a five-mile radius of any school or educational institution property would have to be reported to theDOE a minimum of one week before application.

It’s a great idea, one that is long overdue,and I appreciate that Gary has introduced it.

I’d like to see it expanded, however, to include all schools, parks and other public areas where people congregate. I also have to wonder about the DOE notification clause. Will school administrators send out a notice to parents and faculty advising them of such spraying? Will they allow kids and teachers to miss school without penalty on those days?

And finally, will the Legislature ever move to require the biotech companies in Hawaii to reveal what they’re growing, and where?

Surely, in the interest of public and environmental health, we all have the right to know what might be blowing in the Islands’ ever-present winds.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Musings: Let Them Eat Poison

The rat(s) were on dawn patrol, scampering up the wall and racing around in the roof, causing me to start wondering how many are in there, why they’re still in there, if their frenetic activity was perhaps death throes because they finally ingested the poison…..

To still my mind, and since sleep was no longer possible for either Koko or me, we headed out into that edge time between morning and night, followed by moon shadows, dense clouds overhead.

When we returned an hour later, the rat(s) were still settling in to sleep, which got Koko whining and me questioning why the poison isn’t working; after all, it’s been a week, which is how long the young buck who put out the bait said it might take.

The state Legislature, meanwhile, is addressing poison of another kind in a Senate bill aimed at banning aspartame, one of those yucky artificial sweeteners that people suck up in diet sodas and other such junk. Rep. Mele Carroll introduced a similar bill in the house.

The Senate bill, introduced by Kalani English and Suzanne Chun-Oakland, begins: "The legislature finds it is imperative for the public health, safety and welfare to declare that aspartame and its derivative compounds, in all of their trade names, are poisonous and deleterious food additives due to their neurotoxic and carcinogenic metabolites.

“The legislature finds that federal authorities have not intended to or expressed an intention to occupy and preempt areas of concern regarding the prohibition of toxic, neurotoxic, carcinogenic, poisonous or deleterious food additives, and therefore the legislature may prohibit the sale of products containing aspartame and its derivative compounds in order to protect and ensure the public health, safety and welfare.”

Wow. Just think, they can start with aspartame and move on to the rest of the crap that’s passed off as food. Before long, the grocery store shelves would be bare.

Maybe they’ll even take a giant step like banning genetically engineered food crops from Hawaii and restricting the sale of cloned animal products.

I’m not a fan of government telling people what they can do with their own bodies, and I doubt this bill has a chance. After all, the fake food lobby is huge, and similar attempts to ban aspartame in New Mexico failed. (That issue is addressed in an article distributed by LightLine and written by a woman who has launched an effort to warn the world about NutraSweet/Equal.)

Still, with the nation’s health declining and kids suffering from obesity and rickets, it’s time to get serious about the quality of the food we consume.

But rather than take on aspartame, I’d prefer the Legislature fund some nutrition education, create subsidies for organic farming, enact a strict food labeling law and ensure that food given to those in state institutions is of higher quality.

After all, you are what you eat.

Hmmm, maybe I should put out some diet soda for the rats.....

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Endless Bummer

Brad Parsons has a post on his Hawaii Superferry blog about a new line of "The Endless Bummer" Superferry surfer shirts produced here on Kauai.

Superferry Numbers

Thanks to the diligent folks on Maui for this report on Wednesday's Superferry passenger count:

Getting off on Maui:
37 cars, 2 motorcycles, 1 truck with crane, 3 delivery trucks, 10-15 people.

Taking the return trip to Oahu:
31 cars, 1 motorcycle, 2 Roberts Hawaii buses, 2 flat bed trucks, 1 truck with bobcat on trailer, 10 people.

Yup, looks like they need a second voyage to Maui. heh

Musings: Human Drama and Super Holes

Headed over to the beach this morning and met a friend for a walk and talk, which is always enjoyable, although it reminded me why I so often walk just with Koko. When gabbing with someone, no matter how engaging the conversation, nature always seems to move into the background, eclipsed by the human drama.

It seems that drama was the focus of last night’s meeting of the KKCR community advisory board, which I couldn’t attend because I had to finish a story. Still, it didn’t sound like I missed much. Just the usual recriminations and blame-game stuff, with what sounded like a heaping dose of denial thrown in. As for solutions, well, they were reportedly scarce, in part because some folks have yet to recognize the real problems.

Hawaii taxpayers, meanwhile, are perhaps becoming slowly aware of some of the problems associated with failing to do an EIS before letting the Superferry run.

As the The Advertiser reported yesterday, it’s gonna cost $350,000 over 10 weeks for tugboat service to support the ferry at Kahului Harbor.

The article states: “The tug service is necessary to keep a state-owned barge snug against the end of Pier 2C during ocean surges and to provide safe loading and unloading of passengers and vehicles, according to a request filed Friday to exempt the contract from state procurement rules.”

Now there’s been a great deal of talk about how the Kahului harbor master warned against trying to use Pier2 for the ferry, and other information has surfaced that the barge plan came about because the Department of Transportation was trying to avoid substantial construction that would trigger an EIS.

So instead of working through the issues carefully, as would have been required under an EIS, the DOT skirted the process and is now coming in and asking for serious money to keep the ferry running.

And that’s just one of the costs we’ve heard about when it comes to subsidizing the ferry. What about the price tag for all that harbor security, which the Coast Guard refuses to reveal, even to the Superferry Task Force? Why isn't that public information?

I liked one of the comments posted after the Advertiser story: “A Boat Is A Hole In The Water That You Pour Money Into. This just happens to be a SuperHole.”

Indeed. And we've got other holes that need filling, like all the giant ones in Kuhio Highway.

Meanwhile, the The Garden Island today gives front page coverage to a Chamber of Commerce poll that found 79.5 percent of respondents support the ferry’s decision to operate. What it doesn’t state until almost the end of the story is that only “about 80 of the 400 or so [Chamber] members took the online survey.”

Now that’s a lot of hay being made over a survey taken by just 20 percent of the Chamber’s members. Plus I have to wonder why the phrase “about 80” was used. Shouldn’t there be an exact number when you’re tabulating poll results?

Update: The Pacific Business News also reported the story, but without the bit about only 20 percent responded. The article also included this: "Superferry executives have said they are consulting with Kauai residents in hopes of resuming ferry service." Hope they're talking to more than those "about 80" folks who took the Chamber poll, or they might be in for a surprise if they come back.

Finally, if you haven’t read my recent Honolulu Weekly piece, “U.S.S. Superferry,” and would like to, it’s
now on line. (Update: Readers have informed me the link is not working yet. I've notified the webmaster and will update here when it's accessible. Mahalo for your patience.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Musings: Bunker Fuel and Birds

That full moon shone brightly all night long as roosters crowed, rats scratched and scurried, cats fought and dogs howled, but by morning it had been swallowed up by clouds that delivered heavy rain showers, making it easy to return to the world of vivid dreams that had entertained me for hours.

But I was eventually roused from my slumbers when one of my neighbors, who has a metal shop, began banging on something, loudly. I don’t have an alarm clock, but my neighborhood ensures I’m no slug-abed.

And neither are those who already filled my inbox at any early hour with interesting tips, such as news that our own Sen. Gary Hooser has introduced SB 2526, which seeks to prohibit cruise ships from burning bunker fuel within a five-mile radius of Nawiliwili Harbor, beginning Dec. 31, 2008.

This is in direct response to complaints from Lihue residents who are tired of breathing toxic emissions and having soot rain down upon them because cruise ships are burning that crappy fuel 24-7 while docked at the harbor.

