Thursday, February 19, 2009

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.


Anonymous said...

Regarding the humpback whale at Kekaha, didn't the Garden Island deny such a cause of death? I thought I remember reading something to that affect. There has been alot of activity in the ocean off the west coast of Kaua'i which I assume is related to training excercises by PMRF. I work up in Koke'e and have seen and heard it this past month. Coincidence?

awolgov said...

Good piece, Joan.

Joan Conrow said...

Thanks, Nunya. As for the whale death, no, I don't recall seeing the Garen Island deny that as a cause. And yes, I do wonder about all that military activity in the ocean and a possible link.

Anonymous said...

sounds like a good time to expand on the cheap, while others are selling and retreating

Anonymous said...

Another blog I've been meaning to recommend here is

It's a bit shrill, from the title on down, but there are a lot of little nuggets of sanity there, even far down in the comments. Of course, a gadfly lurks in the comments there too, but at least he sometimes makes surprisingly engaging remarks.

Anonymous said...

Give me a break. Kunstler went over the cliff of reason years ago. He's not only apocalyptic, he's rooting for us to go down. Our downfall will be the engine of radical social change. Island Breath should be renamed "Kunstler Worship." His, and their, brand of thinking makes the Left look just like what the Right says they are.

Katy said...

I agree with your suspicions about Kunstler.

I guess to his credit, he's accurately predicted seven of the last three economic and energy crises.

If you can, look at the piece titled "The Dystopians" in a recent issue of The New Yorker.

"The End Is Near" is not a novel rallying cry, but I doubt it has ever had much potential for generating positive and effective social movements.

Kunstler et al are simply modern-day survivalists stockpiling canned beans and ammunition. As far as I can tell, they harbor a deep well of contempt for the very people who will be most impacted by any increasing levels of hunger and ecological degradation. I don't see evidence that they are committed to any kind of social justice. Instead, they just seem to want to be able to say "I told you so."