Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Musings: Sucky Stuffs

Waialeale’s summit was sandwiched between a pink sky and pink clouds when Koko and I, after a restless night of roosters that wouldn’t stop crowing, headed to the beach this morning, arriving just in time to see the sun rise orange and vibrant out of the sparkling sea.

Mounds left by burrowing crabs created the tropical version of a prairie dog village on the sand, and Koko busied herself with furious digging and stick chewing as I dove into water inhabited by hundreds of tiny blue fishes.

And then we returned to the parking lot, where a few piles of broken car window glass served as silent reminders that some folks are just waiting for their chance to grab what’s not theirs — you know, sort of like colonialism. Only people don’t go to jail for that kind of grabbing.

A surfer friend said the weekend’s big south swell drew crowds and a few thieves to Lawai Beach Park, where two surfboards were stolen and someone’s “wallet was rifled.”

It seems that surfboard thefts are relatively rare on Kauai, so as my friend described it, “usually you put one board on top (of the car) and go out. That sucks if you have to be paranoid about that now.”

Here’s another thing that sucks: As of today, the Kauai-Niihau Burial Council is down two members, so it won’t be taking up the burial treatment plan for Joe Brescia’s house until those vacancies get filled. Meanwhile, the hammers and saws are busily vesting Brescia’s interest. If you want to apply — and one of the vacancies is for a landowner/developer rep — call 808-692-8015.

While we're on the subject of sucky stuff, it seems there’s a conveniently-timed bright spot on Hawaii Superferry's horizon:

U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) has issued a Market Survey to ask about the cost and availability of U.S. ferry vessels. Anticipated delivery will occur on October 1, although the vessel owner may propose alternate delivery dates. The location of proposed usage will be Guam, Saipan, and adjacent Pacific Ocean waters. The time charter will be for 12 months, with the possibility for three additional year-long renewals.

How many other ferries, at least one of which is already equipped for military use — do you ‘spose are just hanging around in America? Never underestimate the strings that can be pulled by a former Secretary of the Navy....

And never underestimate the power of denial. In a New York Times op-ed piece, Paul Krugman rips (in genteel NYT fashion) into Congressional climate change deniers, whom he accuses of immorality, irresponsibility and “treason against the planet.”

Now there’s a case the World Court should take on….

Problem is, ain’t but a very few of us who aren’t guilty, at least as accomplices, in creating the conditions that threaten, as Krugman so vividly recounts, to change the world and life as we know it — and quite a bit faster than we might be expecting:

Thus researchers at M.I.T., who were previously predicting a temperature rise of a little more than 4 degrees by the end of this century, are now predicting a rise of more than 9 degrees. Why? Global greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than expected; some mitigating factors, like absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans, are turning out to be weaker than hoped; and there’s growing evidence that climate change is self-reinforcing — that, for example, rising temperatures will cause some arctic tundra to defrost, releasing even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

I’m not a scientist, but from what I know about nature, and how everything is interrelated, I always figured that climate change would occur at an exponential rate, and by the time we finally got on it, well, it would be just a little too late.

But heck, until then we’ll have four lanes of traffic crossing the Wailua River, and if that isn’t progress, I don’t know what is. It’ll only cost $30 million to employ up to 150 people for a year and allow motorists, after slogging through 14 months of construction, to zoom over the river — only to get bogged down at the next bottleneck heading north.

I figure the DOT will have the traffic on Kuhio Highway running smoothly just about the time the sea has submerged the bike path and is lapping at the road’s shoulders.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Musings: On Blogging

A big rain came through last night, giving the morning a fresh, clean feeling when Koko and I went walking as nene honked overhead and the fragrance of unseen citrus blossoms wafted through the air.

Venus and Jupiter were still visible, and for the first time in the two weeks since I moved, Waialeale revealed herself — initially just her notch, and then her flat, sloping summit, overscored by a long, thin, pink-gray cloud, and then, as the sun rose behind a gilt-edged puff, her full face, flushed delicate rose.