The bill notes: “Adverse health effects from inhaling fumes from the burning of bunker fuel oil (according to the Material Safety Data Sheet, United States Oil and Refining Company) include eye irritation, skin irritation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, andr estlessness. Furthermore, similar materials contain a like chemical ingredient that has been associated with causing skin cancer on test animals. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, air pollution from cargo ship exhaust has been linked to the premature death of sixty thousand people worldwide in 2002. Most of those deaths resulted from heart and lung ailments.

Good work, Gary. Now that’s the kind of responsiveness we like to see in our lawmakers.

For those who care about the fate of Newell’s Shearwaters, there’s a meeting from 6 to 8 tonight in the Planning Commission Conference Room in the Moikeha Building in Lihue on KIUC”s application for an incidental take permit. The federal permit would allow our utility cooperative to kill a specific number of the threatened (if not already endangered) birds without penalty.

As The Garden Island reported: “Following a March 2007 Department of Justice investigation, KIUC was required to obtain the permit last year because its power lines, facilities and unshielded lights unintentionally harmed the endangered and threatened seabirds.”

I'd have to question the reporter's use of the words "unintentionally harmed," because KIUC has known for well over a decade that its facilities are killing Newell's. But it has been reluctant (citing costs) to underground certain sections of power lines that are particularly lethal because they stretch across routes taken by the birds in their daily travels between the mountains and sea during nesting season.

The state has gotten more aggressive about going after those with unshielded lights that attract the birds, and KIUC has helped fund the Save Our Shearwater rescue program. But it seems time the utility bite the bullet and deal with the cause of the fallout, rather than focus on picking up downed birds or killing more with impunity.

If you can't make the meeting, you can send your comments, which must be postmarked by Feb. 8, to Jeff Newman, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 3-1222, Honolulu, HI 96850, or faxed to (808) 792-9580, or e-mailed to

Quite frankly, we don’t need any more scenes like this of a young Newells, which a friend of mine found dead last October under a power line, at the end of Kekaha Beach Park:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Musings: Moonlight and Speculators

Few things in nature excite me like the full moon, which was playing mostly hide, but sometimes seek, with the clouds when Koko and I walked this morning.

Even when hidden, that bright spotlight illuminated earth, mountains, pastures, trees, me in its ethereal silvery glow, and I recalled the time I hiked down Sliding Sands trail under the light of a full moon, walking through the surrealistic landscape of Haleakala crater and arriving energized at the cabin at about 2 a.m.

It wasn’t that early when I went out today, but the scene was similarly splendid, prompting farmer Jerry, who passed me on the road on his way to work, to stop and chat about it.

“People who come here from the mainland think they gotta tell us how beautiful it is, like we don’t know,” he said. “That’s why we live here.”

Jerry also passed on the news that Kulana, the fake agricultural subdivision being developed in the Homesteads, is in rcceivership, which explains why the grubbing and grading that had begun — to the dismay of many — stopped several months ago.

That project, which took the usual CPR approach to cutting up good ag land, was plagued with troubles from the start, and I guess now those woes finally caught up with it. Neither Jerry nor I were feeling any sympathy for the developers and those who had already bought in.

“That’s why they call it land speculation,” he said, emphasizing the last word.

We both wondered if Kealanani, the faux-ag subdivision at Kealia mauka, will be the next to go belly up, what with 2,000 acres coming on the market when it’s already in a decidedly downward spiral.

One can only hope. This business of selling off ag land for spec housing, second homes and fake farms has got to stop if we’re ever hoping to achieve some modicum of sustainability.

Late last month, The New York Times real estate section ran an absolutely fawning article about how Andy Friend and Paul Kyno (no mention of the California real estate tycoon who is actually bankrolling the project) are hoping “to preserve Kauai's farming heritage.”

According to the article, lot prices will range from $500,000 to $3 million, depending on the ocean view — always a prime consideration in farming. “In contrast,” the article states, “a 56-acre lot with prime agricultural land carries a much lower per-acre price tag, costing only $2.2 million.”

One of the first to buy was 30-year-old Valerie Van Balen, who owns Majestic Gems in Kapaa and reportedly plans to work on the five-acre parcel, for which she paid $425,000, herself. "I want to grow tropical flowers and fruit," she said. "Mangoes and avocados — all the good stuff."

My favorite part of the article were the comments from own planning director:

Owners of agricultural land sometimes plant a few coconut palms, or graze a horse in the backyard, but ignore the laws that require them to "derive income primarily from agricultural activities on the property," said Ian K. Costa, the director of planning for the County of Kauai.

Mr. Costa said that plantation owners on Kauai began selling off large tracts of agricultural land in the late 1980s. These parcels covered "essentially half the island," Mr. Costa said. Because of the sales, "80 percent of the agricultural land is owned primarily by nonfarmers."

Well, at least he’s aware of the problem. Funny how he never explained why it is that the county allowed, and continues to allow under his direction, such actions to happen.

The article concluded with this:

Still, agriculture advocates question whether buyers will be able to derive a significant income from their small farms. "If you preserve and protect agricultural land but farmers cannot be economically viable on the land, then it's defeating the purpose," said Andrew Hashimoto, the dean of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Mr. Friend, though, sees farming more as a lifestyle than an occupation. "It's not a golf-course kind of property," he said of Kealanani. "It's rural. There could be livestock. There will be tractors and field equipment."

And yes, there will be a lot of shibai talk about farming while the developers take the money and run, leaving behind the usual gentleman's estates owned by newcomer mainlanders (who else has that kinda dough?) and a few starry-eyed folks thinking they can pay off half-million-dollar mortgages with avocados and cacao.

When are we going to get serious about getting real farmers on real ag land, where they can actually lead a real farming lifestyle?

Last week I interviewed a man named Joseph Dunsmoor, who teaches people how to garden and farm organically. He’s spent 30 years working in tropical ag, ever since he saw the connection between food and fuel during the Arab oil embargo in 1975.

When I asked if he had any closing thoughts, as I often do at the end of an interview, he paused for a moment, then said: “Yeah, maybe those guys who are talking about sustainability could put food production a little closer to the top of the list.”

Monday, January 21, 2008

Musings: Seeing the Light

Clouds were piled thickly on the mountain tops this morning, so I didn’t hold out much hope of seeing the sun, which surprised me by busting through the puffy grayness, illuminating mountain ridges and the Giant’s head, then filling my own eyes with light.

This past weekend was an exercise in seeing the light, both the golden sunshiny kind, which inspired me to weed the taro patch and re-landscape my front entryway, and the internal light bulb-flashing-on kind.

The latter kind started Saturday night, when I watched the movie “Zeitgeist,” which you can download for free here or here.

The name means “the spirit of the time; the general intellectual and moral state or temper characteristic of any period of time,” and with that definition in mind, it’s certainly a sobering film. It starts by exposing religion, most recently Christianity, as pagan-based myth, then moves on to discuss why hijacked jet airliners couldn’t possibly have caused three buildings to topple in New York City on Sept. 11 and wraps up with the reason behind all this subterfuge, which is to foster fear that promotes war, which is very good for banks and advances the agenda of an elite banking cartel that wants to rule the world.

It’s well worth viewing, especially for those who don’t believe in conspiracy theories. It may not convert you, but unless you’re totally closed, it’ll make you stop and think, which is generally a good thing in this world of smoke and mirrors.

Then yesterday morning I heard a fascinating program
on New Dimensions by Barbara Hand Clow, who is both Cherokee and a Mayan elder, discussing “the awakening world mind and the Mayan calendar.”

You can listen for free until Jan. 30, and if you’re at all interested in human consciousness, I highly recommend it. As Clow says: “Things seem to be getting worse. But from my point of view as a teacher, because I work with consciousness, I think the most important thing for us to do at this point is to overcome fear."

