Friday, February 27, 2009

Musings: Outdated Ideologies

The civil union bill has been getting a lot of attention lately, both in the mainstream media and blogs, where Poinography’s Doug White wrote about the Advertiser’s ”train wreck” of an editorial and Ian Lind today posted a touching — and disturbing — email written by a man who went to testify on behalf of the bill, only to be met with a hateful diatribe.

But the most clever blog post on the subject appeared on Jan TenBruggencate’s Raising Islands, where he drew parallels between civil unions and climate change, with bogus arguments as the connecting link.

It's hard to believe some folks still think gays are despicable sub-humans, just as it's hard to believe climate change deniers still hold sway, even in the face of so much evidence to the contrary. Democracy Now! broadcast a chilling report on the unexpected — and alarming — acceleration in greenhouse gas emissions, which are linked to global warming.

The guest was Chris Field, a Stanford University professor and leading member of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who this week testified before a Senate panel. What struck me, and this has been borne out by other reports I’ve read, is that despite growing concerns about global warming, we’re not changing course in any meaningful way. According to the lead-in to the Field interview:

Since 2000, emissions have grown at a rate of 3.5 percent per year. No part of the world had a decline in emissions from 2000 to 2008.

In fact, the emissions are increasing more rapidly than the rate used in developing the current climate models. According to Field:

The reason I say we’re on a trajectory of climate change that we haven’t explored is that we have only looked at scenarios where the growth of CO2 was limited to in the range of two to 2.5 percent per year. We genuinely don’t know what a climate will look like with the more rapid rate of increase that we’re actually seeing.

Field goes on to talk about Obama’s proposed “market approach” to dealing with climate change by developing carbon emission permits, which would be capped and traded:

Well, if I look at the problem, the thing that really strikes me is that we don’t have very long to get an effective climate regime in place. The risk with these ecosystem feedbacks is that once we get past a certain point in warming, the problem gets more difficult every year, because we’re ending up with, you know, essentially less and less help from the oceans and the land. And from my perspective, the really critical thing is that we get a handle on the emissions growth so that we can slow it rapidly and turn the corner, so that we’re looking at a period of decreased emissions moving into the future.

He also delves into what can happen when plants that are now frozen thaw out and quickly decompose, releasing yet more CO2:

The basic risk is that if we reach a certain point in the warming, what we’ll end up with is a vicious cycle, where the warming causes additional permafrost melt, which causes additional CO2 to be released to the atmosphere, which causes additional warming, which creates this vicious cycle.

The broadcast also included comments from the man that Republicans invited to the same Senate hearing, Princeton University Professor William Happer, who likened the attempt to control CO2 emissions to the same well-intentioned, but misguided, thinking behind Prohibition. He even said:

I believe the increase of CO2 will be good.

Field disagreed, noting:

Well, there’s been a tremendous amount of science to assess the likely impacts of rising CO2 on climate, and the IPCC overwhelmingly concludes that the overall impact is likely to be sharply negative.

So why, given what science has told us about the likely negative effects, aren’t we changing our behavior? Perhaps it has something to do with another Democracy Now! segment, which reported:

A new report from the Center for Public Integrity reveals that the number of global warming lobbyists has increased by more than 300 percent in the past five years. In the past year, some 770 companies hired over 2,000 climate change lobbyists and spent an estimated $90 million to influence federal policy on climate change.

The report cites NASA scientist James Hansen’s warning that “special interests will dilute and torque government policies, causing the climate to pass tipping points, with grave consequences for all life on the planet.”

And I'm left wondering, can the religious right remove its blinders and see gays as the human beings they are, deserving of equal rights and justice? And can the political right remove its blinders and see that its slavish devotion to materialism could doom us all?

I'm hopeful, but not optimistic. Outdated ideologies are hard nuts to crack.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Musings: Moral Issues

The world at 4 a.m. was silent, clear, calm and star-studded, but by 6 a.m. all celestial objects had disappeared, covered with thick, gray clouds blown in by a strong, chill wind that also delivered smatterings of fine rain. And now, an hour later, it is golden, the rising sun sparkling through branches and leaves tossing in the gusty trades as meadowlarks and shama thrushes warble, trill and sing.

What a difference even a short passage of time can make!

It took only an hour or so for attorneys on both sides of the so-called “ceded” lands issue to argue their cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, although gauging from the transcripts, they spent most of their allotted time answering questions from the Justices.

Reading through, I was struck by the way the Justices touched on the issue of moral vs. legal claims to the land, and also how the attempt by some to turn this into a race-based issue doesn’t seem to hold much weight here:

JUSTICE BREYER: And all we can say is that this Resolution of the Apology doesn't really say who's right. And if Hawaii wants to give some more money, or whatever they want to do, to the Native Hawaiians, that's their affair. What's the -- what's the problem?

MR. BENNETT: Well, Your Honor, it is certainly true that the Apology Resolution does not as Respondents state recognize the validity of any claims, but federal law forecloses the validity of any claims. And we believe that that is a question that is fairly included interior to the question of whether the Resolution stripped Hawaii of its sovereign authority. It's only natural for the Court to declare what we believe is the indisputable proposition that Hawaii's sovereign authority is based on --

JUSTICE BREYER: Could the Hawaiian Legislature pass a law saying that the Native Hawaiians have claims? Those claims, because of the Federal 1950 -- whatever it is -- are not valid any more. But that was pretty unfair to them. And, therefore, what we think we should do is the following. And then they pass a whole lot of things that they think would be appropriate to do in light of what I just said. What stops that?

MR. BENNETT: Your Honor, the -- legislature has wide discretion in managing and disposing of the assets.

JUSTICE GINSBURG: And the legislature, if they had wanted to -- as I understand the Admission Act, it lists five purposes to any one purpose. And the legislature, if it so chose, could say, we want this property -- the proceeds from this property to be for the exclusive betterment of the conditions of the Native Hawaiians. They could. It would be up to the legislature to give it all to the Native Hawaiians.

MR. BENNETT: That would not violate the Admission Act, Your Honor.

JUSTICE SCALIA: That -- that would not?

MR. BENNETT: That would not.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Would it violate the Admission Act if the legislature had not said -- said we are giving it to them because we want to, because we think it's a good idea. No, we are giving it to them because we think they have a right to it.

MR. BENNETT: Your Honor-

JUSTICE SCALIA: And we feel that we must give it to them because it's theirs.

MR. BENNETT: Your Honor, the --

JUSTICE SCALIA: Would that violate the Admission Act?

MR. BENNETT: The legislature believed that it bettered the condition of Native Hawaiians to provide proceeds from land to the Native Hawaiians. The Admission Act gives them that ability to do it.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Did you answer my question just then?

MR. BENNETT: Yes. I'd -- I'd like to --

JUSTICE SCALIA: Please, let me put my question again. Let's assume that the legislature does not say, we want to give it to the Native Hawaiians because we like the Native Hawaiians or because we think they deserve it; but, rather, we think we have to give it to the Native Hawaiians because it's theirs.

MR. BENNETT: I think that would be contrary to Federal law, Your Honor.

JUSTICE SCALIA: I think it would be.

This is interesting because previously, Bennett was reported as saying:

“The Hawaiian people have a moral claim to the land, but not a legal one,” Mr. Bennett said. “These decisions are committed to the discretion of Congress, whether or not it is immoral.”