Now that made me happy. As for Koko, she was already dancing at the end of her leash, rarin’ to chase the hens that skittered across her trail. She might have been happier if I’d let her loose, but then, I would have been less happy, as would the people whose yards she dashed through and dogs she set off while in hot pursuit. So she stayed tethered.

Mornings like these are part of the reason why I blog, a topic I’ve been thinking about ever since I read Ian Lind’s own musings on the subject and got my first request to run an ad.

Like Ian, it’s definitely not for the money, in part because there isn’t any, per se, although I have gotten paying work as a direct result of this blog. As Ian so aptly described it:

It’s not a business, that’s clear. But it’s more than a “hobby”, since I feel that need to publish daily and, at least now and then, produce original content and useful documents and information. It’s an expression of that journalistic impulse that hasn’t been either constrained, or supported by, any economic sense. In other words, somewhat unsustainable except in this crazy world of blogging.

Regular blogging does seem to fall into the realm of addiction. Some days I don’t plan to blog, or even especially want to, yet before I know it, I’m blogging, a habit that occasionally makes me late to early morning appointments (don’t tell the acupuncturist) and has prompted friends to leave telephone messages like, “you, step away from that blog,” and “Koko, is mommy blogging?”

Still, it makes me feel good to share nature’s beauty, as I hope it will encourage other people to appreciate it, or at least notice it, and so take better care of it, and also to pass on bits of information that I think people need to know, which leads to the other, undeniable aspect of blogging: ego.

Of course, ego is a part of any published writing, and perhaps even more so with blogging, because it’s all about what I want to write, and how I want to write it, with no pesky editor tossing in his two cents or worse, rewriting it into something he thinks is better, but usually isn't

Not to mention that I likely would have no other place to publish many of the things covered in this blog, especially in the current dismal market.

But aren’t you trying to educate people and change the world? asked an equally idealistic friend when i discussed this subject with her.

Most definitely, and that drive has earned me such nicknames as Messenjah, and intrepid reporter Joyce Babbage, and the less kind Terri, which is short for a frantically barking terrier. But when you get right down to it, even that lofty objective is ego-driven, based entirely on the premise that my ideas on how the world should be/could be are not only worth considering, but implementing, and while I really hate to admit otherwise, when I’m totally honest, I have to.

Besides, those leaving comments often force me into that realization, which leads to another reason I blog: spiritual practice. Noticing what’s going on in the world around me as I walk is a very pleasant way to live consciously, be present in the moment. And there’s nothing quite like the anonymous comment section of a blog to drive home the lessons of humility, patience, compassion, kindness and tolerance — and all the opposites of those virtues.

I’ve learned a lot about myself, and even more about people, by blogging. Several friends have remarked on the “really weird people” who seem to read my blog, but I don’t mind, because I like quirky people, although there have been times, fortunately in the more distant past, when I was almost afraid to look at my blog because of the unruly comment section.

But that, too, taught me valuable lessons about setting appropriate boundaries and not taking things personally and letting stuff go rather than stewing.

I’ve also learned a lot about writing. Like any craft, it gets better with practice, and practice is best when it’s fun, which blogging usually is, and it’s helped me free up my public writing from the constrictive forces of mainstream journalism that shaped it.

I figure the educational aspects alone are worth plenty, and would cost a good bit if one could even find such curriculum at a university, so I keep blogging, even though it takes a good bit of time and doesn’t earn me any money.

I also keep blogging because people keep reading, and commenting, and to all of you have participated with me in this venture, I say mahalo. I’m glad to have you along for the ride.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Musings: Desecration in the Hood II

It seems there was a bit of action yesterday at the house that Joe Brescia is building atop burials at Naue, what with kids coming to pray, sing and chant to the iwi — prompting contractor Joe Galante to call police — and all the tree-cutting that was going on for the second day in a row.

Since the police were there, anyway, taking Galante’s complaint, Caren Diamond took the opportunity to file a complaint of her own about Bresica et.al. fencing off the public beach.

Now this is an interesting issue, with statewide implications, and while it’s a bit convoluted, I’ll try to present a synopsis of it here. Essentially, Brescia’s shoreline certification survey, which defines the extent of the public beach for the purpose of determining the construction setback, was set in July 2005, at a time when the ocean there is at its calmest.