Her interview dovetailed nicely into the underlying message of “Zeitgeist,” which is essentially a reminder not to get too wrapped in our belief systems, because they are quite likely false.

On a more mundane note, I read yesterday that under the Pentagon’s FY-09 budget, funding has been cut for certain aspects of the Navy’s shipbuilding program. Most notably, just three Littoral Combat Ships will be purchased annually between between 2009 and 2011, compared to the six per year that the Navy sought.

But the Joint High Speed Vessel program, for which our own Hawaii Superferry design could be a contender, has gotten a boost. Plans now call for the Navy to buy five new vessels between 2009 and 2013, with additional craft to be purchased for the Army.

Meanwhile, Brad Parsons sent me an email that notes the Navy’s lease for the Swift — one of two high-speed catamarans still being operated by the military as part of its plan to develop specs for the JHSV — ends this year.

“I am starting to think this may be the ship Superferry could replace on lease to the Navy beginning this coming late summer/early fall after it fails its commercial venture,” Brad writes.

Yes, indeedy, it’ll be very interesting to watch what happens to our fast ferry, which supposedly has no military connection what so ever. Yeah, umm hmm, right.

I’m happy to report the rat action seems to be diminishing, and no foul odors have been detected. A few people suggested I get a cat, but my closest neighbor, who shares my yard, has four and asked that I not add any more to the mix. Although her kitties do hang around my house, they’re useless as ratters because they’re very well-fed and she brings them in at night.

To end on a high note, Happy Birthday, Mom! Thanks for reading and being so supportive. I love you!!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Musings: Dirty Business

It was a good morning for sleeping in, being Saturday, with passing rain showers and nothing due or pressing on the perennial “to-do” list. Besides, I was up late last night, having good fun. A friend and I went down to Small Town Coffee Co. in Kapaa to hear Kaimi and his cousin play Hawaiian music.

Their friend Oshi had his traveling kava bar set up, and I actually saw quite a few folks I know, including two people I’d done stories on and like very much. It’s a really nice, mellow vibe to be in a place where people are drinking kava instead of alcohol, and the music was excellent — much nicer than the rustling rats I still continue to hear.

But the exterminator came yesterday, a young buck in shades and ball cap turned around so the bill was in the back. He was both cheerful and reassuring as he deftly placed poison bait blocks on skewers that he set inside plastic boxes.

Rather than performing rat murder, with snap, live or glue traps, it’s more like exterminator-assisted cult suicide. The rats voluntarily eat the bait, tell their friends about this great new food source, and everybody dies.

“Will they die in the walls or attic?” I asked.

“Hopefully not,” he said. “When they start to feel sick, they’ll crawl into the bushes, or go back to their nests, somewhere they feel safe.”

“But what if their nests are in the attic?”

“Nah,” he said, “I don’t think so.”

“Then what are they doing in the house?”

“Looking for food and water.”

“But there’s no food or water in the attic or between the walls.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he advised. “I’ve put out a lot of poison for this small house. Give it a week, and I’m quite certain that 99.9 percent of your rat problem will be solved.”

I’m willing to take his word for it, and glad to leave the dirty work to him. I’ve dealt with rats many times before, including once when I trapped five within 20 minutes from my attic in Anahola, where they practically threw themselves into the live trap because they were stuck in my attic and desperate for food and water.

I could see their beady eyes peering at me each time I stood precariously on the edge of the loft and pushed back the attic door and slid the trap in, praying they wouldn’t jump out or on me.

I was a methodical killing machine that morning: drop the loaded cage — without looking — in a five-gallon bucket of water, dig the hole, and by then, they’re ready to be dumped in it. Then cover the hole, rebait the trap and start over. It wasn’t pleasant, but it had to be done.

I’d called my boyfriend at the time for help, but he dawdled and arrived when the extermination was over. I was trembling a bit, because it’s never easy to kill something, but hugely relieved to get the rodents out of my house.

Another boyfriend, who once begged off assisting at an execution with the excuse that he was born in the year of the rat, and so couldn’t possibly contribute to their demise, told me the look in my eyes scared him when I said, fine, pushed him aside, filled the bucket with water and killed the damn rat myself.

“There was no God bless his soul or anything,” he later recalled.

Maybe it was ruthless, and I’m usually very tender-hearted, but when it comes to rats and cockroaches in the house, all sentiment vanishes. Desperate situations call for extreme measures, but I'm glad this time to turn the job over to a paid assassin.

While we’re on the subject of rats and desperation, Pacific Business News has a story about Hawaii Superferry being in an “emergency situation" because ridership is so low.

It doesn’t contain anything you haven’t already read in this blog, but finally the mainstream media is covering the fact that Hawaii Superferry’s passenger numbers are way low, and there’s been a lot of discrepancy in the figures that have been reported.

The article never mentions the barf factor outright, but did quote a letter from the company that stated the winter start "caused the initial voyages to be undertaken in rough weather, which may negatively impact public perception."

Yes, trying to put a positive spin on the "Pukerferry" is indeed a desperate, dirty business.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Musings: Clones and Squealers

A shower moved through quickly before I awoke, and the sky was dark mauka when Koko and I set out walking. As we returned, a light rain began falling, and I was admiring the way the moisture-laden air was infused with a peachy-gold light, when it began coming down harder.

Fortunately, just then my neighbor Andy happened by, with an umbrella, and he offered shelter and a bit of conversation until the rain gave way to a thick, vibrant rainbow.

We talked about dogs and the Superferry, as we often do, and I ratted out his dog Momi for chasing my car the other day. She gave me a narrow-eyed look that made it clear what she thinks of squealers.

Btw, I read in The Garden Island today that a guy squealed on himself for sending a threatening email to the developer who plans to cut down Koloa’s monkeypod trees. Apparently it’s OK to have a generic “Die Developers Die” bumper sticker on your car, but if you target one developer in particular, you’re in trouble.

Andy said he wasn’t convinced of military plans for the Superferry after reading my “Lifting the Veil” series, but thought I made some plausible arguments that got people thinking.

That was my goal, as I know he and I aren’t the only ones wondering how the boat is going to make money, especially when it keeps canceling service to Maui because high surf is wreaking havoc with the barge, as happened the past two days.

As Andy and I agreed, such problems would have been revealed during an EIS, along with the company’s business plan, but as it is, so much remains hidden about the operation that it’s bound to raise suspicions.

Got a copy of the Superferry Oversight Task Force meeting minutes from December —the first time the panel met — and several members said they thought efforts should be made to involve the public more thoroughly in the process and keep us all apprised of the proceedings. Although DOT’s Mike Formby agreed, the January meeting came and went without any movement in that direction.

However, it seems there was a bit of movement toward reform at the KKCR board meeting the other day. Station manager Gwen Palagi announced the staff is going to seek grants to acquire remote-broadcasting equipment and pursue a remote broadcasting relationship with Storybook Theatre in Hanapepe. This will allow people to do programs without having to come into the Princeville station. She also plans to create a human resources task force to review its volunteer policies, engage in more comprehensive community outreach, issue a “report to the listeners” on station business monthly, and initiate a mediation process regarding the suspended programmers.

Those are all positive steps in the right direction, and a hat tip to Katy Rose for the report. Board member Marj Dente called in on a talk show yesterday and said about 60 people came to the meeting — four times the number that has ever shown up before — and most of the 16 who spoke expressed support for the station, but also concerns.

I was surprised to hear Marj say KKCR has just 700 to 800 members, which is defined by those who give money to the station, myself among them. While that’s fairly good for one organization on Kauai, it’s still a fraction of the island’s population, and my bet is most of the members have North Shore zip codes, myself not among them.