So if everybody agrees it's a moral issue, and the Justices say it’s OK for the Lege to give the kanaka the land because we like them and they deserve it, but not because they have a legal claim, then why not just do the right thing that way? Independence advocates don’t put any stock in state or federal legal claims to the land anyway, saying that's a matter of international law, because you can't expect an imperial power to act impartially or fairly toward its colony.

Yet some still hold out hope that Americans, who orchestrated and then sanctioned the seizure of these lands, will somehow now do the right thing. As the Star-Bulletin poignantly reported:

OHA Trustee Colette Machado said on the courthouse steps that the bottom line is fair compensation for the lands taken away from the Hawaiian kingdom.

"We want justice to be done," Machado said, wiping away tears. "We stand for our queen, who went home empty-handed, and from there the overthrow took place and she was imprisoned."

Will the kanaka again come away from the American system empty-handed? I guess we’ll know in June, when the High Court is expected to issue its decision. In the meantime, the Lege can still act to put a moratorium on ceded land sales, although I'm not sure that's likely, either, given how they're dawdling.

A subject that is decidedly not a moral issue, no matter how much the religious right tries to make it one, is the civil union bill. I appreciated The Garden Island’s report today on how Kauai legislators voted on the measure. Gary Hooser and Mina Morita are indeed rare gems in the political world. To quote Gary:

“I think it’s the right thing to do. It’s overdue. It’s a fundamental value to protect the rights of people in the community who have been discriminated against,” he said. “If this bill passes, it means people will be treated equally and I believe that’s my responsibility. It’s in our constitution and this bill would accomplish that.”

And Mina:

Asked if she had done any informal polling of her constituents or weighed letters or e-mails she’d received when formulating her position, Morita said, “I think this is one issue, because it involves individual rights, it should not be gauged on polling. This isn’t a decision based on popularity. This is a question of civil rights, which government protects.”

Now compare that to Jimmy Tokioka:

Asked if representatives ever vote against public opinion if they feel passionate about an issue, Tokioka said, “That happens all the time. You take your personal conviction and it may not reflect the wishes of your district, but there are bills like this, the Superferry and gambling that you’d better make sure you check with the community before you vote.

“Especially on big issues like this, they want to know how you feel,” he said. “This is a big one.”

Yes, Jimmy, it’s a big one, so you’d best make sure you play it safe and don’t step on any toes, especially since you're eyeing that State Senate seat.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Musings: Twisted Reality

After enduring some 12 hours of travel just to get here from Denver — and I didn’t even experience any delays like the eight-hour wait my seat mate and his family suffered when their scheduled flight to Honolulu was cancelled — and picking up a nasty cold and ears that rang for hours, I was again amazed at what visitors go through to vacation in Hawaii.

And after talking to the Wikiwiki shuttle driver, who told me of transporting two men who had gotten drunk and fallen asleep, ultimately spending 10 hours in the sun and suffering severe sunburns and a melted wristwatch in the process, I was amazed at how visitors spend their time once they get here.

But what do you expect from folks who are essentially brain dead? Which is what happens to people who watch a whopping 151 hours of TV per month. That’s the average amount of time an American spends glued to the screen, and it’s an all-time high for the nation. Gee, what kind of world do you suppose we’d have if folks spent those same five hours per day in volunteer service, reading, in nature, or — gasp — interacting with others?

But the real, not cyberspace, kine, because children who engage in repeated exposure to sites like Facebook and Twitter run the risk of infantilizing their minds, according to a new study. As the Guardian reports:

Social network sites risk infantilising the mid-21st century mind, leaving it characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity, according to a leading neuroscientist.

Now, that can’t in any way be a good thing, particularly when those little minds have already been warped by all the junk TV and insipid videos they’ve been watching since infanthood so their parents don’t have to deal with them.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the U.S Supreme Court is now hearing oral arguments in the state’s appeal of a Hawaii Supreme Court decision regarding ceded lands. It’s really unfortunate that Lingle and AG Mark Bennett didn’t back off, even after the Legislature passed a resolution— with only four dissenters — asking her to drop the appeal.

Lingle and her buds keep arguing that they're compelled to appeal for the benefit of the public. But aren’t the Legislators supposed to be the representatives of the citizens? If they don’t think an appeal is a good thing, why doesn’t she just give it up? And what about the interests of those members of the public who happen to be kanaka maoli?

It’s hard to imagine wanting to have that kind of action on your conscience — assuming, of course, that Lingle and Bennett, even have such a thing. And given their performance in the Superferry issue, that’s open to debate.

In response to the blatant land grab, protests are planned all around the nation, including Kauai, where folks will be meeting at 3 p.m. at the corner of Kuhio Highway and Hardy Street for a march to the state building. As for the scene in America, The Advertiser reports:

In San Francisco, hundreds are expected to gather at the Civic Center Plaza. Individuals organizing the event say they do not necessarily support OHA or any other group, but want to protect the public trusts and ensure greater accountability of those lands on the part of politicians.

That’s really the crux of the issue here, and it’s disheartening to think that a court packed with Bush appointees may be making a decision that could strip Hawaii’s indigenous people of their birthright.

Over in America, Obama tried to rally the financially fearful with his first joint address to Congress, in which he did the usual blah blah about the greatness of the nation and the need for folks to essentially stop watching five hours of TV a day and get off their asses and do something:

What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face and take responsibility for our future once more.

Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that for too long we have not always met these responsibilities—as a government or as a people. I say this not to lay blame or to look backwards, but because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we’ll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament.

Come on, Barrack. Don’t you know the only reality the masses want is the kind they get on TV? And even that twisted form of reality is more than they can handle. You've gotta start twittering, Mr. Prez., if you want to get folks' stunted attention.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Musings: Looking for Good News

A train whistle is blowing as I write this, happily preparing to leave the land of $1.86 gas, cold winds and air so dry my eyes feel gritty and it’s difficult to swallow. I can’t wait to get back to Koko and the soft, warm greenness of Kauai, where I plan to put away my suitcase for a good long while.

Given the nature of my visit here, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the inherently dysfunctional nature of families — or at least, my family, and I know it’s not the only one. But apparently a lot of folks believe that only heterosexual couples should be allowed to form their own little dysfunctional units, with some 2,000 of Oahu’s intolerant converging on the state Capitol yesterday to oppose the civil unions bill.

In what can only be deemed a bizarre correlation, Rep. Dennis Arakaki, who heads the Hawai'i Family Forum, a nonprofit group that opposes same-sex marriage, civil unions and other legal recognition of same-sex couples, said that in light of all the impact studies required of the Hawaii Superferry, it doesn't make sense to "fast track" a measure that would have a much greater social effect on the state. The Advertiser article continued:

We can accept the lifestyle, but we don't want to institutionalize it."

Of course, that comment about accepting the lifestyle seems questionable, given that some folks were carrying signs with such decidedly intolerant messages as "Destroy the Core of 444," and "Turn to Jesus or Burn in Hell."

I don’t know about you, but I find those comments downright scary.

Meanwhile, I received an email from a woman named Angelica Lee, who said she is a sophormore in Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. She writes:

I am now working as a partime editor for, and my job is to collect hawaii positive news and translate them into chinese, so as to attract tourists to Hawaii. But at times like this it's geting harder and harder to find many good news.