The state took some 16 months to approve the certification, during which time Caren won her state Supreme Court case that defined the public beach as extending to the seasonally highest wash of the waves. Caren and the North Shore Ohana appealed the certification, based on that ruling, and Bresica also appealed it, because he wanted to be closer to the water than the certification would allow.

The state didn’t grant either appeal, rejecting Caren’s “proferred evidence” of nine years of photographs showing waves washing up onto Brescia’s lot. Brescia put up orange plastic fences to mark the line, and Caren got more pictures of waves knocking them down.

That certification expired in 2008, but after Brescia began constructing his house, he erected new fences along the same boundary, posted with No Trespassing signs.

So the question now is, does the line used to determine the house setback become his private property line forever? Is the shoreline fixed at the time of development? It’s not supposed to be, under a new county ordinance that prohibits fences within 40 feet of the setback in recognition of the fact that the shoreline migrates.

Caren’s complaint to the police yesterday was based on the premise of “you can’t keep people off the beach based on an outdated shoreline.” And since the state approved the shoreline without using any historical data, “what happens when the owner wants to make it permanent? How does the public get the beach back?"

The issue is complicated by the fact that the county allows owners to irrigate and landscape up to the shoreline, so they cut down the beachfront shade trees and plant lawns and naupaka hedges and pretty soon they don’t need fences, because they’ve got a natural barrier to keep the public off land that, under the Supreme Court ruling, quite often is public beach.

In looking back at the article I wrote about Caren’s case, I found a quote from then DLNR director Peter Young:

‘If someone considers it the ownership line, we correct them and tell them it’s not.’

Problem is, the burden is on the public to prove it with photographs, which can lend to conflicts between residents and property owners. Joe Galante wasn’t too pleased to see Caren taking pictures at the site, and she said he approached her in a “menacing” and “threatening” way, demanding to know what she was doing and videotaping her as he stood on the land in question.

On this particular day, Caren was also acting as a community monitor because trees were being cut, and apparently some root balls were removed. Nancy McMahon of the State Historic Preservation Division said no ground-altering activities can be conducted without an archaeologist on site, and since she had received a number of complaints, she is reportedly going to check it out, as is county inspector Les Milnes.

As you can see in these two pictures, some of the trees that were cut are quite close to some of the iwi, which are surrounded by orange fencing. And since some of the burials are described as “scattered remains,” it’s possible that bones could be found in the adjacent area.

Meanwhile, even though the state still has not approved a Burial Treatment Plan for the property, you can see from this picture that the house is coming up rapidly. Kaiulani Huff's camp also is gone from the beach there.

And so goes the ongoing desecration in the hood.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Musings: Making a Difference

As "the world mourns Michael Jackson" — at least, according to Yahoo headlines — I wanted to take this opportunity to remind everyone that even we more ordinary human beings can make a difference in the lives of others. Mahalo to Richard Kinney, Hawaiian independence warrior, for sending this along.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Musings: Fortified

Bits of gray traded places in the sky, like jigsaw puzzle pieces that didn’t quite fit, when Koko and I went walking on the roadside path this morning. We passed the regulars, some with dogs, bikes, I-pods or all three, and exchanged the usual greetings, nods, smiles. A horse, silently communicating the command/desire “pet me,” stretched his head over the fence and then melted beneath my stroking hand and soft words. Some days we just need a hug, and today, apparently, was one of those for him.

The sun arrived, creating a column of dusky red that rose like a fiery smokestack in the east, just beyond Kalalea, and I was marveling at the way a far off rain shower was tinted pink as it floated across the sky until suddenly it wasn’t far off, but right there, and we took shelter under the roof of the Fuel Mart until the rain blew farther mauka, obliterating the mountains and leaving a rainbow in its wake.

I’m so glad I’m one of those people who naturally wakes up early and so am able to enjoy the dawn of each day. It fortifies me with a good feeling that persists even through exposure to the news — not that you could call The Garden Island’s article on a Poipu animal cruelty case that. Reporter Paul Curtis completely threw objectivity out the window in his coverage and allowed himself to become a propaganda machine for the Kauai Humane Society.