Overall, I think the recent unrest has been a good wake up call for the station, because I often pick up this dreamy tone of unreality over the air when programmers wax on about how KKCR is this big ohana that represents the entire island. With 700 or 800 members, it obviously doesn’t.

While we're on the topic of unreality, although this is more nightmarish than dreamy, the FDA recently announced that cloned meat and dairy products can be sold to consumers, but advised the industry to wait a bit so folks can get used to the creepy idea.

This is just another example of the disgusting lengths we’ve gone to in factory farming. Now more than ever, animals are viewed simply as meat when you can clone a cow from a juicy tenderloin.

If that doesn’t bother you, consider this: Free Speech Radio News reported yesterday that slaughterhouse workers in Indian and Minnesota have come down with a “mysterious neurological illness. The affected workers in both plants had the same job function: to blast brain tissue out of hog heads using compressed air.”

Sounds like a good time to become a vegetarian, or at least go organic and eat Kauai’s free-range beef.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Musings: Honoring the Queen

The sun was stronger than the clouds this morning, pushing through in a burst of pink and orange, casting shadows on the ancient face of Waialeale.

It was so lovely out that when the road ended, Koko and I continued on to the trail, where she chased chickens and made a couple of walkers feel sorry for her, thinking she was lost. Too bad they didn’t have any snacks so she could really work their pity.

One pity that doesn’t need to be worked, because it’s a truly tragic event, is the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, which happened 115 years ago today. It’s a classic case of colonialism, with the usual results: cultural oppression and fragmentation, land theft, political and social disenfranchisement of the indigenous people.

It was an illegal overthrow, and 100 years later, on Nov. 23, 1993, President Clinton signed a resolution, U.S. Public Law 103-150 , acknowledging that fact and apologizing for America’s role in the coup.

U.S. Public Law 103-150 is an interesting, and not lengthy, document that serves as a useful primer for those who wish to educate themselves on the events that set the wheels in motion for Hawaii to become an American colony.

One key provision of the Apology Resolution states: “Whereas, the indigenous Hawaiian people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people or over their national lands to the United States, either through their monarchy or through a plebiscite or referendum.”

Although the apology never amounted to much, in terms of righting the wrongs that were done to the Hawaiian nation, that provision has served as a rallying point for sovereignty efforts.

It’s the cornerstone of the Reinstated Hawaiian Nation, which reasons that since the kanaka maoli never relinquished their sovereignty, it still exists, and needs only to be exercised — reinstated, if you will.

The logic is sound, but the challenge is getting other nations, including the U.S., to recognize that. In the meantime, kanaka maoli continue to live in system that in so many ways is at odds with their culture.

One example is the start of the Hawaii State Legislature, which comes during makahiki, a time when Hawaiians traditionally did not engage in politics or war. But if Hawaiians want to be heard on the many issues that affect them, they have to show up at the Capitol.

As the Nation’s Prime Minister, Henry Noa, so eloquently expressed it on the radio yesterday: “We have to come with the spirit of Ku during the time of Lono.”

Henry Noa also noted that he is three generations removed from the monarchy, and so it is difficult to imagine how his nation must have looked and functioned.

But for him and many other kanaka maoli, the longing for repatriation has never diminished. That’s why they gather each year at Iolani Palace to commemorate the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani.

I’m not there physically today, but I am in spirit. The reinstatement of Hawaiian sovereignty — the real kind, not the Akaka bill version — is long overdue. Without it, Hawaii will never be truly pono.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Musings: Lifting the Veil: Part VII (All Pau)

As you may recall, when I started the “Lifting the Veil” series I was motivated by my own questions and a tip from a caller who knew my work, but not me.

After spending many hours researching the issue and interviewing various people, I’m convinced that Hawaii Superferry was created not to provide the islands with an alternative form of transportation, but to essentially build and test a military prototype vessel at very little risk to investors.

I’m not just talking about ferrying the Stryker Brigade when it comes to Hawaii, either. That’s the small stuff. What’s really at stake here are Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) and Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) contracts potentially worth billions.

My hunch was confirmed by a source from my days as a journalist in San Diego, who told me that Austal USA also is looking to sell the Superferry design to foreign navies.

In the series, I outlined the Navy’s push to quickly build up its fleet with these lighter, faster, more versatile craft, as well as the budgetary challenges it’s facing in meeting that goal.

I also noted how John Lehman, chairman of Hawaii Superferry, has championed both the rapid build-up of the fleet and the Sea Fighter LCS, which is slightly smaller than the Superferry and the only LCS to hit the water.

From the get-go it seemed odd to me that his firm, J.F. Lehman and Co., which invests primarily in marine and aerospace defense projects, would suddenly go into the passenger service in a big way, investing $58 million equity capital in the Superferry project.

I also found it interesting that, according to the Superferry website, four of the 10 members of the HSF Board of Directors have strong ties to the Navy and defense industries. They include Lehman, who was Secretary of the Navy for six years under President Reagan, as well as Tig Krekel, vice chairman of J.F. Lehman and the former president and chief executive officer of Hughes Space and Communications and the past president of Boeing Satellite Systems. Krekel also is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who spent five years as a naval officer, where he served as an aide in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon.

Director George A. Sawyer, a founding partner of J.F. Lehman, is former assistant secretary of the U.S. Navy, Shipbuilding & Logistics. He was also a submarine engineer officer in the U.S. Navy, and is a member of the American Society of Naval Engineers and the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers.

Director John W. “Bill” Shirley is the former program manager of the U.S. Department of Energy, Naval Reactors Division, Seawolf and Virginia Class Submarines. He has 34 years of experience in senior positions at the Navy Division of Naval Reactors. Shirley now works as a private consultant, giving preference to J.F. Lehman Partners.

And two of the remaining six directors — C. Alexander Harman and Louis N. Mintz — are employed by J.F. Lehman.

Since its involvement with HSF, J.F. Lehman has made acquisitions that could support both JHSV and LCS construction contracts, including Elgar Electronics, which manufactures electrical power test and measurement equipment for the military and commercial uses, and Atlantic Inertial Systems, a leading niche supplier of highly-engineered guidance, stabilization and navigation products and systems for aircraft, weapons and land systems applications.

Most notably, J.F. Lehman also bought Atlantic Marine Holding Co., a leading provider of repair, overhaul and maintenance services for commercial seagoing vessels and U.S. Navy ships that is located adjacent to the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Ala. The company owns and operates another shipyard in Mobile, as well as one in Jacksonville, Fla., where it also leases a third facility at the Naval Station Mayport.

Meanwhile, the Navy is moving ahead this year to award a contract to build eight JHSVs, and plans to award an LCS contract in 2010. The LCS program is already behind schedule, and the Navy is at least three years behind its fleet-building goals.

The LCS program is also way over budget. This has prompted some to question whether the Sea Fighter, which has the strong support of Rep. Duncan Hunter of San Diego, former Chairman and now Ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, might be proposed as a cheaper substitute. Navy officials already have said it could be outfitted with electronics and weaponry.

But the Sea Fighter has demonstrated some fishtailing and other performance problems, and Nichols Brothers, the Washington State firm that built the vessel, shut down last November.

And here comes the Superferry, which is not only very similar in design and specifications to the Sea Fighter, but proving itself by running at high speeds day after day, weather and harbor surges permitting, in some of the nation’s roughest waters.

As one source told me: “In an accelerated procurement environment, it would give [Congressional appropriations] committees great comfort in granting money for something up and running.”

I contacted Terry O’Halloran, director of business development, while writing my article for the current Honolulu Weekly (which goes on line next week). Although he called back too late to meet my deadline, I asked him my questions, anyway.

He said the premise that Superferry is being used a military prototype is “absolutely false. Boy, that’s a good one,” he added.