So i am writing to ask for help. Could you be kind enough to inform me when you hear or encounter any positive news of Hawaii? or you could teach me how to unwrap the bright sight of a plain or even bad news.

OK, Angelica, I’ll be on the lookout for good news from Hawaii, which is something the environmental and nature magazines are always seeking, too.

And how fascinating to discover this evidence of a push to build the Chinese tourist market, perhaps to replace the dwindling Japanese tourist market.

A bit of good news for Kauai, although not for the rest of the state, is Monsanto's announcement that it’s transferring its Kauai operations to Maui and Oahu. Lucky them. That still leaves Syngenta and Pioneer Hi-Bred on Kauai, though.

Along with the usual corporate fluff in the press release that The Garden Island re-reprinted, was this interesting tidbit:

Over the past several years, Monsanto Hawaii has been expanding its operations and employee workforce, particularly on O‘ahu, Maui and Moloka‘i, where suitable agricultural land was available.

It kinda makes you makes you wonder what’s unsuitable about Kauai’s ag land.

Now it's time to head for the airport and that very long day of westbound travel, with the reward of home and Kauai at the end.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Off and Away

Well, my Mom's service is on Saturday, so I'm headed out to Denver tonight on the red eye, and not the crip kind. I never like those long flights, and it was harder to gear up for this one because of what's waiting on the other end.

But it's one of those big life passages, and so I'm going. Five of my six siblings will be there, and as a dear friend said this morning: "It'll be good. It'll give your `ohana closure."

I hope so. Took Koko out on the trail to get a good Kauai fix before I went, and could actually see the water falling down Makaleha, with some of it blown by the wind. What a place. Needless to say, it fortified me.

Thanks for all the condolences and kind words and support.

Remember -- just let it all go. 99.9% of it is bullshit, anyway.

Musings: Powerful Interests

The crescent moon had its own little halo when Koko and I went walking this morning in temperatures so chilly that sheer will was required to exit my warm, snug bed. The birds, too, seemed slow in stirring, only occasionally singing out as we walked along the darkened street, beneath a gray and star-spotted sky, my bare legs all the while wishing they had coverage equal to the two sweatshirts that encased the upper half of my body.

In the distance, Waialeale appeared as a looming, pale blue hulk until dark clouds blew in, decapitating the summit and erasing the mountain’s distinction from the sky.

Is there a distinction between Hawaiian groups, in terms of who is best qualified to comment on how ancient burials should be handled? Members of the Kanaka Council Moku 0 Keawe think so, which is why they called upon Senators yesterday to add their group to the proposed new list of organizations the state should consult with in picking Burial Council members and deciding whether a burial site should be preserved in place.

Senate Bill 1803 proposes adding Alu Like and various Hawaiian civic clubs and cultural organizations to the list. But the Kanaka Council, which includes many of the same Big Island guys that came to Kauai to protest Joe Brescia building a house atop burials at Naue, noted in their testimony that “The organizations as recommended in the amended language should have individuals that meet the criteria of a Native Practitioner or have Native Hawaiians who are knowledgeable in our traditional culture, traditions and practices.”

They also called upon the Committee to “exclude Representatives of development and large property owner interests, because there is a conflict of interest regarding the cultural practices of handling the ‘Iwi’.” The committee passed the bill with amendments, but I was unable to find out on-line just what those were.

It was disappointing to discover that even though Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe suggested changes to the state burial law are needed to prevent more Naue situations, this rather meek little bill is all that emerged on that hotly contentious topic. Is that an indication of the strength of development interests, or the weakness of kanaka interests?

Farmer Jerry was over at the Lege yesterday looking out for agricultural interests, urging Senators to use some of that federal stimulus money to invest in ag infrastructure, not just highways. It will give people jobs immediately, he said, and also in the long run.

That makes sense. Or maybe lawmakers will just wait for the second stimulus, now that Sen. Inouye has already come out and said the $787 billion just approved may not be sufficient to “stem the tide.” Of course, if the forces dragging the economy down are equal to the strength of a tide, we may as well just pack it in.

I liked the analysis by retail industry consultant Howard Davidowitz, who observed this about the floundering, shell-shocked American public:

The aspirations have to come down and that’s the only thing that can save us.

Really. I mean, just when did people start thinking that a comfortable retirement meant having a second home in the tropics? Or that a $30,000 car is a reasonable purchase? Or that going out to eat several times a week is SOP? Or that clothes aren’t OK unless they’re emblazoned with a designer name or label?

I’m not sure if comments left on the Davidowitz interview and Inouye story are an accurate representation of public sentiment, but it does seem that folks generally distrust the ability of government to solve the economic problems and accept belt-tightening as sane and sensible. In fact, many seem to welcome it.

Could it be that people never really were all that keen on the mass consumerism that has characterized the past few decades, and instead just got sucked into the dangerously ebbing tide of living well beyond one's means, the same tide that now needs stemming? And does that speak to the strength of advertising interests — or the weakness of John Q. Public in recognizing his own best interests?

Finally, I thought you might be interested to learn that the humpback whale found dead off Kekaha last week had pretty massive damage on its left side consistent with a boat strike. But NMFS folks aren’t ready to publicly say yet just what killed that baby.

Meanwhile, to elaborate on a story in today’s Garden Island, tissue samples taken during and immediately after the application of rodenticide pellets on Lehua showed no sign of the poison in fish caught off the island’s south side, and on-site monitoring “found no detectable movement” of the pellets on land, according to Chris Swenson of the Fish and Wildlife Service, whom I spoke with yesterday.

So it doesn’t appear likely that the rodenticide played a role in the Niihau fish kill, despite what Keith Robinson may suspect. I only wish that Keith would also have told us why his family waited several days to report the fish kill if they found it so very disturbing and alarming. Perhaps other, undisclosed, interests are at stake.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Musings: Just Wondering

It seems that truly, to borrow the words of “Pogo” cartoonist Walt Kelly, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Us, as in the U.S., which is “generally held to be responsible” for the world economic crisis, according to Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence.

As a result of that crisis, economic instability is now the nation’s greatest security threat — greater even than terrorism, according to a Reuters article, which covered Blair’s presentation to Congress last week of a report that represents the findings of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies and serves as a leading security reference for policymakers and Congress.

"Time is our greatest threat. The longer it takes for the recovery to begin, the greater the likelihood of serious damage to U.S. strategic interests," the report said.

"Instability can loosen the fragile hold that many developing countries have on law and order, which can spill out in dangerous ways to the international community," Blair told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Ever since I heard that, I’ve been wondering, so what does this mean exactly, in terms of America’s domestic and foreign policies? Think back to 9-11 and all the Draconian measures that came from the launch of the so-called “War on Terror:” the Patriot Act, unauthorized wiretapping, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, unprecedented security measures at airport, a wall along the Mexican border.

And now we’ve got a situation that supposedly is worse than what prompted all that. Yes, got a different President, albeit one who chose a retired admiral as head of national intelligence. But when our “strategic interests” are at stake, hasn’t the U.S. always done whatever it takes to protect them? Again, what does this new assessment of the world’s dangers to America portend?