I’ve noticed this every single time the paper covers stories that obviously come from the Humane Society. The reporters let director Becky Rhoades say any kind, with nary a glimmer of any other point of view. She did the same thing last month in a piece on roosters confiscated from a chicken fight.

Now no one wants to learn of dogs starving and rotting in their kennels, but there’s also the issue of trying —heck, slandering — a person in the newspaper, especially when he’s awaiting trial. And I couldn’t help but wonder if the KHS offensive was an attempt to CYA. I mean, they reportedly found a dead dog in this guy’s kennels in March, and after seeing everything was hunky dory in April, the enforcement officer stopped following up.

Come on. People don’t go from having a dead dog in a kennel to being model pet owners in a month. Surely a tad more oversight was warranted.

Today’s article notes:

The case is a bit puzzling to Rhoades, she said, because KHS offers free food, owner educational assistance, spay and neuter services, and other services, no questions asked.

What Dr. Becky in her self-righteousness doesn’t seem to understand is that many people do not view the Humane Society as a helpful resource where they’re likely to get assistance “no questions asked” – especially if they’re hunters.

I’m wondering if folks at the federal level will start asking questions about the MARAD loan to Hawaii Superferry, now that the agency is moving to repossess the two catamarans, as I noted yesterday’s post.

As a friend observed in an email:

My bet, is that MARAD gets the boats and sells them to the military at reduced rate, that way the military got boat R&D and some really cheap ships without dipping into its military procurement budget, all engineered by Adm. Lehman. MARAD can't fund military ships building, but in fact it did. I saw this scenario spelled out WAY back. Navy couldn't get the bucks for R&D because they were spending so much on other things so they went around the system. I bet McCain could do an expose on this.

It’s all very interesting, because the agency lent the money under its Title XI program, which is intended to support U.S shipyards by reducing their dependence on military work. Yet in this case, the loan allowed an Australian company to establish itself precisely so it could get a lucrative military contract.

Andy Parx also touched on this in his blog post yesterday:

… the whole deal was a fraud.

And by fraud we don’t mean just some petty theft- we’re talking about defrauding the taxpayer out of $136.8 million.

Unfortunately, the State of Hawaii also got sucked into this scam, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, not to mention the angst, divisiveness and trauma.

Speaking of which, I highly recommend the Democracy Now! interview with Pakistani opposition figure and cricketing legend Imran Khan, who discussed the escalation of the war in Afghanistan and U.S. drone attacks.

Here is just one compelling excerpt:

To go after 5,000 Taliban, they have displaced three-and-a-half million people. To use artillery, helicopter gunships, F-16s on civilian population, they’ve caused this massive human catastrophe. And so, yes, people wanted an operation, but they didn’t want this, because this now, if anything, is going to fan militancy. How are they going to rehabilitate these people? Their crops are destroyed. These are subsistence farmers, most of them. Their fruit orchards, their animals. So what are they going to go back to? This is another problem we face now.

Yup, good thing I'm fortified because it's just another problem in a world plagued by many, including Hawaii’s drought, with The Advertiser today reporting some 76 percent of the state is experiencing such conditions. It seems Waialeale got just 1.5 inches of rain in May — compared to its average of 36 inches for that month.

As a friend noted in sending along the link:

This is what climate change is about in the islands.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Musings: Scary Stuffs

Some of the kids in my neighborhood ran over as I was getting in my car last evening to warn me that night marchers not only live in the brushy area of a valley across from my house, they'd been seen by one of the boys.

“But if you’re mean and try to look for them, they’ll make you shrivel up and die,” one girl said.

“I’m getting scared already,” added another little girl.

I wonder if the state is getting scared — or just desperate — now that it’s looking increasingly unlikely it will ever see any of the $40 million it’s owed by Hawaii Superferry.
While The Advertiser is reporting today that Hawaii Superferry wants to abandon its two catamarans to creditors, the Alabama Press-Register is one step ahead, reporting that the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) plans to repossess and sell the two vessels.