O’Halloran did acknowledge that Lehman had discussed using the vessel to transport the Stryker, and initially felt the military “could be a good potential market. Subsequently, we have learned our primary market is our local residents and businesses. We’re not in any discussion with the military about a contract to move personnel,” he said.

But then, the Stryker isn’t here yet, either.

He did add: “We welcome the military use of HSF just like they currently use Young Brothers and Aloha and Hawaiian airlines to move personnel between the islands.”

O’Halloran also said the Superferry — the largest aluminum ship ever built in the United States, whose construction was documented by National Geographic — is no different than other fast ferries around the world.

“The idea that this vessel is uique….or has some kind of military connection is absolutely false,” he said.

Only time will tell if he’s telling the truth.

So what do I care if he isn’t? Well, I guess it just kinda bugs me to think we’re compromising our resources, dividing our community, spending taxpayer dollars and undermining our environmental laws to help a corporation make serious money while further militarizing our nation.

And what’s in it for Gov. Linda Lingle? After all, it was she who expended tremendous political capital to convince Legislators to pass a law overturning a Hawaii Supreme Court ruling, which effectively ensured the Superferry would be running in time for the JHSV contract award this year. Perhaps she thought such a favor might hold the prospect of substantial campaign backing if she decides to run for the Senate, or lucrative positions in private industry.

Only time will tell about that, too.

Maybe I’m cynical, or a conspiracy theorist, but I don’t think she did it solely for the good of the people. Just like I don't believe HSF is willing to lose serious money daily to bring the Islands’ ohana together.

As I said, only time will tell.

Musings: Rat Patrol

The rats in my walls and roof are getting louder, which makes me wonder if their numbers are getting larger.

I’ve been waiting for my landlord, who lives in New Jersey, to get the exterminators here rolling. While he’s been diligent, the exterminators are dragging. All they’ll do is put out bait, anyway, and there’s no guarantee the rats in my walls will eat it.

It’s looking like I’ll have to take matters into my own hands.

That will require several trips under the house, which is bad enough, followed by rat murder and burial, never a pleasant task. But I’ve done it before and am ready to do it again. I’m worried they might chew their way into my part of the house, and since they sleep all day and boogie all night, our schedules aren’t compatible.

They woke Koko and me up several times in the night, and once I got to thinking about the problems at KKCR and couldn’t easily fall back to sleep. I don’t want to be thinking about anything at 2 a.m., much less our troubled community radio station.

There’s a board meeting tonight that promises to be lively, although I’ve got an interview and won’t be able to attend. And anyway, I’m not convinced the problems are solvable. The Board, which is self-elected, has no incentive to change, and those who are most entrenched at the station have either adopted the “circle the wagons” approach to criticism, the old “head in the sand” tact of total denial or a hybrid of the two.

Still, I do commend the station’s paid staff for taking questions about the station during last Thursday’s call-in show, although reportedly the first part, which I didn’t hear, consisted of the kind of staged queries that got Hillary Clinton in trouble. I did mange to get on the air at the very end and asked about the station’s termination and reinstatement policies.

Apparently, they have none. Station manager Gwen Palagi acknowledged that the brouhaha had exposed several operational flaws at the station, including the lack of human resources policies. She said she is trying to rectify that situation, which is great.

However, in the absence of any clear policy, actions taken to suspend Kaiulani, Jimmy and Katy can only be viewed as arbitrary and capricious, and cannot be reasonably defended.

Gwen said she was open to suggestions on how to deal with human resources, since it’s not her forte, so I’ll give her one: Put those three back on the air immediately, with an apology, and change the schedule so Kaiulani doesn’t follow Noel Brooks. It's a simple act that could go a long way toward healing hurt feelings and washing the egg off the station's face.

I’m off to the hardware store now to pick up some live traps and heavy steel wool. When I get back, I’ll return to a rat patrol of another sort with the final installment of “Lifting the Veil.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Musings: Lifting the Veil: Part VI

OK, I’m finally able to get back to this saga.

Let's start with a recap of the first five parts. In response to new “enemies” like China, the military is seeking new vessels that are smaller, faster and more versatile than traditional warships, and able to operate in both deep and littoral (nearshore) waters.

Two types of craft are emerging from this push to develop a new ship. One is the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Two prototypes are now under construction, one of them at the Austal USA shipyard that built the Superferry. The Navy plans to choose one design and move forward with awarding contracts in 2010. However, the overall program is in question because the costs are much higher than expected.

Another LCS prototype, the Sea Fighter (X-Craft) also has been built. It’s smaller, lighter and much cheaper than the two LCS now under construction, and also slightly smaller than the Superferry. It has been proposed for use as a surrogate to test LCS concepts and has been used in joint operations with the Coast Guard. It also could be outfitted with weaponry and electronics equipment to make it an operational navy ship, and could support helicopter and troop missions.

Hawaii Superferry Chairman John Lehman has endorsed the Sea Fighter, which is a category of LCS for which the Superferry design could qualify. Both are catamarans, built to commercial standards using "off the shelf" technology.

The third craft in the works is the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), which is intended to serve the Navy, Army and Marine Corps. It’s designed to move equipment and troops at high speed, in a variety of conditions.

According to Defense Industry Daily: “The JHSV will not be a combatant vessel. Its construction will be similar to high-speed commercial ferries used around the world, and the design will include a flight deck and an off-load ramp which can be lowered on a pier or quay wall – allowing vehicles to quickly drive off the ship.”

The article continues: “JHSV's shallow draft will allow it access to small austere ports common in developing countries. This makes the JHSV an extremely flexible asset ideal for three types of missions: support of relief operations in small or damaged ports; as a flexible logistics support vessel for the Joint Commander; or as the key enabler for rapid transport of a Marine Light Armored Reconnaissance Company or an Army Stryker unit.”

The navy, which is leading the program, released an RFP (Request for Proposal) for the JHSV contract last year, and the response period closed Sept. 10, 2007. One contractor will be selected this year to build all eight JHSVs. The navy is looking to pay $150 million for the lead ship, and $130 million for the other seven. Five will go to the Army, and the Navy will operate three for itself and the Marine Corps.

Its design specifications are based on lessons learned from leasing four high-speed commercial catamarans: the Venture, Spearhead, Swift and Westpac Express. The latter two are still in service. The Superferry is a near dead ringer for the Westpac Express, which also was built by Austal USA.

A March 2005 Pacific Business News article that announced Lehman was joining the HSF board stated: “With Lehman's expertise, the Superferry plans to operate a Westpac Express, essentially to carry military equipment and ferry vehicles from Oahu to the Big Island on a daily basis.”

The article continues: “This logistical plan will make it easier for soldiers to train when the Stryker Brigade comes to Hawaii. The brigade will be stationed on Oahu and conduct training exercises on the Big Island, Lehman said. "The Superferry is strong enough to take Stryker vehicles," he said.

The article also reported Tim Dick, who at the time was president and chairman of HSF, a role that Lehman later assumed, as saying: "Hawaii Superferry provided the Army with a cost analysis and expects to negotiate a long-term contract."

Although HSF has since distanced itself from Dick’s comment and declined to comment on potential military uses of the Superferry, the vessel itself already has caught the attention of military officials. [Update: I just talked to Terry O'Halloran of HSF and he said," The idea....that our vessel has some sort of military connection is absolutely false."]

Austal USA’s own website contains this nugget: “U.S. Navy and Army representatives have toured 'Alakai' throughout its construction as part of the ongoing evaluation of potential Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) platforms. The JHSV will provide a transformational capability supporting the global war on terrorism, major combat operations, and emerging operational concepts, including the Army Future Force and Seabasing.”

