Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Musings: Superferry Low Down

It was a good morning for sleeping in, and Koko and I did, lulled by the rain that started at 4 p.m. yesterday and continued on through the night, pausing briefly around sunrise and then starting up again.

I could just feel the earth welcoming all that nourishment and moisture. I was up at Makaleha yesterday, where I was seriously bummed to see seven rental cars at the trailhead — is there no place now where the tourists don’t go? — and while the yellow ginger was blooming profusely, the stream was quite low.

Maui Tomorrow is looking for the low down on how much the Superferry is costing Hawaii taxpayers, a question that I and many others posed months ago. But they got it all together in a list that is extensive, and looks to be quite expensive, and they’re formally asking the Superferry Oversight Task Force to include that information in its final report to the Legislature.

Equally important, given all the secrecy and backroom dealing that has accompanied this project and Hawaii's government in general, the group asked the Senate Ways and Means and House Finance committees to release the document to the public and state auditor. We’ll see what happens. I'll be amazed if the costs are tallied, much less released to the public. But hey, hope springs eternal. After all, the bailout bill failed, or as blogger Ian Lind reminds us in a "language is important" post today, the financial stabilization legislation.

Yes, language is important, and so is money, which is why we surely all have the right to know just how much this "alternative form of transportation" is really costing us, especially now that state revenues are down and Superferry #2 is headed our way.

Yup, here’s a picture of “"the largest aluminum catamaran vessel delivered in the U.S." being launched yesterday at the Austal UAS shipyard in Mobile, Alabama:

An article about the launch published in the Alabama Press-Register includes a few interesting nuggets and one error:

The ferry is part of a two-vessel, $190 million deal Austal landed in April 2004. While early plans tentatively called for up to five ferries, the inter-island service has been slow to start because of legal and weather complications, and Hawaii Superferry Inc. now plans to operate just two ships.

The first boat, named Alakai for "ocean path," is sailing with far less than half its capacity of 866 passengers and 282 cars. That vessel operates daily between the islands of Kauai, Oahu and Maui. [We all know it’s not sailing to Kauai now, mahalo ke Akua.] The sister vessel will offer service between Oahu and the Big Island starting in May 2009, according to the company.

Alakai has been averaging about 300 passengers and 100 vehicles per voyage in the past several weeks, which Hawaii Superferry called a "significant" improvement over its starting numbers.

The article also touches on HSF’s legislative shenanigans:

In April, a preliminary audit found that the state bowed to pressure from Hawaii Superferry when it allowed the company to start operations without the [required environmental] review. The audit is ongoing.

And then it speaks to the military links:

At 113 meters (373 feet) long, the vessel launched Monday is 6 meters (19.8 feet) longer than Alakai, thanks to a ramp Austal added to its stern, making it suitable for military use. Industry watchers have said leasing the vessel to the military is a possibility, though the company said it is sticking by its plan to operate it commercially.

The second Superferry is one of two major projects that has sustained the 1,000-person workforce at Austal over the past several years. The other, a U.S. Navy combat ship, is scheduled to be christened Saturday.

Austal is awaiting word on more military work, including a major contract to build fast ferries for the U.S. Army and Navy.

One can only wonder how long the company will stick by its plan to operate the ferries commercially when it continues to lose money and now plans to add another ship to an already failing enterprise. Maybe HSF funder John Lehman is just waiting to see if his buddy John McCain gets elected, as he'll surely get a better military contract from a friend.

Mahalo to Dick Mayer, the super Superferry watcher, for sending these links.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Musings: Tough Sell

Koko and I spent some time outside last night, the air still, balmy and perfumed with mock orange; the sky new moon-dark and packed so tight with stars that the Milky Way appeared as celestial broad avenue. We watched Makalii — Pleides — rise shimmering in the east as Jupiter glowed yellow in the south and all the while, crickets sang loudly.

Life is always so good, and so simple, at such times.

The new $700 billion bailout bill, up to 110 pages from the three-page document that President Bush initially sent to Congress, is no longer simple, but it’s clearly good for some:

While the plan broadly aims to prevent banks from profiting on the sale of troubled assets to the government, there is an exception made for assets acquired in a merger or buyout, or from companies that have filed for bankruptcy.

This detail could allow JPMorgan Chase & Co. to sell toxic mortgages and other assets it gained control of last week when it purchased Washington Mutual Inc. for a higher price than the failed thrift paid for them.

And not so good for others:

They [Democrats] failed in an effort to give judges the power to modify mortgage terms for people who have filed for bankruptcy and Democrats were unable to get approval for part of any profits the government might receive to go to help people facing mortgage defaults.

Despite Bush loudly ringing the fear alarm, it’s proving to be a tough sell in Congress and even tougher sell to the public:

Thousands of angry phone calls, e-mails and letters have poured into Capitol Hill from constituents. Supporters essentially acknowledged that it was a hold-your-nose-and-vote matter.”

Noted Rep. Dennis Kucinich in a Democracy Now! interview:

Well, what we have is a transfer of wealth, actually. It’s a continuation of a transfer of wealth. This whole government has become nothing more than a big machine that transfers the wealth upwards with our tax policies, our energy policies, with this fiscal policies, with the war. All the wealth of the country goes from the pockets of the people into the hands of a few. This is a very dangerous moment.

Will it pass? And if it does, will it work? Who knows? Our elected officials are making it all up as they go along.

I’ve heard a few people make similar references to former Star-Bulletin reporter Tony Sommer’s book, “KPD Blue,” which is being serialized on Andy Parx’s blog.

While that’s excessively harsh, there have been a few times when Tony was loose with the truth, or at least, his recollection of events wasn’t quite the same as mine. Mostly, though, reading the installments has been like taking a trip down bad memory lane, recalling some of the more sordid moments of my Kauai reporting history, such as the Fanta-See Express debacle and the really tragic Monica Alves murder trial.

This was especially true of yesterday’s installment, which dealt with the infamous Kauai serial killer, a case that chilled most women on the island and took an unpleasant legal turn for me after I wrote about it for Honolulu Magazine. As Tony writes:

The arrested man was, of course, KPD’s primary, in fact only, suspect and (off the record, of course) they were certain he was the killer but they couldn’t prove it.

His name was Waldorf “Wally” Wilson, and his name and picture were all over the west side on anonymously printed flyers.

But the Honolulu media executives would not publish his name until two years later—and then only because Wilson filed a lawsuit against KPD, a newspaper and a magazine.

The lawsuit came as a shock because the magazine’s attorney had vetted my article, and Wilson, who was identified in the piece, was still incarcerated on rape and kidnapping charges when he filed the suit, claiming my article had libeled him. It also named Dennis Wilkins of The Garden Island and various high- ranking KPD officers, who were accused of violating his civil rights by leaking information to the media.

The case was eventually dismissed, and attorneys said it was most likely filed as a sort of fishing expedition to learn just what evidence KPD had against him.

Anyway, I saw that whole episode as the time when then-Chief Freitas, who was not a Kauai boy, realized the depth of mistrust that residents had of KPD, and not because the cops were necessarily crooked or bad, but hesitant to bust anyone who was a relative or a friend. Frietas told me of getting a lot of heat from residents, especially Westsiders, who found it impossible to believe that in a tight-knit community like that, the cops didn’t have some knowledge about the culprit.

In the end, it seems, they did, and they got him off the street the only way that was possible at the time.

A friend said he’s talked to several folks who have read Tony’s whole book and are all up in arms, although I’m not sure why they should be. Mostly it’s a rehash of stuff that’s already been covered and discussed. Still, there is some power in putting it all out there in one place, and dredging up the stinky muck one more time for those who perhaps never knew the details or, like me, prefer to have forgotten.

I'm not sure why Tony wrote this book, which reads an awful lot like a vendetta. I've heard, though, that he's hoping it will be an instrument of reform and change, which is admirable, but always a tough sell when it comes to KPD.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Musings: Lessons from the Past

Stellar, stunning and spectacular would not be superlatives in describing what Koko and I experienced this morning as we walked beneath a sky that was star-dotted and clear, and Waialeale’s summit, too, although clouds were hovering around its mid-section and blowing in from the east, where the light turned first yellow and then fiery red-gold as the sun made a dramatic appearance.

Waialeale was tinted mossy green in the dawn and mist pooled in the valleys of a cool, damp pasture, my favorite place on our walk, because it’s possible to see all the cinder cones and Kalepa ridge and even Ha`upu range. I was admiring the stillness and the beauty when I ran into my neighbor Andy, and his dog, Momi, and we were talking story beneath a tree when suddenly small black carpenter bees began to attack, stinging him in the arm and back, and nailing me on my neck, right above the spine. Koko was unscathed, apparently because she’s so low to the ground.

Neither of us had ever been swarmed by bees before, and we could only surmise that we were either too close to their nest or they didn’t like our politics, which at that point were still on the mayoral race — how did Baptiste capture the Filipino vote and would Carvalho get it this time? — and had not yet touched on his encounter with a woman who was actually going to vote for Sarah Palin just because she hadn’t aborted a Down syndrome baby.

I mean, yeah, yeah, that’s admirable and everything, but since when is it sufficient qualification for holding any office, much less the second-highest in the land?

I’d had the pleasure of hearing Andy deliver an entertaining and informative talk yesterday afternoon on the history of Kapaa, and I was reminded again of how the land, the people and the power structure of this place have shifted over time, yet most of us remain clueless as to what came before.