HSF owes MARAD $136.8 million. The Press-Register reports that while the two vessels were purchased in 2004 for a combined price of $190 million, they’re now valued by Austal at about $87 million each, or $174 million together.

MARAD’s decision apparently scuttles plans to charter the two boats to the military. But even more interesting was Austal’s reaction to MARAD’s plans:

Austal Ltd. President Bob Browning said he was disappointed that MARAD decided to seize the ferries without involving Austal in a project to prepare them for military use.

Browning said that Austal approved lending $23 million to the ferry venture in part because the deal would help raise the profile of Austal's U.S. shipyard, which at the time had been operating in Mobile for only a few years. Although it succeeded in doing that — the Mobile shipyard in November won a potential $1.6 billion contract to build up to 10 high-speed fast ferries for the military — Browning said the company's lending days are over.

Remember when HSF said it would lease the vessels elsewhere, and perhaps return to the Islands when the EIS was pau? Does anyone still believe anything these people say?

Apparently some still do, with the Advertiser reporting:

A source close to Superferry said the two catamarans remain in excellent condition. The objective, the source said, is to charter the vessels for commercial or military use.

Hmmm. Maybe reporter Derrick DePledge needs a new source.

Meanwhile, even though just last week the Obama Administration was busy telling Americans they should be scared of how climate change will impact the nation, when it comes to actually doing something about it, well, that’s a different story.

As the Guardian reports today, Todd Stern, Obama’s climate change envoy, has rejected calls that America and other rich nations make radical cuts in carbon emissions:

Speaking at the end of a ministerial level meeting of the world's most polluting countries in Mexico yesterday, Todd Stern dismissed the idea that the US might comply with calls for industrialised nations to cut carbon emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020.

"In our judgment [this kind of cut is] not necessary and not feasible given where we are starting from," he said. "So it is not on the cards."

The demands of developing countries and campaigners for a 40% minimum emissions cut by rich countries has been a constant theme in the run up to the crucial December summit in Copenhagen which is supposed to produce an agreement to replace the Kyoto protocol that runs out in 2012. Scientists have also recommended that averting catastrophic global warming requires industrialised countries to cut carbon emissions by 25% to 40%.

Gee, isn't it nice to know we're among the world's most polluting countries? According to the Guardian, “the US and China alone make up about 50% of emissions in roughly equal proportions.”

It seems that giving up even a bit of our comfy standard of living is an even scarier prospect than all the ills associated with climate change.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Musings: Wondering Why

The day started as a pink slit in a mass of gray that kept expanding until all the mountains were tinted rosy, then a silver-white sphere, still hidden by clouds, shot wide rays up into the heavens and set the sea to sparkling as flocks of boobies headed south.

Koko startled a pueo that was perched in the ironwoods lining the stretch of tawny sand and it flew away silently and slowly, circling back over my head. Our tracks were the only ones on a beach washed clean by the extreme tides of yesterday’s new moon, save for those left by sea turtles that had come ashore to nest. I’d noticed turtles bobbing very close to shore at sunset the past couple of nights, and now I know why.

Less clear is the reasoning behind the county’s ongoing unwillingness to be fully transparent and allow citizens and their representatives to participate in a meaningful way. It seems that department heads and elected officials don’t realize that when they withhold information, stymie access and in other ways blow off and obstruct the public, it fuels all those persistent, unkind rumors that they’re on the take, in the pockets of developers, incompetent, corrupt, uncaring and otherwise not acting in the public's best interest.

Take, for example, the ongoing controversy over putting matters on the Council agenda, a story that The Garden Island revisited today from the point of view of Councilman Jay Furfaro, who is “seeking some clarity" from the Office of Information Practices. Jay made some interesting revelations in the article:

Furfaro has encountered frustrations similar to [Councilman Tim] Bynum’s when trying to have the chair put an item related to government transparency on the agenda. Furfaro’s particular frustration has been further complicated by the council being advised by a succession of five different county attorneys over the last seven months.

In a Jan. 31, 2008 letter to Asing and a follow-up communication months later, Furfaro requested agenda time to discuss a policy concerning the release of opinions provided to the council from the Office of the County Attorney.