So that's the last major piece of the puzzle. I’ll wrap it all together tomorrow, when my article on this very same subject appears in Honolulu Weekly.

In the meantime, here's a picture of the Westpac Express. Look familiar? You can click on it to enlarge.

Musings: Keeping Count

Cold, dark, windy, cloudy — this morning had few redeeming virtues, save that it arrived, which, of course, is the only one that matters.

Our walk was short and brisk, dodging empty rubbish cans and the litter that always accompanies trash day. The guys just can’t manage to get the opala into the truck without spilling some, and once it’s out of the can, it’s apparently no longer their kuleana.

Speaking of kuleana, Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares exercised hers in speaking out against a second planned Superferry run to the Valley Isle. Whether that, or some other factor, actually drove Hawaii Superferry’s decision — announced yesterday — to cancel that run is unknown.

Somehow, I don’t think HSF really cares about the mayor’s concerns, but at least she did express them, unlike our own “Mayor Neutro,” who insists on remaining neutral about an issue that anyone in Hawaii not living under a pokahu has an opinion about.

The Advertiser account of the cancelled service reports HSF estimating the ferry has been “averaging about 200 passengers per trip.” That seems hard to believe, given the last count I received from the Maui folks, for Jan. 9, of just 29 vehicles getting off the boat on Maui and 33 vehicles taking the return trip to Oahu. When was the last time you saw a car with six or seven people in it?

The numbers HSF reported to the media also didn’t jibe with the ones they gave to the Superferry Oversight Taskforce at last week’s meeting, where they reported an average of 167 passengers on the Oahu to Maui leg and 157 on the trip back between Dec. 13 and Jan. 6.

The Dept. of Ag reported at the meeting that it had monitored 15 round-trips of the ferry and found 50 orchids without certification, 13 instances of seeds, 67 bees (no mites detected), nine vehicles with excessive mud, two carrying sand or soil, and one instance of fishing nets.

The Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement intercepted two cars with opihi (one had five bags of opihi hidden in a cooler under some other stuff) and one with ogo. Did you know DOCARE has to ask permission to inspect luggage and cars? But HSF employees have authority to check anything brought on board.

HSF reported two instances of uncertified plants, seven instances of fishing nets, two of opihi, three of cut wood, two of rocks, sand and dirt, 13 muddy cars and three dead bees.

So it’s clear that some, but not all, vehicles are being checked, and violations are occurring. The Task Force did vote to recommend the Legislature authorize full inspection power for DOCARE and DOA, and provide more funding for the state inspection program.

The notes I received on the meeting also included the tidbit that the Nawiliwili “security zone” is now expired, and Maui’s is in effect until Jan. 31. But the Coast Guard rep refused to reveal how much it had spent mobilizing against the community to protect a private company, saying it was "security sensitive" information.

If you’d like to receive minutes, agendas and handouts related to the Oversight Task Force meetings, call Debbie at the Dept. of Transportation at 808-587-3651 and see what she says. Then please let me know.

My last contribution for now concerns the Green Energy Kauai proposal to grow albezia on ag land at Kalepa Ridge for its biofuels project.

Farmer Jerry tells me the company has agreed to cut is request in half, from 2,000 down to 1,000 acres, and it won’t use any of the irrigated farm lands. Most important, it also agreed it won’t grow any albizia there. The project has a lot of potential, but let’s not risk destroying our watershed with an invasive species like albizia simply to keep the lights on.

Energy can come from many sources, but there ain’t no substitute for the wet stuff.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Musings: Slow Down, Pay Attention

Today got off to a very bad start.

Let me correct myself. It got off to a fine start, but within 10 minutes took a serious downward turn.

Tired from the writing workshop, I slept in a bit, and Koko and I set out on our walk later than usual. It was bright light, with a chill north wind blowing, and all the dogs along our route could see us as we walked past, and began barking.

I got to the bend, where the lady lives with two very small dogs, and as we walked by, the Chihuahua ran into the road to check out Koko. It was a quick encounter, a darting sort of move, just across the street, and heading back, paying no heed, and neither, apparently, was the driver of a red pick-up truck, with big, knobby tires, and I saw it all happen before it even did, praying it wouldn’t turn out as badly as was likely.

I saw the left front tire deliver a glancing blow that sent the dog skittering for about two feet and then he began yelping, in the way that dogs do when they’re frightened or hurt, and I ran to him and scooped up his warm body, and the yelping stopped and his eyes took on that swimming look.

Just then his human arrived, for she had been out there in the yard with them, and I delivered him into her arms and watched her pull him close and stroke her chin along his soft fur.

“Did you see where he got runned over?” she asked.

I wasn’t certain, but thought his back had been hit, and told her so, and also that I was so sorry, and touched her shoulder and we both turned away and I kept walking, though I had no more joy in me, not like Bear and Girl, who were waiting for us, just a few hundred feet down the road, in front of their house, tails wagging, excited.

“Stay,” I said sternly, putting my hand out, and they recoiled like they thought I was going to hit them.

“Stay,” I commanded again as they started to follow, and they stayed, though I saw the bewilderment in their faces. How could I explain I couldn’t bear to witness any more trauma this morning?

I walked on, numbly, praying for that dog, who I hoped might have a chance, and his human, who I know loves her dogs so dearly. I wondered about the man in the truck who didn’t stop, or even slow down; perhaps he hadn’t realized he’d hit an animal, although surely he felt the thump, and his windows were rolled up, so maybe he didn’t hear the yelping. But as I walked, crashing through fallen branches, I wasn’t so inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

He was going too fast on that narrow, curving road, and if he’d been paying the slightest bit of attention he would have seen me with my dog on the side of the road, seen the Chihuahua dash out, been preparing for him to run back.

I turned around about half-way and headed home, wondering why I’d started out late this morning, why the dog picked that moment, of all the days we’d walked by, to check out Koko, why the truck drove by just then.

We passed Girl and Bear again, and Girl followed us for a little ways, or rather, led, just down to the place where the dog had been hit, trotting in the road, ignoring my admonitions to move onto the shoulder, and as each car passed I wanted to scream, slow down, pay attention, but of course, I didn’t, and only snuffled back tears.

Moving on to some reader comments, Laura Christine asked: "Is it true that you applied to host a news show on KKCR and were turned away?"

First, thanks, Laura, for your kind words about the Veil series. I’ll post part VI today. My experiences with trying to get a show on KKCR have been thus:

Not long after the station got on the air, a friend invited me to check out the studio, and I did, and recorded a station ID. The woman who was running things at that time, Mary, said I didn't have a good radio voice.

A year or so later, I asked about doing a news show, but was told I'd need to write a grant to get funding to pay for it, so didn't pursue it.

About four years ago, when I heard the late Michael Vandeveer was looking for a co-host, I called and asked what it would take to get on the air. He said I could start by coming down and cleaning the toilets and emptying trash. Then he said he didn’t like to work with middle-aged women, anyway, because they're too bossy, so I didn’t pursue it.

Finally, last year, when I heard Ann West was giving up her show, I called station manager Larry LaSota and said I’d like to put my name in the hat. He said that was fine, but first I’d need to do 30 hours of volunteer service and there were several people already in line for shows ahead of me. So again I didn’t pursue it.

Another reader, anonymous, wrote: “Joan I also find it very interesting that several posts have disappeared from the site... some say they've been removed some have just disappeared entirely. I'm hoping that they have not been removed just because you disagree with their content. Please educate us on how and why some posts are removed.”

Thanks for asking. I have removed two comments. One was my own, because I’d made an error and I I wanted to correct it. The other contained the personal email of the KKCR board chairman, and I didn’t think it was appropriate to post that.