It seems there are two consistent themes in post-contact Hawaii history: racism and the consolidation of money/land/power into the hands of a few.

The first big money/land/power grab came in 1895, just two years after the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, when the sugar planters who had performed the dirty deed and then formed a new government, the Republic of Hawaii, decided that since there was no monarchy, there was no longer any need for crown lands, and so allowed those lands to be sold.

That’s how so many folks ended up with property in Hawaii, and while I imagine they don’t want to think it’s stolen, when you look at the facts, it essentially was.

The second big money/land/power grab came with the adoption of the Hawaiian Homes Act, which set aside for the Hawaiians some crummy lands that the sugar growers didn’t want. This ended homesteading opportunities for many of the non-Hawaiian working class folks who had managed, through previous homesteading initiatives, to get land up mauka, hence the creation of the Kapaa and Wailua Homesteads.

More importantly, it ensured that all land currently in sugar would remain in that use, and ended a restriction that prevented any single entity from owning more than 1,000 acres. And with that prohibition out of the way, it was easy for the plantations to gobble up land to form the vast holdings they still control today.

Finally, those of us who were appalled when the Coast Guard pointed a machine gun at Superferry protestors at the harbor last year might be interested to know that wasn’t the first time that the big guns were called out to put down the people.

Seems the National Guard, which was brought in to suppress striking sugar cane workers, set up a machine gun in downtown Kapaa and trained it on the Hee Fat building — now home of Olympic Café — where some 400 striking Filipino workers had gathered.

This was during the same strike that resulted in police killing 16 strikers on the Westside back in 1924 in what is known as the Hanapepe massacre.

Never underestimate the power of big business in Hawaii — and government's willingness to accommodate it.

Or the single-minded determination of bees, which were far too busy collecting pollen from the mock orange blossoms to even notice me as I hung laundry on the line, although I, with my neck still smarting, was certainly keeping an eye on them.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Rock for Barack

My friend Lee Roversi, a North Shore farmer, is so inspired by Barack Obama that she has put together a political event called "The Rock for Barack, Let's Rally for Change and Hope in America."

It'll be happening between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. tomorrow, Sunday, at the Airport intersection. Bring signs or some other show of support.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Musings: Dog Eat Dog

I went walking on the bike path this morning because a friend wanted to, although I wasn’t thrilled, as it meant excluding Koko. We took the stretch north of Kealia, and for some reason this section of the path remains closed, although the locked gates didn’t deter us; we simply went around.

The old cane haul road has been repaved, with landscaping installed alongside, and a couple of little pavilions, and at the crumbling old landing, a look out has been constructed with pineapples in the wrought iron railing, like something you’d see on the grounds of a resort, which I guess is fitting considering that it’s within the pricey Kealia Kai environs.

While it was a lovely morning, and nothing could change that, I couldn’t help but feel that some of east Kauai’s charm had been lost with all these so-called improvements that turned a relatively wild coastline into a backyard for fancy spec houses and a well-groomed recreational area. As we walked, I recalled a comment about the path left on an earlier post that stated, in part:

just got back from kealia, and saw a small handful of people using the rather pathetic little 5 foot strip of concrete, seemingly without the need for taser-armed cops measuring dog leashes and policing their every move. The need for such microscopic regulation of the path is proof that for all of our talk of "aloha" on this island, we really hate each other and don't get along. Its dog eat dog, in the final analysis on Kauai.

I recalled thinking at the time that the writer was right on. Kauai folks love to talk about “the community” as if it’s some cohesive thing instead of countless little factions that have formed along the lines of race and wealth and length of time on the island and rarely interact and don’t get along and generally have nothing but disdain for one another, as quickly became apparent in the polarizing disputes over the path.

And that made me think of a conversation I recently had with my friend Ed, a kahuna. Ed told me that he and other Hawaiians of his generation (he’s 60) were raised with no prejudice toward the haole, who was viewed as the “kalohe (rascal) younger brother” in need of guidance and instruction. But now, he said, the Hawaiians are tired of teaching people who don’t want to learn and that peaceful co-existence has been replaced with overt antagonism.

Perhaps this "us against them" theme is so heavily on my mind because I’ve been reading Voltaire’s “Candide,” and stopped last night to ponder one passage in particular:

“You will find that the weak always detest the strong and cringe before them, and that the strong treat them like so many sheep to be sold for their meat and wool.”

And here we are, with that exact scenario playing out on Wall Street, which obviously is not completely melting down and must have some available investment capital because the sharks are feasting on the smaller fish, as evidenced by JPMorgan’s acquisition of Washington Mutual’s banking assets:

It vaults JPMorgan past Bank of America Corp to become the nation's second-largest bank, with $2.04 trillion of assets, just behind Citigroup Inc. Bank of America will go to No. 1 once it completes its planned purchase of Merrill Lynch & Co.

"[JPMorgan CEO] Jamie Dimon is clearly feeling that he has an opportunity to grab market share, and get it at fire-sale prices," said Matt McCormick, a portfolio manager at Bahl & Gaynor Investment Counsel in Cincinnati. "He's becoming an acquisition machine."

So why, exactly, are we considering this $700 billion panic-driven rush job bailout? Even my conservative friends — yes, I do have a few — are appalled at the prospect of government getting so involved in the private financial sector, and worried about the prospects of runaway inflation. I mean, it’s not like the government actually has an extra $700 billion lying around.

This video clip seems to sum it up pretty well.

Meanwhile, the people are making themselves heard today in demonstrations against the bail out on Wall Street and elsewhere. This Democracy Now! report offers some interesting perspectives:

[The Indypendant editor]ARUN GUPTA: They may give it some window dressing about limiting executive compensation, but the real goal is to transfer huge funds to the investment banks, to the hedge funds, to central banks that created this mess in the first place.

WALL STREET INVESTOR: OK, it seems like a lot of money at the time, but it’s all going to get paid back in eighteen months. So they’re coming together. All these companies are going to be—have to refinance. It’s not as if the US government isn’t going to see this money again. And in terms of the economy in the long run, a company like AIG, if that goes down, those knock-on effects is going to go right down to the consumer.

Yes, it does seem like a lot of money, because it is. As to whether it all get paid back in 18 months, well, that sounds an awful lot like the kind of optimistic thinking that caused this mess.

So what is the likelihood of any real change, bail out or no? Not too great, according to this Democracy Now! interview, which shows that certain key players still hold sway and likely will continue:

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, who is [Treasury Secretary] Henry Paulson? I mean, we know he worked for Nixon, was the aide to John Ehrlichman, the ex-con, the man who went to jail; then went off to Goldman Sachs; he and Alan Greenspan still being considered the economic wise men, even though this all happened under their watch.

RALPH NADER: That’s when you know the system is decayed and corrupt, that the people who brought us this disaster—Robert Rubin, with Bill Clinton pushing through the financial deregulation monster in 1999, which we opposed, which opened the gates for this kind of wild speculation and this casino capitalism, is still an adviser. He’s an adviser to Barack Obama. He’s an adviser to members of Congress. Henry Paulson cashed out at Goldman Sachs in 2006 a half-a-billion dollars. And now he goes to Washington to bail out his buddies.

Yes, to paraphrase the comment that stated this post, it seems it’s dog eat dog in the final analysis on Wall Street, and the feds are preparing to throw this snarling pack a very juicy bone.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Musings: Faux Terrorists

One of the things I really like about living on Kauai, and having a car with no AC that forces me to roll the windows down, is driving along and hearing bird sounds: the metallic notes of a meadow lark perched on a pasture fence; the raucous squabbling of mynah beneath banana trees; the nasal honking of nene, flying formation overhead.

I passed a hunter’s truck parked in a backcountry driveway the other afternoon, the owner inside the house, the dogs outside, waiting, viewing the world through the three-inch window between the top of the pick-up bed and the low plywood roof that contained them.

It was a narrow view, much like the one the government takes of citizen groups that become too successful at operating outside “the system,” as became clear when a friend called the other day to recount what’s happening to Food Not Bombs.

My friend had been involved with them years before in Boston, and still maintains contact with founder Keith McHenry, who took the very radical step back in 1980 of setting up a miso soup table and passing out day-old bakery goods in front of the Bank of Boston as the directors met inside.

The purpose was to draw attention to the plight of the poor, and encourage investments in programs that build communities, rather than destroy them through war and violence. Since then, Food Not Bombs has become a worldwide organization, with organizations in 50 different countries and 40 American states.

Anyway, my friend called Keith for a chat this past weekend. He wanted to find out how things are going since the St. Paul police staged a pre-emptive raid on a Food Not Bombs cookhouse before the start of the Republican National Convention, arresting volunteers and charging several of them with conspiracy to commit riot.

The answer: not good. Seems that Keith’s bank accounts have been frozen, bank deposits have gone missing, his mail has been intercepted and opened, and Food Not Bombs handbooks that are sent out never reach their intended recipients.

Needless to say, all this has greatly disrupted Keith's life and the organization. But Keith apparently found it equally hard to watch television commentators label his organization, which is committed to non-violent social change, as one of the top terrorist groups in the nation.

So how did this happen? Well, the FBI reportedly paid a woman $80,000 to infiltrate the group and try and persuade the members to go along with a plan to blow up some bridges, even supplying her with blasting caps for that purpose. Although the group wasn’t interested, they didn’t actively discourage her.

“In anarchy, you don’t tell somebody don’t do that, or you can’t do that,” my friend explained. “If they want to do it, that’s their trip.”