The item did not appear on the agenda until after Furfaro became interim council chair when Asing left to become interim mayor following Bryan Baptiste’s unexpected June death. There was some discussion on the policy last year, but the council never reached a consensus, and it has not returned to the agenda since Asing resumed his chairmanship.

Tim and Jay are painting themselves as the good guys in this power struggle, but a few questions still niggle. Given Kaipo’s history, why did the Council vote to again make Kaipo chair? Why doesn’t the Council act now to remove him from that position? And why didn’t the Council move to change some of its rules when Kaipo was briefly dethroned and warming the seat at the mayor’s office? Surely they would have found an ally in former Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura.

Regardless of what the OIP or county attorneys say, the long and the short of it is that Kaipo can’t possibly justify, given adequate notice, keeping any bill or matter that any Council person wants to discuss off the agenda. And if the Council holds his feet to the fire, publicly and persistently, it can wear him down. So let’s stop hiding behind the attorneys and deal with the real logjam here: Kaipo.

Meanwhile, there’s another big logjam over at the Planning Department, which has been far from forthcoming in the matter of approving Transient Vacation Rental (TVR) applications.

A June 22 letter to Director ian Costa and Deputy Director Imai Aiu outlines the runaround that Protect Our Neighborhood `Ohana (PONO) has encountered in trying to review and comment on the many permits to legitimize the illegal vacation rentals in Wainiha and Haena. Some of the concerns noted include:

Under Chapter 9 of the Planning Commission Rules of Practice and Procedure, PONO submitted an appeal of the Planning Directors approval(s) of NUC’s [nonconforming use certificates] on April 20, 2009. Over two months have passed, and we have not received any acknowledgment or response. We wonder if our request had been submitted by an attorney rather than the public, would they have received the same treatment, i.e., no acknowledgment?

An official “Request to Access a Government Record” was faxed to the Planning Department on April 14, 2009 to review TVR application files. Now, two months later, only 27 of the requested application files have been made available to PONO. We request all of the remaining requested TVR files for Wainiha and Haena be made available for review by June 30. Non-conforming use certificates, if approved, were to be issued by March 30, 2009, so the 90 days between March 30 and June 30 should be more than adequate time to make available the application files requested by PONO.

Because the majority of requested application/files have not been made available to PONO (list was included), we are still unable to review the documents submitted which were used to grant “Approvals” and nonconforming use certificates. As the approvals of TVR NUC’s legitimize commercial uses in our neighborhoods, it is imperative our community representatives are granted timely access to the records to review the consistency of the approvals with the TVR ordinance. The inspection of documents relating to the grandfathering of TVR’s in formerly residential neighborhoods needs to be granted with transparency and openness in government.

The letter, signed by Barbara Robeson and Caren Diamond, also notes that all but one of the files reviewed lacked critical documentation, including details about whether the premises were inspected, the date and time of approvals or denials, copies of letters to owners stating approval or denial, general checklist on whether applicants had provided all the required information, and more.

Without the above missing information in the files provided, it is impossible to ascertain when or if an applicant received approval, nor the basis for granting such approval. There simply is nothing in the record to indicate the basis for approval or denial of the applications.

Finally, we note that on the County’s website that 24 applications in the Wainiha – Ha'ena area which were listed as “Incomplete” were changed to “Approved” sometime between Friday, June 12, 2009 and Friday, June 19, 2009. This is very alarming since the final date for obtaining a nonconforming use certificate was March 30, 2009. Was the posting a computer error? Were the applications previously approved, but lacking public notice, with the status on the website never changed? Approvals granted after March 30, 2009 are in violation of the CZO and should be immediately corrected.

It’s this sort of thing that makes folks feel like public participation is all a charade and sets them to wondering just why it is that they're being shut out of the process.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Musings: Fallout

Haupu and the Giant could be clearly seen, but Makaleha and Waialeale were totally absent, hidden by the thick clouds that caused light rain to drift across Kalalea and dampen Koko and me as we went walking this morning.