As for other comments “disappearing,” I can’t be certain of that, as I don’t track comments on the site, I just review copies of the comments that Blogger sends to me via email. However, I believe persons with Blogger (and perhaps Google) accounts can delete their own comments, so that may have happened.

I welcome all points of view and will not remove a comment, even if I disagree with the content.

Mahalo to everyone for reading and adding your comments. I enjoy and appreciate the interaction.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Blogging Break

Work, pesky thing that it is, kept me from writing Part VI of Lifting the Veil yesterday, and since I’m headed off shortly to a three-day writing conference, I won’t have time to do it today, either.

But I’ll finish up the whole saga — taking into account requests for brevity and summary — when I get back on line, which may not be until Monday.

If you’re looking for something to read in the meantime, you might want to check out my latest Spirit of Aloha piece on ”My Good Life on Kauai.”

Here’s the link to an article I recently published in Honolulu Weekly on the Aha Moku Council program. It’s an initiative to incorporate indigenous stewardship practices into state resource management, but some feel the process has already been tainted by the participation of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

And if you’re curious about what’ s happening with Kauai’s voyaging canoe, Namahoe, here’s an update on that.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Musings: Scuttlebutt

It was that transitional time between dark and light when Koko and I set out walking, although perhaps closer to day than night. The stars were shining, but not bright, and as the sun began to make its presence known, I could see striated clouds stretched across the sky, waiting to accept the colors of dawn.

And that began to happen as I walked home, slowly, so as to take it all in, through an ethereal landscape of pasture mist and pink.

Ran into farmer Jerry, whom I haven’t seen for weeks on the road, and we talked about Green Energy's biofuel project, which goes before the state Land Board tomorrow on the matter of leasing land at Kalepa to grow albezia to burn. It’s been controversial because the state originally proposed leasing the company 2,000 acres of prime, irrigated ag land — a rare commodity on Kauai. It’ll be interesting to see what the Board decides.

I noticed Green Energy’s application to develop the processing plant at Koloa is running into a bit of resistance from the county planning department, which is opposed to the use of albezia because it’s an invasive species. But Green Energy principles Bill Cowern and Eric Knutzen say eliminating albezia could scuttle the project.

Jerry told me that corn-burning ethanol plants are also encountering some problems on the mainland. Apparently the demand for corn has driven up commodity prices, making it hard for the ethanol plants to turn a profit. When he got to the office, he sent me an article from the Kansas City Business Journal that describes the volatility of that market.

Speaking of volatility, the personnel issues at KKCR seem no closer to closure. Yesterday, station manager Gwen Palagi refused a request from ousted programmers Jimmy Trujillo and Katy Rose to meet with them publicly and have the session video taped or recorded. Now why would she be opposed to getting the meeting on the record?

In an email sent to the two, Gwen wrote the meeting would be about “The subject matter of your Out of the Box show broadcast on 12/20, in which both of you were co-hosts. Before station management takes action regarding your DJ privileges, a meeting is scheduled to discuss the policy and to hear your reasons for violating it.”

That made me wonder why such a process was not followed before Kaiulani Huff was taken off her “Songs of Sovereignty Show.” Instead, she received an email from staff member Donna Lewis informing her that her station privileges had been terminated, period. When Gwen returned from vacation, she told The Garden Island that Kaiulani had been suspended and could reapply in 90 days. However, it wasn’t clear whether that meant she could just become a volunteer again or actually get her program back.

Besides the lack of clarity in what is really going on, including whether programmers have been suspended or terminated and exactly what they did wrong, I’m concerned about the station’s inconsistency in dealing with these matters. I still have received no reply to my emails seeking copies of the station policies regarding termination and suspension, although such information should be public.

And there’s been no indication of any disciplinary action being taken against other call-in hosts who discussed the issue on air, ostensibly violating the same ban against broadcasting the station's “dirty laundry” that got Jimmy and Katy in trouble. Nor have I heard any word about whether the host who threatened a caller got in any trouble.

Station management does not seem to understand that when such issues are not dealt with in a transparent, consistent manner, it more easily gives rise to claims that some programmers are being singled out for punitive treatment.

At any rate, the whole fiasco does seem to be something that station listeners, at least, are interested in discussing. Despite the “dirty laundry” ban, it’s been the hot topic on KKCR call-in programs for the past three weeks.

I noticed Katy Rose posted a comment on the Getting Clear post that attempts to clear up some of the dis/misinformation that has been circulating about what really went down.

Meanwhile, Patrick Michaels, who says he alerted FCC to possible violations at the station, told me yesterday that the agency’s enforcement arm is investigating — though not at his behest — the lock-outs that occurred on at least three occasions. He says an enforcement agent told him that's a clear a violation of the station’s license that could result in a fine, or even the loss of its broadcasting license.

Moving on to other matters, I’ll try to post Part VI of Lifting the Veil later today. My neighbor Andy, who I also ran into this morning, tells me he’s been overwhelmed by all the information. It has been a lot, and not everyone is interested in all the details. But hang in there. I’ll do a summary next week that pulls it all together.

An update: just checked my yahoo mail account and the Superferry numbers for yesterday are a whopping 29 vehicles got off the boat on Maui and 33 vehicles took the return trip to Oahu. Now this is looking dismal, for HSF, anyway.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Musings: Lifting the Veil: Part V

I got home late last night and it was so beautiful out that Koko and I took a midnight walk in enchanting starry darkness. By the time I awoke the stars had disappeared, but the clarity remained, and I was treated to the sun rising in a puffy, gilt-edged cloud, as the craggy face of flat-topped Waialeale shifted from gray to lavender to pink.

It was the kind of day that makes me glad to feel alive, and apparently Koko shared my sentiments, as she was frisky and bouncing and barking at trucks.

Ran into my neighbor Andy, who told me there’d been a big shakeup at Honsador Kauai and all the top management, including Jeff Mira, had lost their jobs. Mira is our business rep on the Superferry Task Force, which is set to have its second meeting on Thursday.

When I talked to Dennis Chun, our cultural rep on the panel, after the first meeting, he said the big question for him and some of the more outspoken members was just how much authority they had to dig into stuff and demand answers. They didn’t want to participate in something that was mere window dressing.

So much about the Hawaii Superferry is mere window-dressing, including its purported reason for being here. Remember how it was supposed to bring the Islands together? That seemed to me a rather flimsy explanation for why JF Lehman & Co., a firm that invests nearly entirely in defense-related companies, suddenly made a foray into the passenger ferry business.

As I laid out in the first four installments of Lifting the Veil, the Navy is pursuing a new smaller, faster vessel, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), that can operate in deep and shallow waters. The Superferry closely resembles one version of aluminum prototype craft known as the Sea Fighter, which the Navy initially didn’t want, or even ask for.

The Navy had a slightly different vision in mind for the LCS, and originally issued contracts to General Dynamics/Austal (Austal also built the Superferry) and Lockheed Martin to build two ships each of a competing design.

According to an Oct. 1, 2007 article in Defense Industry Daily, “The General Dynamics team is offering a futuristic but practical high-speed trimaran based on Austal designs and experience. The Lockheed Martin team offers a high-speed semi-planing monohull based on Fincantieri designs that have set trans-Atlantic speed records.”

General Dynamic’s LCS is being built by Austal USA’s shipyard in Mobile, Alabama, where the Superferry was also constructed.

The plan was to choose one of the designs in 2010 and move toward building 55 of the vessels.

But after both companies encountered construction delays and serious cost overruns in building the first vessel, the Navy last year cancelled its contracts for the second ship from each. The first two ships are slated for delivery sometime this year.

According to Nov. 2, 2007 article on the contract cancellation in Everything Alabama, “The Navy plans to try out the two vessels in an ‘operational assessment’ in early 2009, which could lead to a decision on future moves, Rear Admiral Barry McCullough said.