It took delving through a number of articles to get some clue. According to the Reuters article, “Tough economic times and frustration with the government were radicalizing people all over” Afghanistan.

OK, and we’re stepping up the clampdown there:

The United Nations has announced the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan last year jumped by nearly 40 percent as the violence in the country soared to its worst levels since 2001. There were over 2,100 reported civilian deaths. The UN said militants were to blame for 55 percent of the deaths, while US-led forces were responsible for nearly 40 percent. Meanwhile, 3,000 more US troops have arrived in Afghanistan, marking the first wave of an expected surge of US forces as part of President Obama’s plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, according to an AFP article on the national security report:

”Besides increased economic nationalism, the most likely political fallout for US interests will involve allies and friends not being able to fully meet their defence and humanitarian obligations."

Does that mean the U.S. is going to assume the role of world humanitarian, along with world policeman? The article went on to note:

"It already has increased questioning of US stewardship of the global economy and the international financial structure," Blair said, with trading partners already upset over a "Buy American" provision in a US stimulus bill.

But the economic crisis also gives opportunities for renewed US leadership in international forums such as the World Trade Organization and the G20 club of rich and developing nations. 

"The US tradition of openness, developed skills and mobility probably puts it in a better position to reinvent itself," the US intelligence chief said.

How do you suppose that might look, America reinventing itself when faced with the prospect of losing global economic “stewardship?” What steps will it take to exert greater control over global forums? What can we expect here at home, if the stimulus bill fails to stimulate, just as the bail out bill failed to bail out, and the shit really starts to hit the fan on Main Street, right about the time the Obama euphoria wears off?

I don't know myself. But I'm wondering.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Musings: Forgive and Forget?

The moon was a perfect white half on a canvas of twinkling stars when Koko and I went walking this morning. Clouds shaped like running rabbits and other indistinguishable forms cruised around the edges of the sky and bunched up over Waialeale.

As it grew lighter, I made out the shape of my neighbor Andy, with two dogs, and we all walked together for a while, talking about the annoying way that cats have of meowing loudly to be fed, which is why Andy was out so early, and the average life expectancy of pre-contact Hawaiians (about 30), before touching briefly on GMOs as the sky blushed pink and we parted ways.

I’ve been thinking about parting ways, and the process of reconciliation, while following a recent email thread about last month’s Hookuikahi-Reconciliation events, an annual observation tied into America’s illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. The discussion, joined by those who are Native Hawaiian, and those who are not, delved into the role that forgiveness plays in the process of reconciliation, while raising such questions as: Should Hawaiians forgive? Can they? And what is the best thing for our community's common good?

The dialogue was prompted by Kahu Kaleo Patterson distributing an essay written by Kahu Teruo Kawata, who was reflecting on these weighty questions: Can there be reconciliation without forgiveness? Can there be reconciliation without justice? Can there be reconciliation without repentance? Kawata wrote:

P.W. Botha President of South Africa who presided over the apartheid policies never repented, never apologized. He called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission a circus. Thurston Twigg-Smith has rejected any idea that his ancestors did anything wrong in the overthrow of the Queen. And how about the rapist and the murderer who do not repent. Is there no possibility of reconciliation?

That prompted another person to respond:

Since forgiveness is for the individual's own good and requires no reconciliation or restitution, it is something we can all do to recognize that the past is gone, but we can still come together in the present without resentment, so that we can move forward together for a better future for all.

And that got someone else wondering:

If we accept that the past is "gone", then what is there to reconcile? From what place and which experiences do we bring forth the notion of "common good" and apply it to a world that is indifferent to its beginnings in an effort to foster forgiveness and a better future?

Which led to this observation:

While the past is gone, the present is still here and needs to be dealt with fairly and properly. I don't think we go numb to the need for justice and reconciliation now, simply because we treat the past as gone and don't act out of our emotions of anger and bitterness over what's over.

Kaleo weighed in with:

How does forgiveness rebuild community.... How does forgiveness grant permission to be angry about ongoing injustices... In regards to historical wrongs, what if they continue to persist... Ceded lands, burial desecration, racism, colonization..... How can one forgive the rapist, when the rape continued... When it has become the cultural violence of the day...

That elicited this response:

Sometimes anger and passionate demands for payback are appropriate. But usually when they come many years later, they are counter productive to a true solution. Certainly if the goal is for both parties to Ho'Opono and work together in Lokahi for the common good, it is better to eliminate elements of anger and revenge and for the injured party to seek appropriate restitution from a place of fairness, rather than anger.

Forgiveness doesn't eliminate, negate, or minimize the offense, it just allows efforts at rectification to move forward from a different energy space. And again, I assert that the person who is hurt by retaining the anger is the one who won't forgive.

Which led to this:

At the risk of oversimplifying the definition, one of the primary definitions of ho'oponopono is to "make right” which is very different than "fixing wrong." By approaching the situation from the “to make right, proper or correct” angle, “making right” becomes the focus with an intention to create conditions that are peaceful, in rhythm and in balance. Rather than bring the elephant into the room and spend the remainder of the time trying to get it out of the room, the alternative calls for focus on a room where the preferred condition exists, absent of elephants! Don’t call the beast and you won’t have to kill it when it arrives!

While difficult, I think it is possible to seek justice, recompense and restitution in the absence of anger and or hate. But in the absence of forgiveness, is there any justice or restitution that can ever be achieved that frees future generations from anger, hurt, despair, “dis-ease” and loss? Is it “fair” to ask grandchildren who no longer have the benefit of their inheritance to forgive the descendants of those responsible for the theft, especially when those robbed are asked to forgive those who continue to benefit from their stolen goods [and] are seeking “forgiveness” and reconciliation but offer no recompense or repentance? Saying “I am sorry” doesn’t remedy damages anymore than extending forgiveness releases a person from accountability or responsibility for their actions.

Clearly this is not and should not be just an issue for or about Hawaiians? It speaks to a human condition, a condition that I think anyone that has been harmed politically, socially, economically, spiritually etc., seeks to remedy. In simple terms, does forgiveness make people whole? In the case of Hawaiians when if ever will forgiveness make them whole again? Is that an unrealistic expectation on their part or on ours collectively? Will Hawaiians stop appearing at the top of all of the wrong lists or will they just feel better about being there?

With the Akaka Bill and the ownership of Hawaii's "ceded lands" now being debated, these are questions that deserve deep consideration, and beg some sort of answer. Surely we can all agree that a wrong was committed in 1893. Now how do we set things right?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Musings: Losing the War

The moon, though shrinking fast, was still bright enough to trick me into thinking it was closer to day than night, which is why Koko and I were out walking under a smattering of stars this morning.

The clouds were just beginning to turn pink when we returned home, my thoughts already on the cup of hot, honey-sweetened Earl Grey tea that soon would be warming my body and focusing my brain.

Caffeine is one of the drugs that is lucky enough to be legal, despite reports that it is ”mildly addictive.” The same cannot be said for the two other highly addictive drugs — alcohol and nicotine — that are widely and legally consumed by Americans.

