Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Musings: Political Potpourri

Vog does have its benefits, as I observed while driving west yesterday evening and beheld the sun — its fiery brilliance muted into a perfect rose-colored disk that could be viewed without blinking by the naked eye — slowly sinking into the sea.

And somewhere out over that same sea are an untold number of kolea. Adorned for weeks now in their tuxedo-like breeding finery, it seems they’ve now departed for their nesting grounds in Alaska. I noticed a number of them congregating on the neatly mowed lawns of an “agricultural” subdivision on Sunday, and by Monday they were gone. Although they’re generally pretty solitary and territorial birds, each sticking to its own little patch of grass, they apparently join forces for the long flight to their summer home.

Like so many other Hawaiian words, a quick Google search revealed their name has been co-opted by numerous resorts, vacation rentals and other properties that have absolutely no relationship to the birds. Perhaps, as the old saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Unless, of course, you’re GMO giant Monsanto, which is suing Dupont for allegedly infringing on its Roundup Ready patent. The same article reports that Monsanto spent $980 million on research and development last year alone, and Dupont — the number two guy in the industry — is expecting to sell $500 million worth of herbicide-resistant corn and soybean seeds this year. Now are you starting to get an idea of just how big and valuable this industry is?

Larry Geller over on Disappeared News has a good idea: chase out the GMO industry and plant a real cash crop. Seems California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said it’s time to have a public debate on legalizing and taxing marijuana, which could provide an important new tax revenue for that state. So why not us? Larry’s post includes a very short PSA by Juan Cole, Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a former cop who speaks of “the horrors we have created in this war. The war on drugs is, has been and forever will be a dismal and abject failure.”

Got an email from Jeffrey Mikulina, formerly with the Hawaii Sierra Club and now with the Blue Planet Foundation, who was responding to yesterday’s post about Gov. Lingle criticizing Rep. Mina Morita for killing a proposal to ban new fossil-fueled electrical generating plants.

It seems he agrees with the guv’s position on the ban and still doesn’t “fully understand” why Mina took the stand she did. He directed me to the Booz Allen Hamilton report that indicates Hawaii could achieve a 70 percent clean energy goal with no new fossil-fuel plants and no imported biofuels. Mina reportedly had expressed a concern that a fossil fuel power plant ban could force the state to burn more biodiesel fuel, which she said is more expensive and has larger carbon footprint.

It seemed from Mina’s brief comments in the article that reported the governor’s annoyance that she was also objecting to the call for a ban right now. And after looking at the Booz Allen Hamilton report, it does appear that the scenarios for reaching that 70 goal — a cable to Oahu from the outer islands, more wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, hydro and electric vehicles and even aggressive efficiency measures — are so far off at this point as to fall into the realm of largely speculative.

Also got an email directing me to a cool site with shoreline study erosion maps. Kinda makes you think twice about buying that beachfront lot.

And another email about a meeting in Kilauea tonight to discuss a ditch system that was apparently created without a permit to divert water from Kalua`a Stream, which feeds Moloa`a Stream, into Kaloko reservoir. The loss of water has apparently hit Moloaa hard, as many folks there depend on wells. So what it’s looking like is a showdown between Moloaa residents, who want that water back, and about 20 users — some of them organic farmers — on the Kilauea Irrigation System, as well as the Mary Lucas Trust lands. There’s more in this report.

This scenario is yet another reminder that water is THE key issue. Without it, all our dreams of a sustainable Kauai, and even our reality of a non-sustainable one, will come to naught.

On that note, I wanted to provide an update on the efforts last Friday to have the default judgments against Andrew Cabebe and Kaiulani Huff set aside. They were both sued by Joe Brescia, who claimed their efforts to protect the iwi kupuna have cost him money — to the tune of $380,000. Judge Kathleen Watanabe wouldn’t allow them to rejoin the larger civil suit that is still ongoing against Jeff Chandler, Puanani Rogers and others. The best their attorneys could get was a stay on the judgment pending outcome of that trial, which will challenge some of the expenses Brescia claims he incurred as being part of the normal cost of building a house.

The judgment against Hanalei Fegerstrom was set aside because he wasn’t specifically named in the papers that were served against him. And a judgment against Nani Rogers was previously set aside because the process server claimed he’d served her on a day when she could prove she was in Japan.

It seems Brescia’s actions fall squarely in the category of a SLAPP suit. As Kaiulani noted: “He wants to ruin us and squash us like bugs.”


Anonymous said...