One guy, however, fell for the woman romantically, and agreed to help her. Now he’s facing 17 years in prison, and the entire group has been branded a violent, terrorist organization as a result.

“The government caused the terrorism to manifest in the group through infiltration,” my friend said. “I just can’t believe how ludicrous this is, how ridiculous. It’s a big smear campaign.”

And it’s working, just as it`s worked with numerous other radical social groups. When they become effective at mobilizing the disaffected and disenfranchised, that’s when the government sends in the paid infiltrators that ultimately destroy them.

“The government can handle the bombs,” my friend said. “It’s the food that scares the shit out of them.”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Musings: Economic Terrorists

The moon, whittled down to a wedge, but still bright enough to illuminate the darkness of its whole, was directly overhead, not far from Orion’s belt and brilliant Sirius, when Koko and I took our walk this morning.

Within 20 minutes the stars were gone, lost to light and thin clouds, both streaming in from the east, the latter hinting at rain, but still the moon shone, white through a gray veil, as the birds awoke and began to sing.

As Wall Street continues to sing the blues, the FBI has opened an investigation into “possible fraud involving the four giant corporations at the center of the recent turmoil — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers and the American International Group," according to the New York Times.

Apparently the agency has opened 26 corporate fraud investigations in the last week, in addition to the 1,400 inquiries already under way for suspected mortgage fraud.

Gee, do you suppose there really was some wrongdoing behind this giant shakedown, with billions of dollars, professional careers and lavish personal fortunes at stake?

But have no fear. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has assured us that “the F.B.I. will pursue these cases as far up the corporate chain as is necessary to ensure that those responsible receive the justice they deserve.”

Yes, perhaps they should be treated like the economic terrorists they are, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. As Larry Geller noted on Disappeared News, even one of our closest allies is pointing fingers at the culprits:

The finance minister of Italy's conservative and pro-U.S. government warned of nothing less than a systemic breakdown. Giulio Tremonti excoriated the "voracious selfishness" of speculators and "stupid sluggishness" of regulators. And he singled out Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, with startling scorn.

"Greenspan was considered a master," Tremonti declared. "Now we must ask ourselves whether he is not, after [Osama] bin Laden, the man who hurt America the most. . . . It is clear that what is happening is a disease. It is not the failure of a bank, but the failure of a system.

Hmm, maybe it’s not so surprising after all that I heard a song by The Clash, one of the original punk bands, playing in the bank yesterday. Unfortunately, it wasn't the one with the lyrics: "You're frettin, you're sweatin, but did you notice you ain't gettin?"

More surprising, given our usual slack showing at the polls, was the news that Kauai actually led the state in voter turnout for the primary election, with some 46 percent of our registered voters casting ballots. But still, where were the other 54 percent?

Speaking of elections, I noticed Gov. Lingle is heading over to America to campaign for the McCain-Palin ticket.

I can’t help but wonder two things: is she using vacation time to do her little six-state soiree? And who, really, cares what Hawaii’s governor thinks, either here or on the mainland? I can’t imagine she’ll hold much sway with voters.

As for her rationale, it falls into the realm of seriously lame. According to the Advertiser:

Lingle said the Mainland swing, paid for by the McCain campaign, would be beneficial for Hawai'i because she will inevitably speak about the state at her appearances.

Yes, that should be extremely valuable. I’m sure they’ve never heard of Hawaii. Her other reasoning isn’t much better:

Lingle said that being involved in the national campaign puts her in a better position to have access if McCain is elected president. The governor campaigned on the Mainland for President Bush during his 2004 re-election.

But what if Obama is elected? Does that mean then that she, and so the state, and so us and our concerns, will have no access? And can anyone elucidate how her similarly gained “access” to President Bush has helped Hawaii?

Lingle then whined about Palin being held to “a different standard” than a male candidate, when in fact she’s been held to no standard at all. Then the guv went on to prove she’s totally out of touch, and perhaps her mind, by observing: “she's done very well in answering all of the questions that have come her way.”

Oh, you mean like Palin’s “huh?” answer to Charley Gibson’s question about the Bush Doctrine?

Of course, it’s not surprising that Lingle is sucking up to the national GOP. It’s her only hope for a political future. Once her term ends, there’s nothing left for her here.

While the McCain/Palin ticket grates, I’m not keen about Obama’s support for beefing up the war in Afghanistan and bleeding on into Pakistan, all in search of the elusive "foe" that has thus far evaded us and likely will continue.

A friend described the candidates well:

”Neither will bring peace,” he said, “but one will bring chaos.”

I’m sure you can figure out which is which.

Since too much political thought always leaves me feeling low, and maybe you, too, I’ll counteract that by sharing this truly heartwarming little video clip. Ignore the raunchy ads (unless you’re into that stuff) that run alongside.

If you’d rather get really crapped out, this video from Disappeared News should do the trick. It’s all about new technology designed to read physiological cues to determine if we mean harm to our fellow airline passengers.

Great. Now you can’t even be thinking, “shut that kid up” or “don’t try to cram that bag into the overhead on top of my stuff” without worrying you might be branded a terrorist — of the ordinary, not elite economic so no need worry, kine.

Welcome to the brave new world. Yikes. Where’s the exit?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Musings: Breaking the Silence

Breaks in the clouds were few and fleeting, occasionally allowing the half moon to glow, a few stars to sparkle, when Koko and I went walking on this fall equinox morning.

It was very quiet, save for the usual rowdy roosters, the steadily chirping crickets, and then came the distinctive braying call of a Newell’s shearwater, enroute to or from feeding its chick in a mountainside burrow. Suddenly I heard the rain coming, advancing over the vegetation with a gentle roar, dampening us and with its pattering, shattering the silence.

I learned yesterday that Kauai’s “silent majority” totals seven. Yup. Seven. That’s how many guys was holding sign at Kimo Rosen’s pro-Superferry rally at Kapaa Beach Park yesterday, according to a friend who did the counting, snapped a quick pic and made this observation:

“Dude it was miserable. With the obligatory acknowledgement to his right to organize a protest, the protest was pathetic. But it illustrates the power of P.R. speak - the term "silent majority" evokes a strong image, in contrast to the reality of a photo. Since when did silence get respect in a democracy anyway?”

I love that last line.

Since I served up some crow last week, I won’t put it on the menu again today. But now that the myth of Kauai’s silent, yet supposedly strong, support for the Superferry is thoroughly debunked, we can move on to other things. Like making sure it doesn’t come back since we’ve clearly seen the negative effects on Maui.

Seems that concern over the big boat’s impacts has moved beyond the enviro crowd. Even Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares is freaked out by the pillage of the Valley Isle’s marine resources.

Gee, a mayor who cares about the issue and is actually willing to speak up. How quite unlike our own late Mayor Neutro. Anyway, she wants state conservation enforcement officers to continuing doing the passenger and vehicle inspections beyond December, noting:

"I am gravely concerned about the impacts that are occurring to Maui's special places and resources," Tavares wrote to the [Superferry Oversight] task force. "Many of the negative impacts we feared and predicted are being realized, despite the fact that Hawaii Superferry has been operating well below its optimal passenger load.

"I am appalled by the reported amount of marine resources that are leaving our island with Superferry passengers or being confiscated and destroyed."

But according to Superferry officials, everything’s sunshine and flowers:

Superferry official Richard Houck said he felt his employees were capable of doing the inspections and the taking of ocean resources has been small.

In other words, it’s tired of picking up the DOCARE inspection tab and wants to push the job on to its own employees. (Update: Dick Mayer of Maui informs me that taxpayers are paying for the inspections, which makes me wonder why HSF wouldn't want the handout to continue — unless it doesn't like having the truth revealed about the "takings."]

And how are HSF employees doing? Well, if Luella Lake is any indication, not so hot. She sent a Sept. 19 email to legislators and the guv in which she noted: “I had a passion for working on a ship so I started working with HSF Port Operation on 7/17/07! Well, ever since then my confidence has dropped to 5% from a 100%, here's why!”

She then goes on to state some 15 behind-the-scenes concerns, including racism, harassment by supervisors and shoddy equipment. While some complaints read like the usual crap that makes me steer clear of working with others, in respect to inspections, she did allege:

5. HSF continues to let customers go with expired ID, License, registration and Ins.

10. The 1 hour and a half isn't enough time at the Port to Inspect customers and their vehicles or to check-in customers for valid ID, licence, registration or insurance.

11. HSF is cutting their Port staff which is putting the pressure on speed.

She ended with this plea:

So please, if anyone can help and not turn us away all the time!

The employees may be on their own, but HSF did agree to do a bit more to help the whales. The company plans to “install a new night vision, infrared-thermal imaging system and provide night-vision goggles to two lookouts to help prevent nighttime collisions this winter with humpback whales.”

That was revealed at last Friday’s Task Force meeting, along with these nuggets:

When it came to the issue of preventing whale collisions, Maui task force representative Randy Awo said he found it troubling that there is still a question as to whether Hawaii Superferry would do more. Namely, he said the company could install a frontal radar system - which is still being tested - to help detect whales at night.

Testifier Marcia Godinez said she's gone over the confiscation reports by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture. She found that officials have logged almost 2 tons of fish that were removed from Maui's waters and taken to Oahu in the past nine months.

Meanwhile, the passenger numbers remain slack:

Last month, the Superferry averaged less than 350 people per and about 100 vehicles per voyage, [HSF official U.S. Coast Guard Ret. Adm. Richard] Houck said. The Alakai has 836 seats and can hold 230 vehicles.