The gusts and intermittent rain prompted me to cut off a few of Koko’s sniffing expeditions, setting a pace that had us heading for home before the sun rose. I’d been missing the songs of the shama thrushes since moving, and wishing one would come to join me, so was bummed to see one lying dead in a driveway not far from my house.

On a brighter note, it turned out to be a weekend of food gifts, what with a friend dropping off the sweetest yellow pineapple I’ve ever had, and a cluster of juicy lychee, followed by another friend bringing over a plate lunch purchased at the chicken fight that was being held next door to his house, and more lychee, then two groups of neighborhood kids came bearing banana and papaya.

Kindnesses like these make me glad to live on Kauai. The Kuhio Highway death corridor, which Saturday was the scene of two fatalities in a major crash that tied up traffic for hours, does not. As “kauailocal1” noted in the comments section of the Advertiser’s coverage:

This stretch of Kuhio Highway has been a deathtrap since Lehua Fernandes-Salling - then Senator from Kauai - had the DOT enlarge it from 2 to 3 lanes in the early 1980s. The lanes are too narrow, the shoulders are a joke (I ride a bicycle out there numerous times each week) and there's simply nowhere to go when something goes wrong! I've urged that the speed limit be reduced to 40 or 45 mph from its current 50 - and the average speed is well above the posted limit.

It’s unlikely DOT is going to change the road, so how many more people have to die there before the cops start aggressively enforcing the speed limit?

In following the coverage of the deadly protests in Iran over ”voting irregularities” in the presidential election, I couldn’t help but recall how Americans barely let a out a whimper, much less took to the streets in droves, when “voting irregularities” twice put W in the White House. And we’re supposedly the defenders of democracy.

Now we have Obama threatening to nuke North Korea if it nukes South Korea. What’s up with that? Weren’t we all taught in elementary school not to engage in tit for tat? So why is it OK when it involves the use of weapons whose radioactive fallout affects the entire planet?

It brings to mind a quote by the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

It is no longer a choice between violence and non-violence in the world today, but non-violence or non-existence. That is where we are at today.

Meanwhile, as the situation in Pakistan demonstrates, it’s so much easier to find the money to wage war than deal with its consequences. Some 2 million people have been displaced by the offensives against the Taliban, yet although the UN issued an appeal for $543 million in international aid, only about 35 percent of that amount has been funded. Perhaps a surcharge could be assessed on weapons sales to create a fund for cleaning up their human fallout.

Speaking of which, Obama displayed great insensitivity in joking about the Uyghurs, who were recently resettled in Bermuda and Palau after being wrongly detained at Gitmo — along with who knows how many others — for seven long, ugly years after they were picked up bounty hunters. I don’t think any of us can even begin to comprehend the harm that our nation caused those men. Yet there’s Obama, yukking it up at the Radio TV Correspondents’ Dinner:

President Obama: “Nick at Nite has a new take on an old classic: Leave It to Uyghurs. I thought that was pretty good.”

Obama also joked about the refusal of other countries to accept prisoners held at Guantanamo.

President Obama: “As I have traveled to all these countries, I saw firsthand how much people truly have in common with one another, because no matter where I went there is one thing I heard over and over again from every world leader: ‘No thanks, but have you considered Palau?’”

It didn’t get much (if any) coverage, but the Kauai Alliance for Peace and Social Justice urged Lingle, the Lege and Hawaii’s Congressional delegation to accept the Uyghurs in the Islands, saying the $200 million in federal resettlement money would help the state’s budget shortfall and the aloha spirit would help heal the lives of these shattered men.

And just think of the money we could have saved on tourism promotions with all the free publicity it would have generated. Heck, it worked for Palau.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Musings: Solstice Short

After waking several times in the night to the patter of welcome rain, Koko and I spent a glorious morning swimming in the Solstice sun shimmer. Well, I did, anyway. She doesn’t like to go in much above her knees.

On the way over to the beach, I was behind a car that had a sticker on the back bumper that read COUNTRY, and the “O” was the shape of Kauai. Made me think of the little boy visiting from Sacramento who struck up a conversation with me at the beach late yesterday afternoon. He was struck by the absence of emergency sirens and “robbers. It’s very peaceful here,” he said.