But all the other substances that folks like to use are not only banned, but the focus of a brutal and expensive war, much of it waged on Mexico and other Latin American nations. And now a Latin American panel is saying that war has not only failed, it’s pushing their societies “to the breaking point." According to an article in The Wall Street Journal:

The report, by the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, is the latest to question the U.S.'s emphasis on punitive measures to deal with illegal drug use and the criminal violence that accompanies it. A recent Brookings Institution study concluded that despite interdiction and eradication efforts, the world's governments haven't been able to significantly decrease the supply of drugs, while punitive methods haven't succeeded in lowering drug use.

The report warned that the U.S.-style antidrug strategy was putting the region's fragile democratic institutions at risk and corrupting "judicial systems, governments, the political system and especially the police forces."

The report comes as drug violence is engulfing Mexico, which has become the key transit point for cocaine traffic to the U.S. Decapitation of rival drug traffickers has become common as cartels try to intimidate one another.

A journalist friend of mine, who has been living and working in Tijuana for the past two decades, confirmed the failure of America’s policy. He called me a week ago, tense and anxious, saying that for the first time he is considering leaving that border city because the violence has become so extreme.

The city’s official murder count for 2008 was 843. Nearly all of the dead were either innocent bystanders or directly linked to Mexican and Columbian drug trafficking organizations, which gross an $19 billion to $34 billion annually, according to the 2009 National Drug Threat Assessment, a report by the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Drug Intelligence Center.

The actual number of murders is thought to be much higher, he said, because many of the victims simply disappear. In one particularly chilling account, a man confessed to being paid $600 per week by a drug cartel to liquefy some 300 corpses in barrels of acid.

In 2007, the Mexican government seized some 10,000 automatic weapons involved in the drug trade, he said. Some 95 percent originated in Texas, Arizona, California or New Mexico and were brought to Mexico illegally.

“It is the evil-doings of Americans who consume drugs and have no qualms about selling these guns that have no purpose but to kill people as quickly as possible,” he said. “What’s going on in Tijuana wouldn’t be possible without what’s going on in the U.S. We’ve got drugs going north, and money and guns going south.”

Ironically, once the money is counted and laundered — a process that involves a vast number of ordinary people and legitimate businesses, thus sucking them into the drug cartels’ web — much of it returns to the U.S. as legal bank deposits, he said.

He sent me the draft of a story he’s working on, which I’ll link to once it’s published, that included these paragraphs:

Life in Tijuana goes on. The buses run, people go to work, kids go to school, traffic still sometimes jams the city’s major arteries. But something has changed dramatically in the last year or so: most of the city’s residents go about their day-to-day business with a gnawing apprehension, haunted by an unpleasant feeling that something horrible may happen at any moment. The sensation is similar to what you feel when you narrowly avoid a car crash, or catch a child just in time to avoid disaster -- relief that it did not happen, distress that it almost did, dread that next time you may not be so lucky. The Tijuana state-of-mind has become popularly known as “the psychosis.” Anyone who lives in Tijuana knows what you’re talking about when you use the term.

While Tijuana has yet to descend into chaos, the situation is so stressful – almost unlivable – for ordinary people who just want to live their lives and raise their families that some have begun calling on the government to call a truce with the narco cartels, or to allow one cartel to win control with government help.

My friend has another suggestion: “Legalize drugs.”

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Musings: Wise to Wait

It started raining hard about midnight and the downpour leaked over into the day, breaking briefly for a golden haze at sunrise, then resuming again when the next batch of clouds crested the horizon. Koko thought she wanted to go out, but when she saw the deluge, she backed away from the open door and decided she could wait.

It would have been wise for the biotech industry and Food and Drug Administration to take a similar approach before introducing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into our food supply and nature. But when there’s big money to be made, there’s no time to waste.

So now we’ve got these engineered organisms, which move genes not only between species, but between taxonomic kingdoms, in foods being eaten by some 1 billion people — including you, unless you’re really, really akamai and careful. Because it’s in virtually all the corn, soy, canola and sugar beet products, which means almost everything on the supermarket shelves, unless it’s organic.

“GMOs expose the public in a way that no other technology has,” said Jeffrey M. Smith, author and founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology, in a talk in Lihue last night. “It was introduced long before the science was ready, if it ever was ready.”

The GMO issue is multifaceted, and none of it is pretty. You’ve got multinational corporations trying to control the world’s seed supply. You’ve got dramatically increased herbicide and pesticide use associated with the herbicide resistant crops that have been developed. You’ve got an estimated 125,000 peasant farmers in India committing suicide because they were financially ruined by their foray into GMO crops. You’ve got livestock dying there after feeding on genetically engineered cotton crops. And you’ve got GMO crops cross pollinating with other plants.

Smith decided to focus on the issue of GMOs in food because he thought it was the most effective way to stymie the spread of this stuff. After all, consumers have a lot of clout, and their resistance is already prompting major food companies to drop their use of milk from cows injected with a genetically altered bovine growth hormone.

The point that Jeffrey makes is we really don’t know what health effects GMOs might be causing because the studies just haven’t been done. The FDA doesn’t require such testing, having decided — with a biotech-friendly executive who is now a VP at Monsantoin charge of policy — that GMO foods are substantially no different than the real kine. The agency scientists who disagreed were systematically silenced, along with independent researchers who have produced reports unfavorable to industry.

In fact, very few animal studies, and none of them long-term, have been conducted. But when they were, the animals demonstrated problems ranging from infertility and low birth weight to allergies, digestive problems, weakened immune systems and even death. “Many animals, when given a choice, refuse to eat GMO foods,” Jeffrey said.

And in the only GMO feeding study done on humans, scientists found Round-Up Ready genes in the gut bacteria of participants, disproving industry claims that the genes are destroyed during digestion. So how is this affecting us? No one really knows. It's a giant uncontrolled experiment, and we are the unwitting lab rats.

Anyway, since Hawaii has more open field tests of GMO crops than anywhere in the world, with much of that research being done right here on Kauai, it’s a pertinent and pressing local issue. Councilman Tim Bynum popped by last night to check out Jeffrey’s book, and Councilman Derek Kawakami sat through the presentation. It was good to see they’re at least curious.

If you are, too, I’ll be on Katy Rose’s talk show on KKCR from 4 to 5:30 p.m. today interviewing Jeffrey on this issue and taking calls. You can listen live on line.

Moving on to other troubling topics, I’ve been doing a lot of research lately into the management and condition of Hawaii’s fisheries. I’ve got a story in this week’s Honolulu Weekly that starts:

Isaac Harp is a fisherman who does not fish, a Native Hawaiian who is hesitant to eat the fish that are a staple in traditional Polynesian diets. That wasn’t always the case. Read the rest here.

It’s another example of the free-for-all that develops when an industry that just doesn't want to wait pressures those who are in charge of managing a public resource to make some unwise choices. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Musings: Riches to Rags

Imagine a massive sunrise shell of sweeping silver clouds arrayed over a pasture so deep in mist it appears as thick snow in the moonlight.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the sky, sheets and jagged bolts of lightning illuminate a towering, stationary cumulus pillar that slowly turns pink in anticipation of the dawn.

That was the world that Koko and I traveled through on our walk this morning. And to think we almost slept through that rich pageant.

I’ve been thinking about the rich, ever since reading an article in The New Yorker, which itself has grown slim without the usual glut of luxury goods advertising, about how things have gotten so bad for some of them that they’re selling off the family jewels.