Houck said August's numbers were less than July's but not bad considering the current economic downturn and that it's off-peak for the tourist season.

Huh? Since when is August off-peak season?

The Maui News article continues:

[Belt Collins’ Lesley] Matsumoto said a consulting firm is surveying passengers to determine what impact they are having on local businesses, community resources, hotels and campgrounds.

To the applause of the audience, Awo, the DLNR Maui branch chief for DOCARE, called on Belt Collins to conduct a survey of residents as well.

"I just don't get it," Awo said. "If we are talking about socioeconomic impacts, why not go beyond ridership?"

Randy's making some very good points, and asking hard questions. But it seems his concerns are being met by official silence.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Musings: Business as Usual

You’d think I’d learn. I always go into the campaign season with optimism, thinking this time, surely, things will be different, things will change.

Then I see the final printout and it’s clear that on Kauai, it’s gonna be the same old same old all over again.

And so it was this time around, with the Council incumbents getting another go, and Bernard Carvalho — carrying on the dead tired Baptiste legacy — solidly in the number one spot for mayor.

Even having a record 22 candidates in the running, and two puka on the Council to fill, didn’t end up making much difference. It certainly wasn’t enough to nudge someone like Ron Kouchi, making an unbelievable 12th run for Council, out of the action.

So what does it mean, aside from the fact that all the talk about “vote the clowns out” was, yawn, simply that: a bunch of talk?

Maybe it means that people have given up on politics, or just don’t care. After all, Hawaii had a record low voter turnout of about 34.6 percent, so you can’t exactly say that anyone can claim a popular mandate.

Maybe it means voters weren’t always thrilled with their choices. Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, who was running unopposed for prosector, received 10,052 yes votes — and a whopping 4,505 blank votes.

Maybe it means that people think things are hunky dory just like they are, or that they’re afraid to vote for someone new and different because change, for most folks, is a very scary thing.

In the end, what it really means is that the old guard has always run the show on Kauai and they still do. Expect business as usual, folks.

It’s my nature to be hopeful. As Jimmy Torio said on the radio the other day: “I keep voting and I’m confident that one of these days someone I vote for will get elected.” I guess that’s what keeps me going to the polls, too. And every now and then, I score a small victory with a Mina Morita or a Gary Hooser.

But it’s crystal clear that the revolution will not come through the voting booth. So if it’s real change you be seeking, that ain’t the place to put your time and energy.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Musings: Ghosts of Mayors Past

We’re coming down to the wire here on the primary, and I got to thinking of how the past plays such a prominent role in the mayoral campaigns of both JoAnn Yukimura and Bernard Carvalho.

Bernard, though a new candidate, is quite literally an extension of the late Bryan Baptiste, drawing political support from his family and financial support from his administration. As Andy Parx notes on his blog:

It doesn’t take a genius to see where most of the old boy support is because Carvalho’s first campaign spending report is in and he leads the cash race collecting a whopping $132 562.41 from July 8 through September 5 of which he still has $46,877. 36

And his list of contributors contains the names of virtually every Kaua`i county department head and a slew of county employees indicating that the old boys know who will put shoyu on their rice.

My neighbor Andy also observed that in Kapaa, anyway, it’s the houses of the “old guard” that have Carvalho signs out front.

So I guess if you’re pleased with the people that Baptiste appointed as department heads, and satisfied with what that Administration has done in six years — which in my opinion is absolutely nothing notable — then you might as well vote for Bernard and hope that he, with no real leadership experience, can hold it together.

Or you can choose JoAnn. Yes, she’s annoyed us all at times over the many years she’s been on the political scene, but when you really look at what the other mayoral candidates are talking about doing — expanding the bus service, supporting ag, building affordable housing — you can’t escape the reality that JoAnn has literally been there and done that.

The Kauai Bus and 1,000 units of affordable housing — more than we've seen in the 14 years since — came out of her six years as mayor, and she started the Sunshine markets, which are one of the very few ways that local farmers can sell their produce. She’s also supported solar hot water heaters, and we’d be in a much better place with solid waste if Mayor Maryanne Kusaka hadn’t come in and dismantled her programs.

For me, the choice is clear. I’ll pick someone who can bring to the office not a ghost from the past, but real live hands-on experience.

Off the Hook

I just went through a rather intense 24-hour period that began Wednesday night when I got home to find emails advising me a warrant had been issued for my arrest. Apparently the news had been posted on a Hawaiian sovereignty Yahoo forum, along with the names of three other persons who also were being charged with trespassing related to an Aug. 7 Naue burial site protest, which I’d covered for Honolulu Weekly and this blog.

After freaking out for a few minutes, I remembered I had the cell phone number of attorney Dan Hempey, Kauai’s resident civil rights maven, so I called and told him what was up. He then called the cellblock and confirmed that I had, indeed, been charged with criminal trespass in the second degree, a petty (literally) misdemeanor. He suggested we take care of it right away so I wouldn’t have to worry about the cops showing up at my door, and offered to accompany me to the cop shop so I could turn myself in.

I got $100 bail money out of the ATM, then we headed for Lihue and arrived at the impenetrable Babylon, where you must call and then wait for a police officer to come out and escort you into the fortress. We waited, then a woman came out and said it was going to be awhile, so make ourselves comfortable.

We waited some more, than the very polite Officer Nitta came out to tell us that they weren’t ready to accept us. It seems that Capt. Ale Quibilan (who I previously misidentified as a lieutenant named Ollie – sorry about that, Captain) had contacted Chief Darryl Perry, who said he wanted to review the warrant before I was arrested.

Now that was interesting, Dan said, and after receiving assurances that they wouldn’t serve me that night, or without calling him first, we left.

Dan, in his usual irrepressible style, jumped right into the case, researching the law, developing a strategy and most important, contacting Chief Perry the next day to discuss the First Amendment and the rights of journalists to cover the news. The Chief said to give him an hour to research the matter, then he sent out an email to key police officers and the prosecutor’s office that made it clear he “got” the bigger issue at stake. In asking them to rescind my arrest warrant he wrote:

Based on her credentials as a media representative; her complicity in the alleged trespassing charge is in doubt as she is covered by both State of Hawaii, and U.S. Constitutional Bill of Rights under the First Amendment with respect to Freedom of the Press to report relevant public issues.

Absent exigent circumstances, in this instant matter the applicability of Criminal Trespass in the 2nd degree, HRS, Section 708-814 did not raise to the level that out weighed her Rights to be present at or on the Brescia property located at 7342 Alealea Road, Haena.

Way to go Chief! Mahalo nui loa! Needless to say, both Dan and I were extremely happy. But would the prosecutor’s office go along with dropping the charges? If they didn’t, Dan said, we’d be looking at a trial where the Chief of Police would be the first witness for the defense.

At about 7:30 last night, almost 24 hours exactly from the time I first contacted him, Dan called to say the prosecutor’s office was dropping the charges.

Whew!!! It was all a bit nerve-wracking, but at least I got an answer to a question I posed last Saturday: “Is it trespassing for a reporter to go where something is happening in order to see what’s going on and question those involved?”

It seems that in this case, and this place, the answer is no. Still, I’m not sure it would have turned out like this if Dan hadn’t been representing me.

Now just one other question niggles at me: Who was pushing for that arrest warrant in the first place?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Musings: One Year Down

Something set the roosters off about midnight and they never really quieted down after that, and then rats started running around on the roof, apparently using it as an expressway to the fruit-laden strawberry guava tree outside my bedroom window.

So I was a bit bleary, although Koko was perky as ever, when we went walking on this morning with a definite nip in the air. Black-bottomed clouds hung low over Makeleha, but Waialeale — a demure lavender-pink today — was clear, and the entire pastoral landscape was illuminated by that deep golden light characteristic of September, my favorite month of the year.

Ran into both Andy and farmer Jerry along the road, where Andy jogged Jerry’s memory about the earliest inhabitants of the Dragon Building and the conversation morphed into old time union organizers and the Wailua range wars and cattle poisonings of bygone days.

It seemed appropriate to touch on the past, as I’ve been thinking of how today marks the one-year anniversary of this blog. I started it as a sort of cyber clips file and a place to share writings that I hadn’t published elsewhere, as is reflected in the very first post.

Then my mind got to musing, as it is wont to do, and later that day, after listening to a radio program that addressed Gov. Lingle’s pending trip to Kauai to talk about the Superferry, I added a second post, in which I posed the rhetorical question: “Is Lingle the devil, the personification of evil?”

Before I knew it, my blog was being circulated around the state Capitol and Hawaii Superferry officials were complaining to my editors at The Honolulu Advertiser, even dredging up freelance stories I’d written for Sierra magazine years before in an apparent attempt to prove I had too much of an environmental bent to cover the Superferry story.

HSF won that power struggle and I ended up getting pulled off the Superferry story. Contrary to some rumors, I wasn’t fired and the Advertiser said I could continue to write other stories for them, which I declined to do because the pay was too low.

But I went ahead and covered Lingle’s infamous meeting, anyway, and wrote about it without any of the restrictions I would have faced as a mainstream media reporter, including references to Jupiter and Venus.

And Kauai Eclectic was off and running. Btw, Katy Rose reports today that the union guys at the Mobile, Ala. shipyard where Superferry 2 is being built told her it’s due to be launched on Sept. 29 and will start heading our way — pending any unforeseen delays, of course.

While it was initially quite a blow to be pulled off the Superferry story, it turned out, as things often do, to be a blessing in disguise. It’s allowed me to more fully discover and develop my own authentic voice, and that’s a tremendous gift.