 Looking ahead, a key issue is the price tag for future vessels, said Ronald O'Rourke, an analyst with the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

 The first four ships (including the two that have been canceled) were supposed to cost around $220 million each, although the final bill for the first two will be much higher, the Navy has acknowledged. Earlier this year, the military had asked Congress to allow the tab for the next two ships to go as high as $460 million each. The Navy has blamed the cost overruns on several factors, including rising raw material prices and an approach that called for ship construction to begin before the design was complete.”

An August 2007 article in National Defense Magazine provides more detail, and some revealing nuggets about the difficulties the LCS program in encountering in Congress because of the mounting costs:

“In the midst of a contentious debate about the Navy’s embattled littoral combat ship program, the service’s coveted warship has come under fire by its own supporters on Capitol Hill.

“A combination of escalating costs and uncertain procurement plans have raised questions about the Navy’s ability to keep the LCS afloat, analysts warn.

“I’t’s clear that Congress is really worried about this program,’ says Robert Work, senior naval analyst for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

“As Congress battles over the Defense Department’s budget, lawmakers have signaled their displeasure at LCS cost overruns and delays. The number of littoral combat ships that policymakers allow the sea service to buy in 2008 could portend whether the program uprights itself in the next few years, say analysts.

“’I think this is going to be a big, big deal, whether they get one or two, and whether Lockheed Martin’s given a ship. This will tell us what the Navy — and the Congress — is thinking,’ says Work.

“Touted as an inexpensive warship, the LCS originally had been advertised at $220 million per hull. The Navy intends to buy 55 of them in an effort to build its fleet to 313 ships from 277. But in recent months the price tag has more than doubled, setting off alarms among lawmakers.

“Navy officials requested $910 million for three ships in the 2008 defense budget. But after significant cost overruns materialized in January on the first-of-class ship, Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter amended the request, asking for two ships instead of three.

“Congressional leaders have voiced their concern over the price increases in their defense spending deliberations.

“In the House, lawmakers passed a bill that gives the Navy $710.5 million for two LCSs. The Senate’s committee on armed services took a more drastic measure, cutting the Navy’s budget request by almost half in its recommendation of $480 million for one LCS.

“’Before awarding contracts for additional ships in the LCS program, we need to maintain focus on delivering the most capability possible for the $1.6 billion invested thus far for six ships,’ wrote the committee.

“Congress funded the first two LCS prototypes through the Defense Department’s research and development budget. In 2006, it provided money for the Navy’s third LCS and allocated additional funds for two more ships. In the 2007 budget, Congress approved funding for LCS 5 and 6. However, it appears poised to rebuke the Navy in the 2008 budget for recent program troubles.

“'The Senate is really worried about whether the program is stable and is on track, and that’s why they made the bigger cut than the House,’ says Work.

“The Navy lacks a warship that can operate effectively in coastal waters. To fill the gap, the LCS was conceived in a few short years to fight in the near-shore environment in anti-submarine, anti-mine and anti-terrorism warfare.

“In an effort to expedite the ship to the fleet, the Navy set the LCS on an aggressive construction schedule that has contributed to the cost overrun problems on both lead ships.

“The Navy has since proposed to restructure the LCS program to keep the ship on track and within budget. But analysts say it could be difficult to veer the ship back on course because the program is already three ships behind.

“’We started this year with six ships either authorized in the program or in the budget,” says Work. But now there are only three ships, after Winter canceled the LCS 3 contract, and then canceled the fifth and sixth ships to compensate for the cost overruns on the first four ships.

“The Navy’s shipbuilding plan indicated that it expected to procure two LCSs in 2007, three in 2008, and then ramp up to building six ships per year — split between the two shipyards — beginning in 2009 through 2012, for a total of 32 LCSs in the next five years.

“But the Navy will fall further behind in the next two years. Amended procurement plans show the service purchasing two ships in 2008 and three in 2009, instead of three ships and six ships, respectively. Depending on how Congress votes, the Navy could end up with even fewer ships.

“The Navy’s shipbuilding plan ‘is really messed up, says Work and it raises concerns that LCS won’t get into the fleet in as many numbers nor as quickly as the Navy had wanted. The first LCS ship was due for delivery to the fleet this summer, but that date has been moved back to next year.

“Already, the program delay is having a negative impact upon the Navy’s shipbuilding goal of 313 ships by 2013.

“’Changes to the previous profile of the LCS program will result in reaching the 313 objective approximately three years later than previously planned,’ says Lt. Lara Bollinger, spokesperson for the Navy.

“Secretary of the Navy Winter has come down hard on the shipbuilding industry and his actions in dealing with the LCS debacle reveals a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy for going over budget and falling behind schedule.

“’By canceling LCS 5 and 6, he penalized both of the builders,’ says Work. But he wonders whether there’s more motivation behind the actions than is apparent.

“’If the message was, ‘hey I want to get your costs under control,’ he could easily have done that in the ’09, ’10 ships, when they were competing for it.’

“Further complicating matters is that the Navy plans to pare down the two designs to one and build that model exclusively beginning in 2010. It also will conduct a full and open competition for the selected design for subsequent procurement, says Lt. Bashon Mann, spokesman for the Navy.

“That was an unexpected move by the Navy and it leaves many wondering about the ship’s future, says Work.

“’You’ve got this program, which the Navy has said is their number one program, it’s the absolute heart of the fleet, and you have an awful lot of uncertainty in it now,’ he says.

“In his updated Congressional Research Service report on LCS, Ronald O’Rourke writes, ‘among other things, the Navy’s proposed plan raises the possibility that firms that designed the winning LCS design might not be among those selected to build it.’

“In selecting dual hulls for LCS, the Navy’s intention had been to deliver ships quickly to the fleet through two shipyards, with the option to downselect to one design at a later point in time. But now it appears that companies that were edged out in the original competition might have another shot at LCS.

“’Boy are we going to be in for interesting times, because you can say you’re going to have a full and open competition, but when you’re competing against a lead shipbuilder — someone who has built two or three or four of these — you are at a huge disadvantage,’ says Joe Carnevale, senior defense advisor for the Shipbuilder’s Council of America.

“The LCS’s rising price tag remains a contentious issue, and the latest round of increases is no exception.

“Paradoxically, the increase in the estimated cost of the LCS sea frame could actually strengthen, rather than weaken, the Navy’s sense of need for the program, says O’Rourke. As the cost of the LCS goes up, it puts more pressure on the shipbuilding budget and the affordability of the Navy shipbuilding program. But the higher the pressure, the more the Navy will believe it needs to have, within the mix of ships it’s procuring, a relatively inexpensive ship, and the LCS is that ship, he explains.

“’You don’t solve a problem in shipbuilding affordability by getting rid of the one relatively inexpensive ship in the program. With other ships, a cost increase could weaken the Navy’s sense of need for the ship. With the LCS, for the paradoxical reason just outlined, a cost increase could make the ship, in the Navy’s eyes, seem even more necessary,’ says O’Rourke.

“Despite all the brouhaha and the latest rise in price, the Navy is still aiming for a fleet of 55 LCS and it remains adamant about the ship’s importance in future operations,” the article concludes.

So here we have a situation where the Navy is under pressure to deliver an LCS quickly, at low-cost, in a procurement process that is suddenly going to be opened up to other bidders. The two LCS under contract have yet to be completed, delivered or undergo sea trials. The Sea Fighter, a less-expensive version of the LCS, has been accepted by the Navy and completed sea trials, but has experienced propulsion and fish-tailing problems.

And who already has a ship in the water, proving itself daily — and soon to be twice-daily — running fast and hard in some of the nation’s roughest waters?