Although the purpose of the suit MAY be to silence them, they did give cause by their trespass. The case has merit, or it wouldn't have gotten this far.

If you go over the legal line in your opposition, you'd better be prepared to face the consequences, being solely monetary in a civil action.

These kind of suits occur all the time, especially in cases surrounding non-compete employment clauses. Suits are often used to punish...the cost of defending...rather than to win.

Anonymous said...

"Larry Geller over on Disappeared Newshas a good idea: chase out the GMO industry and plant a real cash crop. Seems California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said it’s time to have a public debate on legalizing and taxing marijuana, which could provide an important new tax revenue for that state. So why not us?"

-- ill be brief. pls look at this 10 min youtube video showing kauai youth smoking it up:

you may, as i did, recognize some of those young folks

im curious as to views on the topic after absorbing that video content

"Hawaii could achieve a 70 percent clean energy goal with no new fossil-fuel plants and no imported biofuels."

-- very interesting. thanks for the booz report!

"the process server claimed he’d served her on a day when she could prove she was in Japan"

-- so much for that servers reputation

otherwise, that guy has a legit case....there is will not be hard to show...seems just to be a matter of damages. i wonder if anybody has sat down with the defendants and really given them a reality check on how much money they may be forced to cough up (and i wonder if the real damages are more like, 10, 20k etc)

Katy said...

I'm not a lawyer, but I think it's an important point that what folks defending Naue are doing is preventing a greater harm. Whether some understand the nature of that greater harm or not, the fact is that to those who defend the burial site, it is an emergency that has to be addressed.

If one enters a burning building to save a child, should that person be prosecuted for trespassing and sued for damages far beyond their ability to pay? Like it or not, protecting this burial site is indeed a matter of survival to people for whom honoring burials is a social norm, particularly in the context of the existential threats facing them as Kanaka Maoli on all fronts.

I don't disagree with the assertion that those of us who enter into civil resistance must be prepared for the potential consequences. Entering any battle demands that. I have no opinion on the legal strategies being pursued by the defendants because I don't know enough about it to make those kinds of judgements.

I hope that the suits get dismissed. I hope that the site is preserved. We need to get some perspective on the idea that anybody can do whatever they want if they have enough money to do it. It's up to the Hawaiians to define where their own sacred sites are in these lands, and those of us who are not Hawaiian have an ethical obligation to respect that.

Anonymous said...

If your going up against monied fat-cats in a court of law you had better 1) protect your assets, or 2) have no assets so the judgment against you is irrelevant. Consider the infamous McLibel lawsuit (London Green Peace);

In 1990, McDonald's took environmental campaigners Helen Steel and Dave Morris to court after they distributed leaflets entitled "What's Wrong with McDonald's?" on the streets of London. The high-profile trial, which came to be known as the McLibel Case, lasted seven and a half years, the longest in English legal history.

Though a High Court judge eventually ruled in favour of McDonald's, it was something of a Pyrrhic victory. The extended legal battle was a PR disaster, with every aspect of the company's working practices being scrutinized and the media presenting the case as a David and Goliath battle. Additionally, the damages received were negligible compared to the company's estimated £10 million legal costs because the court ruled in favour of a number of the defendants' claims, including that McDonald's exploited children in its advertising, was anti-trade union and indirectly exploited and caused suffering to animals. McDonald's was awarded £60,000 damages, which was later reduced to £40,000 by the Court of Appeal. Steel and Morris announced they had no intention of ever paying, and the company later confirmed it would not be pursuing the money. Steel and Morris went on to challenge UK libel laws in the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that the lack of access to legal aid and the heavy burden of proof that lay with them, as the defendants' requirement to prove their claims under UK law was a breach of the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression. The court ruled in their favour[4] and the UK Government was forced to introduce legislation to change defamation laws.

Anonymous said...

Watch it here McLibel: Two people who wouldn,t say sorry

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, there is no court of last resort beyond our Supreme Court and, in this case, trespass laws are not gray.

Also, a judgement against them could last virtually forever, continuing to attach assets they may aquire in the future.

Too bad there isn't a debtors prison for those who willingly allow themselves to be sued by breaking obvious laws with the intent to be "judgment proof" by sheltering assets.