Imagine, having to hock your nine-carat diamond, just to pay the bills, or go through the humiliation of an upscale sort of garage sale attended solely by a woman from a jewelry-buying store.

“Just visualize a dining-room table with everything laid out in rows,” [Palm Springs buyer Tracy] Sherman said. “They’ve taken the jewelry out of the safety-deposit box and laid it out—all the earrings, and then come the bracelets and the suites of things that go together.” Often, the house is for sale, too. “And there’s all the inherited jewelry: things from the twenties that are from the great-grandmother. And then the grandmother’s things are from the forties and fifties, and now Mom is selling her things that are from the seventies.” Sherman helps them prioritize: “I always say, ‘Well, now, have you worn any of it? Or is there anything you’re still emotionally tied to?’ ” She does a bit of therapy: “Most of them never thought about having to come up with money to pay regular expenses. I look upon it positively and say, ‘Be glad you had these things, and be glad you had great taste, so now you can sell it in order to continue.’”

If there’s anything good to come out of this economic downturn, it’s jolting those at the top of the socio-economic ladder into the hard world of having to come up with money to pay regular expenses.

As for the rest of us, the question is how to keep it all together. Democracy Now! broadcast a troubling interview yesterday with Professor James Galbraith, economist and professor of public affairs and government at University of Texas. Amy Goodman noted that conservatives continually say “it was not the New Deal that ended the Depression, it was World War II,” and Galbraith responded:

It is true that the war made a major transformation in the economy. It drove unemployment to zero. But it also did something else. It gave the American family, the American household, a financial cushion, which was the war bonds that people accumulated during the war that formed the basis for the financial prosperity of the 1950s and 1960s. And that is what made the—made it possible for the private financial system, which collapsed in 1929, to recover in the 1950s and ’60s. And I think that point is very important, because what it shows you is that when the financial system goes down, as it seems to have gone down in the last couple of years, recovery requires a long time. And the precondition for recovery is not fixing the banks; it’s fixing the balance sheets of the households, the creditworthiness of the American family.

So what does lie ahead for our economy when so many Americans have no war bonds or savings of any kind, only extensive credit card debt, nearly worthless stock portfolios and greatly overvalued houses, many of them with mortgages that are worth much more than the house? It certainly doesn’t look pretty.

And neither does Coco Palms, which has been steadily deteriorating since Iniki trashed it in 1992. Proposals to redevelop the property continually fail to pencil out, including the most recent one, which is why the developer was back before the planning commission yesterday asking for a three-year extension of his permits.

The commission deferred the matter, but what it really needs to do is say no. For years commissioners have made like they’ve been forced to allow all that resort development in the Wailua-Kapaa corridor because of zoning and permit decisions made years ago. To do anything but slam dunk ‘em with the most minimal of infrastructure improvements would constitute a dreaded “taking.” So now that they have the chance to stop that cycle, why don’t they?

It’s time to drop the sentimentality and face the facts about Coco Palms. Like the hedge fund traders in Manhattan, its glory days are over.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Musings: Marine Mysteries

Reports of a dead humpback whale calf washing up on a westside beach Monday afternoon have prompted more than a few people to ask: what’s up with the waters around Kauai?

As you may recall, a dead calf also washed up on a Niihau beach recently. The Robinson family reported it to state officials on Feb. 2, along with accounts of a major fish kill on the island’s southern beaches. It’s unclear, however, exactly when the whale and fish died. Two state guys flew to Niihau — with the Robinson’s charging $4,000 for the chopper ride — to investigate on Feb. 4, and said it appeared the fish were not freshly dead.

And on Jan. 20, there was a mass lanternfish kill at Kalapaki Beach on the eastside.

So within the span of three weeks, we’ve had two big fish kills and two dead baby whales. What’s strange about it, besides the proximity of otherwise infrequent events, is that the dead fish were deep and mid-water species, whereas reef fish are more commonly involved in big kills. “It’s very mysterious,” said one scientist, noting the state is awaiting toxicology reports on the dead fish.

Some state officials, scientists and conservationists are wondering if the deaths are connected to a recent aerial application of rodenticide on Lehua, a small island near Niihau. According to a press release from USDA-APHIS:

On January 6 and 13, 2009, biologists from the National Wildlife Research Center and the Wildlife Services' Hawaii state office, in cooperation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Hawaii, aerially broadcast diphacinone rodenticide bait pellets on Lehua Island.

The island is a 312-acre crescent-shaped volcanic cone that supports colonies of seabirds such as Laysan and black-footed albatrosses, red-footed and brown boobies, black noddies and shearwaters. Some of these species are threatened by invasive Polynesian rats. Two diphacinone bait drops were used during the rodent eradication operation to ensure there was enough bait to reach every rat during a lethal exposure period.

A similar rat eradication effort was carried out last February on Mokapu Island, off the north coast of Molokai, with the EA anticipating no non-target poisoning problems:

The [environmental] assessment noted studies concluding that fish were unlikely to ingest bait pellets and that there would be no impact to marine animals from direct or indirect ingestion of diphacinone. In addition, the report said the pellets were not expected to persist for more than two to three days in winter seas.

"Exposure levels of marine invertebrates to toxins in the bait would be at such low levels and for such a short time that no tissue accumulation is anticipated and no effects to humans," the assessment said.

Follow up studies apparently bear that out:

No detectable concentrations of diphacinone were found in the fish, limpets, or sea-water samples from Mokapu Island or from the reference sites.

Similar tests were to be done after the Lehua rodenticide application, and I’m waiting to hear about the results.

Of course, PMRF – the largest underwater range in the world — is also over in that neck of the woods, and no one but the navy knows what was happening there these past few weeks. The latest whale washed in at Kokole Point, on the border between the base and Kekaha. In The Garden Island account of the beaching, PRMF spokesman Tom Clements says only that “the base is reacting to the reports and will remain on standby as NOAA checks into it.”

“Are they using sonar out there?” wondered one scientist. “This is the same navy that ran their cruiser aground on a sandbar on Oahu. I don’t have a lot of confidence in them. What 21-year-old navy kid pushed the wrong button and blasted the hell out of the marine environment? Oops.”

Btw, in attempting to free the billion-dollar warship, the navy dumped 5,000 gallons of sewage to lighten its load, without bothering to tell the Department of Health or anyone else. “That’s just another example of the navy doing whatever the fuck it wants,” said a biologist.

Speaking of the navy doing whatever the fuck it wants, Maui's Dick Mayer sent out an email with the message:

Here is confirmation for what we have been saying all along. The Superferry was a prototype for the Navy's new JHSV vessel, both as in the design of the ship, and as a mechanism to train the many workers who will be needed to build the Navy's ships.

It was accompanied by this link reporting on Austal getting the Joint High Speed Vessel contract, potentially worth $1.6 billion:

“As demonstrated by the two Hawaii Superferry vessels recently constructed at our Mobile, Alabama facilities, our US shipyard has the capability to deliver large high speed advanced aluminium platforms on time and on budget - a capability which will be further enhanced upon completion of the MMF and the expansion of our US workforce,” Mr Browning said.

I hate to say I told you so, but....