It’s also been a real lesson for me in learning to let go of my ego and defensiveness, and the comments have been a total eye-opener into a way of thinking that's very different than mine.

Sometimes it’s been a drag, but mostly it’s been fun, which is why I’ve continued, even though it’s still getting me in trouble. I got several emails and a phone call advising me that there is a warrant out for my arrest stemming from the Naue protest I covered. Attorney Dan Hempey is checking that out for me, so I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I just want to say thanks to everyone for reading and commenting and being a part of Kauai Eclectic.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Musings: The Shadow Knows

The day started with a fiery red smear on the eastern horizon that slowly spread upward, and as it did, its intensity diminished, until the world took on a soft pink glow. Koko and I walked beneath the moon, bright white and bold, with just the bottom bit nibbled away, and it was high in the sky, not far from Jupiter.

Then the sun rose, first kissing the top of Makaleha before moving on to Waialeale, where it exposed every crack and crevice in its ancient, craggy face, which today was colored a sort of rusty green. I counted 16 deep channels for waterfalls, all of them dry, and spotted a pocket of mist in the pasture that, had I not known better, could have passed for a lake.

Some guys passing themselves off as akamai came to advise the Kauai County Council on current economic trends yesterday, although their expertise sure wasn’t evident in the comments reported in The Garden Island:

State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism economist Bob Shore said construction jobs are declining, but the job situation on Kaua‘i is stable.

“You’re showing job gains,” he said. “We don’t know how long that will last.”

Shore said Kaua‘i’s visitor statistics were “not good at all,” but was unsure how that would specifically impact the county.

Murray Towill, president of the Hawai‘i Hotel and Lodging Association, said the economic downturn has financial as well as psychological effects.

He noted the fragile nature of the local economy because travel and tourism is discretionary spending. He said it is critical to keep hotels full and the airline industry viable.

Uh, duh. I think any one of us could have told the Council that, and saved those guys the airfare. And if that was news to the Council, we’re in deep kim chee.

I was interviewing Big Island biologist Paul Banko yesterday, and came up with a reason to feel optimistic about the current economic collapse.

We were talking about how CCC workers had built the 58-mile fence around the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve back in 1936, then put in roads to maintain it and erected some little cabins, too, before eliminating some 47,000 head of feral sheep, along with wild cattle, pigs and goats that were destroying the forest.

“It was quite an undertaking,” Paul said. “It’s a high standard for current day managers to be compared to.”

Suddenly it hit me that if we enter another Great Depression, we could put people to work doing all the environmental restoration projects that desperately need to be done, but now aren't, supposedly because there’s no money. Paul noted that it was pretty hard work building that fence, and he wasn’t sure people today could handle it. Well, I said, then it would also be a way to get them in shape, and improve the nation’s abysmal health, too.

He liked those ideas and suggested I run for office, but I’m not sure that platform would attract a lot of votes. Still, it makes more sense to be killing sheep that are destroying native bird habitat than making a killing in some bogus hedge fund market. Heck, a little fresh air and exercise outside a gym could help lift the gloomy spirits of those Wall Street fat cats who are watching their fortunes on paper go up in smoke.

Since we’re already on the topic of politics, and fat cats, it’s easy to segue into the GOP. One of the many troubling things about Gov. Palin, which was reported in the New York Times on Sunday and Wall Street Journal today, is her penchant for hiring childhood friends. I understand her desire for familiarity and loyalty, but that kind of provincialism doesn’t play well on the international scene. If she and McCain get in, it could be the makings for a bad horror movie: the Wasillians meet the entrenched neocons.

It seems that everyone is weighing in on Sarah Palin, including
Deepak Chopra, who offers a fresh perspective with his observation that she is Obama’s shadow side:

The Republicans have won multiple national elections by raising shadow issues based on fear, rejection, hostility to change, and narrow-mindedness.

So what comes next is a contest between the two forces of progress and inertia. Will the shadow win again, or has its furtive appeal become exhausted? No one can predict.

No, no one can predict, but given the current state of affairs, I don't think the shadow has lost its appeal.

Speaking of appeals, Malama Kauai has begun a pledge drive in a bid to buy the Naue property from developer Joe Brescia. The goal is to protect the iwi there, as well as the coastline. It launched the drive with $75,000 from an anonymous donor, so that’s a pretty good start.

And finally, I did a piece for Honolulu Weekly on the Naue burials that should be posted on their website today, if you're interested.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Musings: Bon Appetit

OK, get out your chili pepper water, your A-1 sauce or your other favorite condiment. Because it’s time to eat some crow — and not the Alala kine, since it’s almost extinct.

I’m talking to all you Hawaiian-haters, nay-sayers, stink-talkers and anybody else who was making like Kaiulani guys were wacko trouble-makers when they started the drive to protect the iwi on Joe Brescia’s property at Naue.

Yup, Judge Kathleen Watanabe vindicated them yesterday when she ruled the State Historic Preservation Division failed to follow its own rules and the law in this matter.

Turns out, after a protracted hearing and “very difficult” deliberations, that the iwi-defenders were right all along. State archaeologist and county council candidate Nancy McMahon made a big boo-boo when she approved the final burial treatment plan for the project without first consulting the Kauai-Niihau Island Burial Council, lineal descendants of the iwi, Hawaiian groups and even Brescia.

Now the matter must go back before the Burial Council for the proper review. That ought to be one highly-charged meeting, with all kinds of fancy footwork going on behind the scenes to get the Council to rubber stamp what Nancy already approved.

Since I know some of you have been feeling sorry for poor Joe Brescia, the judge did give him a little pat on the head when she said that he had complied with all the county requirements and permits, as well he should have.

But, and this is a big but, Watanable also said that doesn’t mean he was authorized to start pouring his foundation, effectively capping some seven iwi in concrete so he could erect pilings for his house. And why? Because the Burial Council hadn’t approved that particular treatment plan.

“While the burials were preserved, they were not authorized according to law and it could be argued that construction of jackets constitutes alteration,” Watanabe said from the bench. “Although construction is under way, that does not hold relief is impossible.”

That raises the big question, which both The Garden Island and The Advertiser failed to touch upon in their coverage today, of whether Brescia’s building permit can be revoked.

It seems the planning commission specified in its December decision that “no building permit shall be issued until the requirements of the Burial Council are met, and they weren’t met,” attorney Alan Murakami of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. said. “I think the planning commission should revoke the building permit.”

So while the judge didn’t stop Brescia from building, although I’ve heard things are on hold right now, anyway, while they wait for materials, she did warn his attorney, Calvert Chipchase, that the Council’s action could affect his building plans.

The Council could take any number of steps, she said, such as having the jackets taken off the iwi and removing the seven burials that are now under the house and reinterring them elsewhere. As an aside, Deputy AG Vince Kanemoto yesterday claimed in court that only five now are under the house, prompting Murakami to say, “I don’t understand why they can’t keep track of their own burials they’re trying to protect.”

The Council also could require Brescia to provide the Chandler family and other lineal descendants with access to visit the burials, and it’s pretty certain nobody wants to pay their respects to the kupuna under somebody’s house.

Hmmm. Seems old Joe and his plans to build another beachfront spec house ain’t in the clear quite yet.

What this whole issue points out is that the state isn’t following its own rules when it comes to burials. And if the community wasn’t there to serve as a watchdog, file lawsuit, hold protests and stage vigils, the state’s misdeeds would be continually swept under the rug.

Those actions obviously made an impression on the judge, who cited “the public interest in this matter” in her decision to walk everyone through her analysis of the case.

“As Mr. Murakami argued, process is absolutely critical, especially when two branches of government, the legislative and executive, have spoken so clearly about the need to protect” Hawaiian iwi, Watanabe said. “Whether there are shortcomings in the law, we need to start with the process.”

So to all of you who were screaming that the iwi-defenders should get the hell out of the way because they didn't follow "the process," all I can say is, "bon appetit."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Musings: Accentuate the Positive

It was hard to sleep with all the light from that gorgeous harvest moon, which I watched rise amid towering pink cumulus clouds at Fuji Beach last night, as behind me, Waialeale and the western sky were bathed in the ethereal golden light of the setting sun.

So Koko and I got up well before dawn today and followed the full moon mauka as it slipped lower and lower, finally disappearing altogether behind the flat top of Waialeale, serene and blue. Mist curled up from the pastures, and as the sun peeked over the horizon, rosy-tinted clouds came together to form a lei mid-way up the mountain.

I never need be reminded, “lucky you live Kauai.”

It’s certainly better than coastal Texas these days, where folks are realizing what we did back on Sept. 11, 1992: hurricanes can wreak one helluva lotta damage, especially when storm surge is involved. Yet if you go down to Poipu today, to the coastline that was nearly scoured clean by Iniki, you’ll see that all the houses and hotels that were there before have been rebuilt — plus more.

There’s only one description for that kind of behavior: dumb ass.

I was struck by several things in reading an AP article on how Ike survivors were clamoring for gas and food.

The first was how desperately poor so many people are. They don’t have the money to evacuate to a hotel, or even to buy the gas to get out. We seem to forget this whole segment of our society until their woes are exposed by something like a giant hurricane.

Wanda Hamor, 49, of Orange, had been fifth in line with her 21-year-old son William. They were trapped in their house by floodwaters until Monday morning before they could venture out.

They had run out of food Sunday night. They left for Gustav and say they couldn't afford to leave for Ike or buy any more than $60 in food.