Anonymous said...

well put May 6, 2009 10:35 AM (i dont agree w/ a good part of it, but well put)

as to "have no assets so the judgment against you is irrelevant"

-- you might be surprised how effective a smart and determined collections operation can be. skip traces (for decades), citations to discover assets, body attachments (jail), sheriffs sale, etc ... wage garnishment is just an easy first step

(also, the UK has some weird libel and slander laws...its diff in the US)

anywho - if i were def counsel, id focus big time on attacking the damages portion, as i bet its inflated?

May 6, 2009 10:10 AM

Anonymous said...

Golly "smart and determined" Po-po gonna turn up the heat!

Scofflaws beware.

Look what happened to this guy and he did more than tresspass.

Everyone is equal under the law so it could happen to you.

"It passed without much fanfare here on Kauai - overshadowed perhaps by the FBI's arrest of Gary Baldwin on charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Baldwin, a prominent booster of all things marketing, tourism, and military related, arrived on Kauai fifteen years ago allegedly fleeing a handful of felony fraud indictments stemming form a Lear jet sale gone bad. According to authorities in Maricopa County, Arizona, Baldwin left behind a suicide note and arrived on Kauai with a nest egg of almost $400,000.Enough money, apparently, to grease the local business and political wheels while affording leisure time to play good citizen by volunteering his talents to a variety of high profile boards and committees.

Baldwin held key positions as President of the Kauai Economic Development Board (KEDB); Chairman of the Kauai Planning Commission appointed twice by Mayor Kusaka; was a charter director of the Hawaii Tourism Authority; and is currently the Managing Director of the West Kauai Technology and Visitor Center.

If these charges described in the indictments prove true, the questions to be asked are:

* Was Baldwin a master flim-flam man?... or were our prominent civic and business leaders low-hanging fruit ripe for the picking?

* Why didn't the County Mayor's Office or Ethics Commission do a basic background check on Baldwin before his appointment to the Planning Commission? (A beginning security guard position at Lihue Airport goes through a more thorough check and stringent standards than our own county government commissioners.)

*Why isn't a complete audit being conducted immediately for any account or transaction Baldwin was associated with since he arrived in 1986?

* Did these super-connected few with disproportionate power turn a blind eye and a deaf ear towards any perceived improprieties committed by Mr. Baldwin?
On July 29, 2002, I called the Kauai Economic Development Board (KEDB) to confirmed that Gary Baldwin was still the Managing Director of the West Kauai Technology and Visitor Center.I was told that yes Gary Baldwin was indeed the managing director but was out of the office, and "was not expected back for a long, long time.

Baldwin is now free on bail awaiting extradition to Arizona."

Well he was found "guilty" sentenced to house arrest, kept his house, never paid back all the money.

Anonymous said...

Kusaka couldn't help herself. She has agenetic attarction to BLING!!

Anonymous said...

Andrew Cabebe and Kaiulani Huff missed an oppurtunity to give the burial rules a state wide review.
Instaed of camping on the beach she should have been camping at the offices of the mayor, Hooser and Moritas. It was an election year and she could have drawn attention to the issue of how the existing laws address burial issues.
The Kauai legislators could have been forced to
Instead, she choose to make it about her vs Joe B. Holding the burials hostage while she claimed the spotlight.
Not what you would expect from a Buddist.

Anonymous said...

mental issues + weed smoking usually dont equal good judgment / decisions

Anonymous said...

May 6, 2009 7:26 PM

So while theyʻre camped out at Hooserʻs office, the construction proceeds? Because thatʻs what would have happened so she and the others were simply preventing further desecration which is a crime by the way.

Just spare us the should haves.

Anonymous said...

"mental issues + weed smoking usually dont equal good judgment / decisions"
May 6, 2009 9:16 PM

My my arenʻt we the grand ol pile of perfection. Iʻd like to meet you whoever you are of such pureness.

Regardless of alleged character defects, which apparently, you have none, she accomplished a pretty amazing feat. The likes of which, mediocrity could not have pulled off. Got to hand it to her.

Just a little petty and judgemental arenʻt you, wanker?

Anonymous said...

There's nothing saying construction won't still proceed once all obstructionist efforts are overcome.

Anonymous said...

there is nothing saying all obstructionist efforts will be overcome.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing saying construction won't still proceed once all obstructionist efforts are overcome.

Anonymous said...

"Regardless of alleged character defects"

-- good odds on proving it via medical and police records, sorry

Joan Conrow said...

OK, that's enough. Stick to the issues, not the person.

Anonymous said...

This is another great part of the Kauai Erosion website, the historical mosaics.

I frequently hear you didn't live here but when I was a kid the beach was here - now I can see where the beach was and is now.