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Musings: Same Old, Same Old

A few geometric patterns of light passed for sunrise in an otherwise cloudy, gray sky when Koko and I went walking this morning. She was friskier than usual, set off, perhaps, by a dog that barked furiously at us from the front seat of a passing truck, which prompted dogs around the neighborhood to join in the chorus and had Koko lunging and snarling at every subsequent truck, of which there were many.

It was a scene not unlike what is happening around the $900 billion economic stimulus bill, which has President Obama sounding the alarm as he presses for quick action, right-wing politicians and radio commentators snapping over pork and a so-called war on prayer and environmentalists howling over plans to spend billions on nuclear power.

Yup, $900 billion is a pretty big bone, and it’s not surprising it’s causing more than a few fights. But can we really spend our way out of this mess using borrowed money, especially when over-spending, over-consuming and over-borrowing is largely what got us into it?

We keep on doing the same things, while expecting different results, which is not unlike the situation with agriculture on Kauai. Farmer Jerry gave me a copy of a the proceedings of a 1971 conference on “The Future of Agriculture on Kauai,” and it's proven to be an interesting trip down memory lane.

Yup, even 38 years ago those in the know were deeply concerned about the deleterious affect of land speculation. They issued a strongly-worded call to protect ag lands, strictly enforce land use zoning, stop granting variances for non-farm uses on ag lands and halt the process of fragmenting large parcels into smaller lots.

They even went so far as to say no subdivisions should be allowed, “especially on Class A or B lands, and only seldom on Class C lands.”

We all know how well those cautions were addressed, that advice heeded. And why were they ignored? Because special interests groups held sway, using the argument that unless we pursued development, the economy would end up in the crapper. So we did, with a vengeance, and yet it still wound up in the crapper.

Is it so wild and lunatic fringish to suggest maybe, just maybe, it’s time to try another approach?

On a similar note, a Big Island reader responding to Monday’s post, which touched on the not-so-greenness of solar power, emailed to say:

“Gee, Joan, I thought I was doing the right thing four years ago when I chose to invest in solar panels and batteries rather than continue to pour money into HELCO's gaping maw.

I have to admit, I was surprised to see that the panels were made by Shell, but I wasn't given a choice of manufacturers, and is it even possible to produce solar energy without some kind of carbon footprint? I can't help but think this alternative is way better than forever burning imported oil.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to solar power, and if I had a house on the Big Island, I’d likely choose it over HELCO and the scourge that is geothermal. My point was only that so-called “green energy” isn’t always green, especially in a corporate-controlled world where people are constantly forced to choose the lesser of two evils, whether it’s energy or politicians.

As a New York Times blog post notes:

In the latest installment of the debate over the emissions impact of corn-based ethanol, researchers from the University of Minnesota and other institutions found that corn ethanol is worse for health and the environment than regular gasoline, and far worse than cellulosic ethanol.

It prompted a reader to comment:

Seems like no matter what we do, it’s wrong. For every possible solution to a problem, there seems to be ten reasons why it won’t work. Or one person’s solution is the cause of the problem to another person.

Hello! Yes, let’s think these things through and figure out their true costs and full ramifications before we start touting them as the next great saviors, replete with tax incentives and subsidies and vacuous marketing campaigns. Because what bugs me even more than shallow thinking is the hype that invariably accompanies, and trivializes, these various initiatives.

As the late George Carlin observed in his own inimitable way: “It’s all bullshit — and it’s bad for you.”

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Musings: Hatching a Plot

Have you noticed how life is loving life? I’ve been wowed lately by a stunning profusion of flowers popping out all over on a clustered planting of Manilla palms, the lushness of the pastures and hillsides, the luxuriant thickness of naupaka hugging the coastline, my own honohono orchid dense with little buds. It’s evident that the rain we’ve been having, and that continues this gray morning, is exactly what nature needs.

The wind has died down, but not before blowing some nests out of trees. I found two on the ground yesterday, although neither had eggs. Meanwhile, Laysan albatross chicks are hatching on the North Shore.

On another island, and in another world, the Legislature today begins hearings on bills intended to circumvent the plot hatched by the Lingle-Bennett team to wipe out Hawaiian land claims in one fell swoop, via the U.S. Supreme Court.

The House will take testimony on HB 1805, and HB 902 which seek to prohibit the sale or exchange of the so-called “ceded lands” and requires DLNR to make an inventory of public trust lands.

The Senate, meantime, will hold hearings on SB 475, which prevents the sale of “ceded lands” pending the U.S. Supreme Court decision, and SB 476, which requires a two-thirds majority vote of the Lege to sell or exchange those lands. Another bill, SB 996, prohibits their fee-simple sale.

The bills have similar language, including:

This Act shall remain in effect until the claims of the native Hawaiian people to the public land trust lands have been resolved or until the legislature finds that the state no longer supports reconciliation between the State and the native Hawaiian people.

It seems that’s the crux of the issue: does the state really support some sort of meaningful reconciliation with the Hawaiians? It doesn’t appear so from the approach that Lingle-Bennett are taking in appealing a unanimous Hawaii Supreme Court decision that held sales of “ceded lands” must be halted until the Hawaiian land claims are settled. They're contending the lands , which were seized during the illegal overthrow of the monarchy, were turned over to the state upon annexation and so the Hawaiians have no claim to them at all.

According to a press release from the Legislative Hawaiian Caucus:

“People need to realize that this is absolutely one of the most serious issues to affect our people in a long, long time,” [Office of Hawaiian Affairs Administratory Clyde] Namu‘o said. “Gov. Lingle needs to hear that not only the Hawai‘i community is upset over this bill, but the broader community as well.”

While Gov. Linda Lingle has not stated any plans to sell “ceded lands,” to have the U.S. Supreme Court to comment on Native Hawaiian claims to those lands is the worst thing to happen, when the State and Native Hawaiians are currently in a process of reconciliation, Namu‘o explained.

Meanwhile, as the Honolulu Advertiser recently reported, the appeal is generating some high-powered opposition:

Abigail Kawananakoa, the great-grandniece of King David Kalakaua and Queen Kapi'olani; a trio consisting of former Gov. John Waihee, former Hawai'i Supreme Court Chief Justice William Richardson and current Senate President Colleen Hanabusa; the Hawai'i congressional delegation; the San Francisco-based Equal Justice Society and the Japanese American Citizens League; and the National Congress of American Indians were among those filing legal briefs in opposition to the Lingle administration's appeal. Oral arguments before the court are set for Feb. 25.

It’ll be fascinating to see what the Lege does with this hot potato. Will it issue a rebuke to Lingle? Does Hanabusa have enough political juice to get a bill passed? Is the Legislative Hawaiian Caucus a force to be reckoned with? Will the kanaka maoli get screwed — again? Or will they get a chance to hatch their own version of sovereignty, justice and reconciliation?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Musings: Cashing in on Kauai

A friend and I were driving through Kapaa yesterday afternoon while the Super Bowl was being televised. It was like a ghost town, with virtually no traffic, either pedestrian or vehicular, prompting my friend, born and raised on Kauai, to proclaim: “Wow, it’s like before time kine.”

Stopping into a store, the cashier asked, “Where is everybody?”

“Yeah, the town is totally deserted,” I replied.

“They all watching television!” she said, shaking her head in disbelief.

It is kind of amazing how a televised sports event can have the same effect as a neutron bomb.