"He's diabetic and he has to eat four times a day," she said of her son.

The second was how people complain about the assistance they do get.

”They give you a little cup of water every four hours. They feed us one peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We were in there for about 18 hours before we could go outside and get some air," he said.

It’s a good reminder for folks to be prepared here in Hawaii, where any number of manmade and natural events can disrupt our food and fuel supply. As Kauai’s Civil Defense Administrator, Mark Marshall, made clear when I interviewed him for a recent Kauai People story:

“My big message is don’t depend on government,” he said. “The more self-sufficient you can be, the happier you’re gonna be in the end result.”

Amen. And that holds true in general, not just disaster relief.

The third thing that struck me was a little blurb about how in one Texas cemetery, “cement vaults popped up out of the water-swollen ground, many disgorging their coffins.”

”I just don't know what to say," the 75-year-old [George] Levias said as he walked gingerly among open graves filled with water. "Loved ones being disturbed like that."

Once again we see how it bothers most mainland folks to see burials disturbed, but here in Hawaii, it’s just par for the course. Anyway, it seemed apropos to include that in today’s musing, since Judge Watanabe is scheduled to hand down her ruling this afternoon in the Naue burials case.

I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, as the economy teeters and a Christian fundamentalist makes a run for the White House, I’ll leave you with this from The Cosmic Path:

Thoughts and words carry energy. If you pour a lot of energy into something, you are underscoring its existence and importance. Above all, think and speak in terms of the world you want to be living in a few months down the line, rather than the possible one you fear will be imposed on you. Nurture that positive vision.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Musings: Wolf Killer

The stars were holding forth, having briefly reclaimed the sky upon the setting of the bright and bulbous moon, when Koko and I set out walking this morning.

Since it was very early, and a Sunday, the operative word was stealth, so as not to get any of the neighborhood dogs barking, although the hundred or so fighting roosters going off at the house down the street didn’t seem the least bit concerned about the racket they were making.

Mist hugged the contours and valleys of the pastures, reaching out to touch us, softly, as we passed by, and all the mountains were vivdly clear as the sky turned rosy behind the Sleeping Giant.

It was a day made for drying laundry, so I headed down the hill with my full basket, and as the clothes washed I sat in the sun outside the Laundromat and talked story with Jim Alalem and Jerry Ooka. You never know who you’re going to run into at the Kapaa laundry. Like me, they came early to avoid the rush.

I found out from Jerry why my homemade poi never turns sour — “you’re too clean in your preparation; it needs yeast from the skin to ferment” — and Jim confirmed a story I’d heard that one of the bullies who held him down in high school and forced him to swallow chicken feet — “You know, I’m still haunted by that,” said Jim, now 51 —went on to become a Kauai vice cop, where he apparently still bedevils those over whom he wields power.

It made me think of a comment from another friend who, upon hearing of my questioning by the cops, recounted his own experience of being held for seven hours by FBI agents. That must have been scary, I said, to be interrogated by the FBI, to which he replied: “Nah, they’re professionals. But the Kauai cops, you never know what they’re gonna do.”

Same is true with Sarah Palin, the GOP VP pick. In case you’re still looking for reasons to oppose this candidate, here’s a good one: she advocates killing wolves from helicopters. Apparently her “pro-life” stance doesn’t extend to other mammals, and last year she approved an initiative offering aerial hunters a $150 bounty for each left foreleg from a wolf that they brought in.

Seems she felt the wolves were giving Alaska hunters too much competition for game. A judge later ruled she didn’t have authority to offer the payments, but still, the scheme tells you a lot —none of it good — about what kind of person, and "sportsman,” she is.

The best anti-Palin bit I’ve read yet is a piece called ”Drill, Drill, Drill” by Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues.” I like it because it’s both astute and beautifully written. Here’s one excerpt, but it’s really worthwhile to read the whole thing:

Sarah believes in God. That is of course her right, her private right. But when God and Guns come together in the public sector, when war is declared in God's name, when the rights of women are denied in his name, that is the end of separation of church and state and the undoing of everything America has ever tried to be.

Finally, if you want a laugh, check out this clip from Saturday Night Live, where Tina Fey returns to do Sarah Palin, and does her well.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Musings: Shades of Gray

The growing moon shone like a ghost orb through thick layers of quilted clouds, then disappeared behind the mountains, leaving the world in blackness for a while before the sun rose in a fiery inferno of pink-orange that was quickly extinguished by gray.

I was looking up at the sky and realized it wasn’t just gray, but layers of color: varying shades of gray with white clouds floating above and beyond that, pale blue. It brought to mind discussions I’ve had lately with journalist friends about the growing gray areas in our profession.

Gone are the days of old, when you reported just the facts, the who, what, where, when and why, and any reporting biases were pretty evident. Now so many stories are interpretive, educational, even promotional of people and events deemed worthwhile because they serve the community, which of course opens the door to favorable coverage of corporations that are aiding the public, too.

Then there’s advocacy journalism, and blogging by mainstream media reporters, and journalists who move in their career between reporting and corporate PR and promotional work for nonprofits — all activities that further blur the old lines about what is acceptable behavior for a reporter, and what is not.

In navigating these shades of gray, it tends to come down to making personal decisions about what you feel good about putting your name on. Does it reflect the integrity you have worked to attain as a journalist?

And now we have the growing question of what reporters can legally do in covering the news, as we saw when some 20 journalists were arrested while reporting on street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention, and the Kauai police questioned me about covering a protest where three persons have since been arrested on trespassing charges.

That incident prompted an interesting exchange in the comments section of Andy Parx’s blog:

Katy Rose wrote: Do we want to feel collectively secure that our journalists - whose function is a real community asset -will not be intimidated away from covering controversial subjects?

 I think that Andy has made the point that sources and subjects need to be confident that the journalist is not an arm of law enforcement - a journalist's ability to report accurately depends on that.

Is this more valuable to society in the long run than shutting down effective journalism in order to pursue a few lawbreakers? I would venture to say that most people believe that freedom of the press is a higher value.

“A troll” responded: First of all Katy, reporters can be guilty of trespass and if the police think Joan is guilty they have every right to arrest her, let alone ask her some questions.

 Second, police can ask anyone questions they want to. Reporters can say no if they don't want to talk. And if they do want to cooperate and help police apprehend criminals, reporters can do that too. It's not unheard of.

Is it trespassing for a reporter to go where something is happening in order to see what’s going on and question those involved? I certainly don’t think so, any more than the police are trespassing when they also respond to check things out. I've never hesitated before to go where I needed to get the story. As to the troll’s assertion that reporters should cooperate with police to apprehend criminals, well, that’s certainly not a role that I’ve ever thought journalists should play, nor one I would like to see them move into.

Then there’s the issue of what happened at the RNC. As Democracy Now! producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous reported following his second arrest for covering protests at the RNC:

And I was speaking to the police. And he goes, you know, “Why didn’t you guys just disperse when we tell you to disperse, and this is not going to happen?” I told him, “You’ve been telling me to disperse since 5:00 p.m. And so, you know, there would be no press for four hours of this march. You know, we can’t—we’re just doing our job. We’re not going to disperse whenever you tell us to. We’re going to continue to do this.”

Does it constitute rioting if reporters fail to disperse upon police orders? I certainly don’t think so, because they need to be there to see what’s really going on. Otherwise, we’d have to rely solely upon the version of events presented by protestors and cops, and neither party has the same overview or impartiality as a reporter. Yet to my knowledge, charges have not been dropped against any of those reporters.

And this leads us to the bigger question: Do reporters only cover the so-called law-abiders, in order to avoid the risk of being treated like a criminal? I always thought we were supposed to move through all strata of society, never fully identifying with any particular one. That’s partly why I’ve always liked being a reporter. It suited me as the ultimate outsider. I like to think the role of a reporter is to be, as a Hawaiian friend phrased it, na kahuna kilo — the perfect observer.

As law enforcement agencies crack down heavily on protests, and the public resists the government’s efforts to limit First Amendment expression to so-called “free-speech zones” and citizens engage in more direct action because they’re frustrated by the dysfunctional workings of government and the courts, I hope to see this issue come to a head, rather than become another one of those journalistic gray areas.

We take our free press for granted, even as it’s come under increasing corporate control. But we could lose the last little vestiges of it if we start treating reporters like “criminals.”

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Musings: Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

Sometimes I’m amazed by the workings of my own internal clock, which seems to get Koko and me up and out at the most opportune times, like the brief few minutes this morning when the sky was such an exquisite shade of lavender-pink that I exclaimed aloud.

The air had a distinct chill, and was heavily scented with the fragrance of mock orange in the front yard and white ginger in the back, and the moisture left by last night’s rain had resulted in thick mists forming in every pasture, drifting across the road and enveloping us as we walked.

It helps me get up in the morning, this desire to see what nature has in store, the little surprises she’s got up her sleeve.

In the human world, The Garden Island brought two big surprises. The first was that Jan Ten Bruggencate, the longtime Kauai bureau chief for the Advertiser, is now a spokesman for Safeway. Wow. Whoda thunk it?

Jan was announcing plans for a new 22-acre shopping center near the middle school in Puhi, anchored by one of Safeway’s whopping big 56,000-square-foot “lifestyle stores.” In case you’re wondering what the heck that is:

The “lifestyle” branding implies more prepared foods so customers can bring home a meal, not just the ingredients, as well as more public spaces for gathering.