Not that I’m complaining. The beach was nearly empty, save for two guys setting net and a couple of surfers, as was the Laundromat, where a car parked out front bore the bumper sticker: If you hate the Hawaiians, why the f*** did you move to Hawaii?

Spotted another bumper sticker that expressed a similar sentiment: No fo get fo go home.

I think that’s how more than a few folks feel about Kauai Springs owner Jim Satterfield, who last week got his permits to keep operating a water bottling company that turned a public resource into a private one for his personal profit. According to The Garden Island:

Environmental activist Elaine Dunbar said the water bottling operations “constitute the taking of a public resource,” and that allowing the company to sell the water for profit would open the door for companies such as Coca Cola’s Dasani brand and Pepsi’s Aquafina label to come to Kaua‘i and “suck it dry.”

Of course, for Satterfield it’s all about cashing in on Kauai:

During a break prior to the agenda item, Kaua‘i Springs owner Jim Satterfield said he “came to see if they were going to do what the court told them to do” and that the permits, which he expected to be approved, would open the door for him to court investors to help him take his operation to faraway places like Japan.

Meanwhile, another `aina exploiter, Pioneer Hi-Bred, is whipping up some media attention for itself because it installed solar panels out at its Waimea Research Center.

It kind of shows you just how perverted — and meaningless — these “greening” initiatives are when you have a chemical company that grows GMO crops using intensive chemical agriculture on so-called “ceded lands” stolen from the Hawaiian Kingdom getting a big back pat for, as Chamber of Commerce President Randall Francisco described it, joining “Kaua‘i’s ever-growing list of businesses and residents who believe in the benefits of renewable energy and a sustainable Kaua‘i future.”

Hmm. But is it really a sustainable future it’s embracing, or the estimated $200,000 to be saved yearly on the electric bill?

Even Mayor Bernard Carvalho joined in the fawning, saying:

“I believe a project like this is just a stepping stone for many other projects throughout the island,” Carvalho said. “What a great example for us to look forward to.”

Yes, Bernard, let’s all jump on DuPont’s wagon, a prospect that’s even more amusing when you check out the press release and discover:

DuPont offers the broadest portfolio in the solar energy market with eight essential products. DuPont is a leading material and technology supplier to the photovoltaic industry with more than 25 years of experience in photovoltaic materials development.

Just think: you, too, can save the earth by buying solar panels made from petrochemicals and toxic chemicals (and what kind of environmental footprint does their production and shipping create?) while supporting a giant corporation that wants to control the world’s seed supply and brought us such great cancer-causing products like Teflon.

Gosh, I feel better already.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Musings: Standard Expectations

The sunrise is sort of like the Super Bowl — there’s the pre-pregame show, which in this case was all soft pink, followed by the pre-game show, which was streaks of fiery orange, and then the game itself, which this morning was rendered gray and colorless by clouds.

Happily, unlike the game the sunrise is devoid of the incessant, annoying, largely meaningless patter-chatter of the announcers, although some might put roosters in that category. I noticed the on-line edition of The Garden Island is carrying a large ad for rooster traps, with a link to a website that chastised the state and county governments for offering “no help for responsible control in this area.”

Fine, except I didn’t see any mention of what happens to the roosters once they’re caught. Are the trappers supposed to dispatch the birds themselves, or release them in some other neighborhood? Or are the cages equipped with some secret offing mechanism?

The promoters were careful to distinguish between the wild roosters and the fighting kind:

We understand that some people love and care for these wonderfully made creatures as pets. Pet owners need to be sure that during night time hours that their critters shelters are covered to block any light from entering until morning, to cut down on the level of noise for their neighbors. This should become the standard expectation.

Uh, yeah, right. Go tell that to the guys raising them and see if your “standard expectations” are met. It seems a lot of trouble between newcomers and locals are those vastly differing ideas about what constitutes “standard expectations.”

Still, most us share the standard expectation that politicians continually seek higher office, and in this regard, Kauai Sen. Gary Hooser does not disappoint. I had an email in my inbox yesterday advising me that Gary is planning a run for Lt. Gov in 2010, and launching his fundraising drive now. The Advertiser picked up the story, but The Garden Island, in its usual “not quite on it” approach to reporting local breaking news, did not.

That means he could be playing second fiddle to Mufi Hanneman, Colleen Hanabusa, Ed Case and Neil Abercrombie, all of whom are reportedly eyeing the governor’s seat, along with Duke Aiona. But first he has to beat possible contenders Robert Bunda, Donovan Dela Cruz and Rod Tam.

I’d rather see Gary go to Washington, but who can blame him for wanting to stay in the Islands?

At least we don’t have killer cold snaps, like the one in the Midwest that left 1.5 million people with power and prompted blogger Rick Moran to use the eye-catching headline: “Obama hates white people and wants them to die.” It was intended to be a take-off on allegations made about Bush when FEMA was non-responsive after Katrina, and includes whining about the lack of chain saws to cut away fallen limbs and trees in Kentucky.

Seems to me a chain saw would be a reasonable thing to own if you’re living in a wooded, rural place like Kentucky. Shoots, after Iniki, folks were out clearing debris from the roads alongside, or ahead of, the county and state crews. Yeah, government’s got a role to play, but there’s no substitute for being able to meet at least some of your own needs.

A local friend yesterday was bemoaning the shift away from self-sufficiency that he’s seen just in his own middle-aged lifetime on Kauai. His advice for folks feeling the pinch of the recent economic downturn: “Sell that big truck, get rid of your credit cards and stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. Remember your roots, man. You used to eat fish for breakfast, and we’re not talking ahi, we’re talking manini and nenue.”

A friend emailed to report that the Obama stimulus package might actually turn out to be a good thing. It apparently includes $400 million for habitat restoration, of which $20 million is for coral reef work. He was even contacted for his ideas on "shovel ready" projects that would help the reefs, create new jobs and bring money to Kauai. Now that's pretty amazing, both the money for restoration work, and that he was even asked.

Meanwhile, the economic slowdown isn’t just helping military recruiters meet their enlistment quotas. Tough times, and the election of a black man, reportedly are boosting the ranks of the KKK. On-line registration is up, and it’s even recruiting in New Zealand:

"They don't go where people are happy with money in their pocket," [former Imperial Wizardand now born again Christian pastor Johnny] Clary said.

"They pick on the poor, the miserable, the down and out."

The down and out locally now includes — aw, what a shame — the helicopter industry, what with Air Kauai losing its fleet to the bank. Meanwhile, those who are still operating have launched a “help line” aimed at making disgruntled residents think someone really gives a rip about their concerns about noise and overflights.

Of course, even the industry admits “some of the worst offenders” are not participating, and members of STOP DAT (Disrespectful Air Traffic) are also underwhelmed by the effort:

[Carl] Imparato said the help line is more about the companies “managing their PR rather than dealing with the root of the problem.”

“We suspended our campaign in response to county requests to hold off given the current economy,” he said. “We had hoped in the interim that the problem would be resolved.”

Well, Carl, if tourism stays in its current nosedive, the problem very well may be resolved, Air Kauai-style.

And just in case the recent swelling of patriotic pride caused you to forget, here’s a little youtube clip to remind just how lame your fellow countrymen are. It seems you'd best lower your standard expectations.