Interesting, how as a society we're no longer gathering in the kitchen to make a meal, or around the table to eat it, but at the grocery store, where we buy it already made. Maybe it’s just me, but I never think of the grocery store as a place where I want to hang out. It’s more get in and get out.

The other big surprise is that Gay & Robinson is quitting. But don’t bemoan the loss of sugar on Kauai quite yet. According to the paper, they want to lease the sugar mill, land and other assets to Pacific West Energy LLC, “which intends to grow even more sugar than Gay & Robinson for the production of ethanol and electricity, as well as hire all of the existing 227 workers.”

Wow! What a deal! Oh, wait, there’s a catch. The company needs 15,000 acres to make the ethanol project go. But it will only get 3,750 acres from G&R, which plans to use the other half its land for a hydro-electric project. (Although why they get to keep using that water, which is a public resource, for purposes other than ag is beyond me.)

Anyway, that means Pacific West needs about 11,000 acres. The paper cites company president Bill Maloney as saying that without land agreements upfront, the banks and lenders won’t sign on. “We’re rounding up all the cats and dogs that we can,” Maloney said.

So get ready for the big land grab and steamroller action, with 227 plantation workers being held for ransom. Ominously, Gov. Linda Lingle is already promising state aid by “expediting the permits and approvals necessary to transform this kama‘aina company.”

The shibai about G&R being a kama`aina company aside — come on, that’s like claiming the Wilcox family still controls Grove Farm — [Correx: my apologies, G&R still is 100% Robinson-owned] where do you suppose Pacific West is going to get all that land? Kalepa Ridge, which G&R was already eying and where Green Energy Kauai got 1,000 acres for its albezia-to-biofuels project, is a likely start, meaning there goes the last public ag land on the eastside.

As farmer Jerry observed: “It’s the industrialization of our ag land.”

And then there's the question of whether this project makes economic sense, even with all kinds of state hand-holding. According to the paper:

On Tuesday [G&R President E. Alan] Kennett told Kaua‘i Renewable Energy Conference attendees that the ethanol market is flooded, the debt market is dismal and workers are scarce, particularly truck drivers.”

Kennett previously said ethanol prices need to be $3.50 per gallon to make the project go. They’re at about $2.65 now. One has to wonder why G&R isn't going ahead with the project themselves if it's so great. Instead, it looks more like they're selling a liability. Or is it all just a ploy to get leeway for the ethanol project by raising the specter of the company otherwise going down altogether?

This project sounded questionable to me back in 2006 when I interviewed Maloney for an article in the Honolulu Weekly on the failure of the state’s ethanol program. At the time, Maloney was talking about burning molasses and coal to generate 12 million gallons of ethanol, and estimating a 2008 start date and a $50 million capital investment. G&R recently has been using a figure closer to $80 million.

Of course, there are those tasty tax credits to consider, which could explain Pacific West’s real interest. As I wrote in the Weekly:

The project will also take advantage of state and federal tax credits, Maloney acknowledges. Under Hawai’i law, manufacturers that produce between 500,000 and 1 million gallons of ethanol will receive a non-refundable 30 percent investment tax credit, or $150,000, whichever is less. The credit increases for bigger manufacturers, capping at 30 percent, or $4.5 million dollars, for companies that produce more than 15 million gallons per year. The state credits run for a maximum of eight years.

The federal small producer tax credit kicks in when the plant actually begins making ethanol, providing a credit of 10 cents per gallon of ethanol produced. Combined, they total about $4.8 million annually for Maloney’s project, if it’s producing at full capacity.

Another question to consider is whether KIUC really wants that ethanol. [Correx: The plan calls for selling KIUC not ethanol, but electricity derived from burning bagasse.] When you figure the old and new power plants together can generate 160 megawatts, and peak demand is currently 76 megawatts, where’s the incentive to encourage conservation or adopt alternatives? They’ve got to pay the debt service on those plants, so that means we — the lucky owners of this boondoggle co-op — get to keep paying the highest rates in the nation indefinitely because they aren’t in any position to stop burning oil.

And finally, there’s the question of Pakala camp. The paper reports:

As for the 300 company homes, 105 of which are occupied by employees and pensioners, Kennett said Gay & Robinson will maintain them into the foreseeable future and no one is being asked to vacate.

But just how long is the foreseeable future? It’s a crucial question, when you consider that plantation retirement pay is about $300 to $400 a month, which means the old folks living there couldn’t rent anyplace else. And all those homes are on cesspools, so G&R is facing a requirement to install a septic system. Now why would they invest millions in such a project unless there’s hotel component attached to make it all worthwhile? Or are they planning to bail down the road a piece, and let the government kick out the kupuna?

Sounds like a few surprises are still in store as the deal-making behind this transaction continues to unfold.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Musings: Think About It

I don’t know what it is about 3:30 a.m. — a clairvoyant friend calls it “the spirit hour” — but I nearly always wake at that time, usually from a vivid, strange dream, and quite frequently I indulge the restless urge to go outside and see what’s happening in that dark, silent realm, and of course, Koko is always good to go.

That’s what happened last night, and after a comforting little visit with the stars I was able to settle down and fall back to sleep, waking up at a more “reasonable” hour, when only Jupiter remained in a sky of palest blue just waiting for the sun to rise and deepen its color.

As we walked, Waialeale’s cloud cap tilted jauntily, then flew off and joined the masses forming around all the horizons, and after releasing a blast of pink, the sun disappeared altogether, leaving the sky gray instead of that vibrant September blue.

I was resting on a bench at a school bus stop when Andy rounded the corner, walking two dogs that belong to his daughters, along with his own, so we joined the gregarious family pack and Andy and I began, as we often do, talking politics.

Gov. Palin was the first on the list. It really irritates me that she’s dodging not only the press, but the public, too, repeating the same tired speech and same old lies, and refusing to take questions until her handlers decide she’s ready.

I’m sorry, but when you’re picked to be VP you’d better be ready to meet the press, and it blows my mind that the media is letting her get away with this. They should be asking questions, and when she refuses to answer, that becomes the story.

Instead we’re supposed to wait, breathlessly, as if its Angelina and Brad releasing their baby pictures, for her interview with hand-picked journalist Charley Gibson of ABC News.

One can only wonder what kind of sucking up he had to do, and concessions he had to make, ala Barbara Walters and her celebrity interviews, to get the assignment at all. And of course, the McCain campaign never would have chosen Gibson if they thought he’d be tough on her.

Speaking of the McCain campaign, I was sent a link to this youtube video prepared by someone who really picked up on McCain’s body language. More amusing was this clip from the Daily Show, in which Jon Stewart skewers right wing talking heads talking out of both sides of their mouths.

And if you’re tired of the McCain as war hero myth, you might be interested in hearing what one of the guys who was in the POW camp with him has to say about McCain’s fitness for the presidency.

Personally, I think someone who has been a POW isn’t the best choice for president. I mean, don’t you think that being imprisoned for years and tortured would kind of tweak somebody’s head? Look at the guys we detained and tortured at Gitmo. They emerge from the experience as shattered shells, and weren’t the Commies in Hanoi supposed to be even more vicious?

Of course, anybody running for president has to be a little bit whacked, or why would they even want the job to begin with? Still, it doesn’t make sense to deliberately pick someone who was psychologically scarred at a tender young age. And if it didn’t affect him, shoots, that’s even worse.

While I find it hard to believe that any thinking person could actually cast a vote for the McCain-Palin ticket, a friend warned me: “Never underestimate the stupidity of the American public,” a statement with which Andy immediately concurred.

One only has to teach college to know it's true, Andy said, because those kids come in and they don’t know anything — aside, perhaps, from how to operate a Blackberry. They’re good at that kind of stuff.

His suggestion: If the Republicans get in again, just go along with them and let them destroy public education, dismantle the NEA, because it would be obvious then that it wasn't working and they'd clearly never taught people how to think.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Musings: Alien Invaders

As Koko and I were walking back from the beach, we encountered two roosters fighting in the middle of the path, kicking up a lot of dust as they squawked and beat their wings and butted chests. Then they spotted Koko, straining at her leash, and quickly forgot their differences, running off in separate directions.

Came home to discover it’s snowing in my yard. No, not the pretty flakes that become drifts and snowmen, but African tulip tree seeds. Wrapped in their little cellophane-like packets, they’re made to travel on the wind and that’s exactly what they do, floating along and then touching down to blanket the lawn, the garden, the taro patch in a thin layer of white.

They’re the quintessential invasive species — fine in their native land, but over here, aggressive, opportunistic and once they gain a foothold, nearly impossible to eradicate or even control. And as I thought about them, it struck me that the very same scenario is under way with people in Hawaii, too.

Think about it. Just as Hawaii has many imported plants that are beautiful, benign or beneficial — those that provide food, delight the senses and are content to stay where they’re planted — the same is true for a lot of people.

And then we’ve got imported plants that are noxious, prickly and poisonous, and some that are invasive, moving quickly across the landscape, destroying all in their path, and still others that crowd out and smother the native species that evolved here for centuries unmolested and so never had a chance to adapt to that kind of aggressive competition.

I’m sure you can see the parallels to human behavior, what with the developers and the iwi desecrators, and the mainland mentality perpetrators, and the folks who absolutely must have the same stores/services they had "back home" and those who have absolutely no interest in learning about anything native, much less protecting it.

Of course, what you end up with, once invasive species take hold, is a homogenous environment that’s largely dysfunctional because it’s not appropriate to the place that's been overrun. A perfect example are the invaders that are smothering the native plants that support our watersheds. It’s also an environment devoid of its diversity, its uniqueness — the qualities that once made it special and distinct. And once that rare native ecosystem is destroyed, it's gone for good.

While conservationists can apply a lethal dose of herbicide to Australian tree ferns consuming the native forest, no acceptable control measures currently exist for the invasive humans who are inflicting no less damage as they slowly but surely crowd out the natives.

This musing made me think of a comment made by my friend Kepa Maly, a cultural practitioner and director of the Lanai Culture and Heritage Center.

“What was on the verge of extinction first?” he asked, when I visited him on Lanai earlier this year. “It wasn’t Hawaii's animals, plants or birds. It was the people.”

Now, largely because of invasive species, it’s all on the ropes.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Musings: That Fearful Feeling

The world was golden when Koko and I stepped out into it, and perfumed by the taro flowering beside my front porch. Wailaleale was buried under clouds in varying shades of black, and a sheet of rain — soon accompanied by a half rainbow — fell in the distance, on its lower slopes.

And then it all shifted and the clouds drifted and Waialeale reappeared, a hulking mass of blue on a green landscape. Just then I ran into my neighbor Andy, and we were walking along the road, laughing and chatting about higher education, when a cop drove by, slowly, checking us out, and immediately Andy was worried, because his dog Momi wasn’t on a leash.

I guess it’s just the nature of cops, but they have a way of evoking paranoia and fear, even when you’ve called them for help, and especially when you haven’t, and they just appear, or worse, when you’re called to them, which is what happened to me not too long ago.

I was interviewing Mark Marshall in the civil defense building, which is part of the Babylon complex that houses KPD, when he got a call on his cell phone from Deputy Chief Clayton Arinaga, who said he wanted me stop by for a little chat when we were through.

My mind raced, searching for reasons for my summons: Was my registration expired? Had I accidentally parked in Arinaga’s spot? I had a hard time concentrating on Mark, and after he showed me around the Civil Defense building, whose command room rivals NASA’s, he walked me over to the Patrol Services Bureau, where a lieutenant — first name Ollie, I didn’t catch the last — unlocked the door and let me in, then locked it behind us. [Correction: It was Capt. Ale Quibilan]

By this time it was after 5 p.m. and no one was around, except for Lt. Kaleo Perez and Arinaga, who were waiting for me in a room, and after Ollie [Corrrex: Ale} introduced us, he hung around, too.

So there I was, with the three top officers in the Patrol Services Bureau arrayed in a semi-circle around me, all armed, in their badges and uniforms, and Arinaga starts off by saying they wanted to talk to me about the Aug. 7 protest over the burials at Naue because they had a lot of photographs taken at the site with people they couldn’t identify, and I was there, wasn’t I? And then he added, before I could waffle, we were just reading your website where you wrote all about it.

I asked if I’d be incriminating myself if I answered and Arinaga said, no, we’re just having a little chat here, so I said, yes, I was there. Then they wanted to know how I’d heard about it, and were other reporters contacted, too, and did I know who had brought the “blackbears” that the protesters used to link themselves together and did I know all the people at the protest or the guys who came from other islands and was Palikapu Dedman a “personal acquaintance” of mine — whatever that means, because aren’t all acquaintances inherently personal? — and finally, did I cover all the protests on the island and was I planning to cover the court hearing on the motion for an injunction to stop construction of Joe Brescia’s house at Naue?

And all the while I'm wondering if they going to arrest me, and if so, did I have enough cash in my purse to post bail, and I was hungry and shaking cold from the AC and I needed to pee. After about 30 or 40 minutes, Ollie [Corex: Ale] walked me to the door, unlocked it and I was free.

Except I was so rattled and shaken by the experience, even though I’ve dealt with cops professionally for decades, that I could barely eat dinner and my sleep was restless and torn by bad dreams, including one nightmare in which Perez said, “Thanks for all the information that will help us build more vacation rentals on Kauai.”

Upon hearing my story the next day, a friend who is reasonable in all things, and well-connected in the system, vouched for Arinaga as a nice guy and suggested that I call him directly and ask what that little session was really all about.

So I did, telling Arinaga that in my nearly 30 years as a journalist, I’d never before been questioned by the police about a protest I’d covered.

Arinaga said they’d been looking at photos taken at the protest site and saw a Caucasian lady standing in the back and somebody said, oh, she’s over at Civil Defense right now, so they decided they’d make the most of my availability and ask me a few questions. And while that sounded a tad fishy, I suppose such a coincidence could occur.

I told Arinaga it seemed rather odd that the three top officers in Patrol Services were in on the interview, and he said they all just happened to be there so they figured they’d sit in, and then I asked whether he, as deputy chief, typically got involved in misdemeanor investigations.

He admitted he did not, but that this was a rather sensitive case and they wanted to get it wrapped up quickly. And apparently they’re moving toward that, as at least three persons — Andrew Cabebe, Hank Fergertrom and Jim Huff — were arrested Friday on trespassing charges stemming from the Aug. 7 protest.

Finally, I told Arinaga that being interviewed after hours by three high-ranking police officers was extremely intimidating, and was that their intention?

He laughed, and said no, it was just the way things had worked out, but that I probably would have found it even more intimidating if he’d had me arrested and brought in for questioning.

It was all very congenial, despite that last comment, which reminded me that cops have the power, and even though you might never get convicted, or even charged, they can still impose the ugly drama of an arrest on your life if they want to.

And as the journalists arrested while covering the RNC protests in St. Paul discovered, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got press credentials and are simply doing your job.

Is it deliberate intimidation? I tend to think so, especially when it's directed at journalists who aren't part of the mainstream media. Does it work? Probably, with some people. But with others, like me, once you survive a frightening experience, you also lose some of your fear. And that's where the real power lies.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Musings: Naue Nuggets

The action has been in the evening sky lately, with Venus, a crescent moon and Jupiter forming a gentle arch from the horizon at sunset, and the Milky Way so clear and dense with stars last night that I couldn’t tear my gaze away, even as Koko pulled at the leash.

By morning, when Koko and I went walking, it was all thick clouds, with the faintest lavender hue in the southwest and a light rain that turned heavy just as we got home. And at the bend in the road, an unexpected burst of lovely fragrance emanating from an unseen source, blossoms hidden deep within the dense vegetation.

I keep hoping for a similar sweet surprise in the Naue burials case, but it doesn’t seem promising. Judge Kathleen Watanabe is expected to rule on the matter by Sept. 15, but in the meantime, construction of Joe Bresica’s house on top of iwi will be allowed to continue.

Besides building his house, Brescia's minions have been busy adding another 11 defendants to the six already named in a civil suit filed against those who have attempted to stop construction. All the new defendants were identified by newspaper articles, television reports and this blog as allegedly having been involved in the Aug. 7 protest.

I’ll spare you all the details of the most recent court proceedings, as they are well covered in articles that Blake Jones wrote for The Garden Island yesterday and today.

Instead, I’ll share of the juiciest tidbits that I picked up in the courtroom yesterday.

For starters, it cost Brescia $15,0000 to $17,000 when Police Chief Darryl Perry halted construction at the site in June, saying the work could violate a law prohibiting desecration of burial sites, according to testimony by Brescia's project manager, Ted Burkhart.

Brescia has also spent a whopping $80,000 to date on security for the project, Burkhart testified, and continues to shell out $13,000 per week to have the site guarded 24/7. That’s $77 an hour, and you can bet the guards aren’t making more than $15.

He’s also had to spend some $150,000 more than he expected on the foundation, which included putting concrete jackets over the seven burials that are now stuck beneath his house.

Oh, and btw, Burkhart also revealed that they finished the house foundation just four days before they knew they had to stop work for a court hearing. How convenient, to go to court with the burials already covered in concrete. It may be legal, but it’s seriously smarmy.

And construction costs for the 2,400-square-foot house — originally estimated at $1.8 million — continue to rise, Burkhart said, because “the subs [contractors] have escalated their costs for that project. We’ve had some difficult in finding some people.”

Yeah, because who really does want to work on a burial project?

Philip Leas, one of Brescia’s attorneys, asked plaintiff Jeff Chandler, a Wainiha resident who claims he is a lineal descendant of the burials, if blessing the site would make him feel better about the desecration.

“I don’t think blessing that place will resolve your problems as far as the iwi,” Jeff said.

“Would it help?” pressed the attorney.

“How many blessings have you had already?” Chandler shot back. “Did it help? My experience with iwi spirits is if it’s not done properly then it will never help.”

It also became clear that the Burial Council, in voting to preserve the 31 burials in place, had no thought that Brescia’s house would be built on top of iwi, a view shared by Chandler.

“Preserving in place is taking care of them,” Chandler said. “Capping them [in concrete] is not preservation in any form I’ve been taught.”

Chandler’s testimony also underscored the ongoing squeeze that Native Hawaiians are feeling on the North Shore with the influx of luxury homes, many of them used for vacation rentals.

He said his family was forced to sell land in Haena because they couldn’t pay the skyrocketing property taxes. Chandler, a fisherman, said he’s had to start fishing at night because the beaches are too crowded in the day and the beach accesses are blocked with cars. And as access to the beach is diminished, he has to walk farther than ever to reach traditional fishing spots.

“You don’t like these vacation rentals, do you?” asked Leas.

“It’s not that I don’t like them,” Chandler said. “It has changed our community and lifestyle.”

And that, in a nutshell, is what this is really all about.