Tis true. At least, on the surface. Beneath it, there’s a sort of roiling energy whose source isn’t easy to define.

I’ve got to focus on putting the house in order, so I’m going to direct you to work done by writers other than me.

For starters, Ian Lind had an interesting post yesterday on Lingle’s hard line approach to the state worker furloughs that explores the deeper political motivations.

Dick Mayer sent a link to two articles about Austal writing off the bad Superferry loan. The Star Bulletin touched on it briefly, while The Western Australian offered a bit more depth.

When you think about it, $20+ million is a small price to pay for Austal establishing itself in America, where it was able to win a lucrative JHSV contract potentially worth billions in large part because it proved itself with the Superferry construction.

And finally, the New York Times has a piece today that portrays so well the very skewed idea that mainlanders have about Hawaii, right down to its well-intentioned, but totally misguided, call to action:

“Maybe by telling your representatives in Congress to support the Akaka bill, to give Native Hawaiians a measure of lost sovereignty, and right some old injustices.

Righting old injustices is the right idea. Unfortunately, the Akaka Bill just perpetuates more injustice by forever eliminating the opportunity for kanaka maoli to achieve true justice

Happy Solstice!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Musings: Theoretically

The trade winds gusted at the back of my legs, prompting the ironwood boughs to sigh and palm fronds to clatter when Koko and I went walking under a thin slice of moon that hung below Venus.

The streets were glistening and the lightest little rain blew through, creating floating rainbows under the amber streetlights. Makaleha at first seemed smothered in a mass of black, but as the sun rose in streaks, smears and swirls of cool orange and hot pink, I saw that it was draped in floating sheets of white and grey. And so its appearance changed from ominous to magical.

Walking on the Kawaihau Road path makes me think of all the ridiculous fuss and hoopla associated with the concrete coastal ribbon known as “The Path.” I’ve only noticed one pile of dog doo on Kawaihau’s narrow strip of well-used asphalt, yet I’m quite certain no one is doing doo doo patrol.

And somehow the kids, motor scooters, bicycles, pit bulls and lap dogs, horses, old people with canes, skateboards, wheelchairs, joggers and baby strollers manage to co-exist harmoniously without an enforcement presence.

I mentioned this to Farmer Jerry when we were talking after yesterday’s radio show, and he said, “That’s because that’s the kind of community it is.”

Now “The Path” is getting ready to encroach on lovely Wailua Beach, that broad stretch of sand that borders Kuhio Highway where there’s a perfectly good roadside shoulder that people could use. It’s going to be a 14-foot wide boardwalk secured by posts driven 8 feet into the sand, creating a structure that county workers can supposedly pull up and out of harm’s way when natural forces threaten.

Um hmmm. I imagine that will be their top priority in a tsunami watch, or while a big storm is raging.

And why, pray tell, are we building anything on the beach, especially without doing an archaeological survey first? Do Nancy McMahon and the State Historic Preservation Division actually believe there are no burials in that sand? Or would the county just prefer to find the iwi inadvertently, so it doesn’t have to deal with the Burial Council?

Perhaps it’s time for Koko and me to take Councilman Tim Bynum up on his request to join us for a walk so I can ask him some of these questions, seeing as how he’s a major Path proponent. And while we’re strolling, maybe we could also discuss his concerns that County Clerk Peter Nakamura is deliberately blocking his receipt of Council communications. I’ve spoken with various members of the public who regularly seek county documents, and they concur that Peter is extremely cooperative and forthcoming. So something’s not adding up here.

Getting back to Farmer Jerry, I was quite interested to hear some of the comments he made on the radio show that Jimmy Trujillo and I hosted yesterday. He showed me a photograph of the area around the Wailua reservoir taken back in the days when pineapple was still being grown, and then a current photo. “That’s all state land,” he said. “It’s still there, and the water’s still there. But where are the farmers?”

I was also intrigued to learn that even during the decades when Kauai was dominated by monocrops like sugar cane and pineapple, ag overall was far more diversified than it is today. And much of the pineapple was grown not by a large plantation, but individual farmers who sold their crops to the cannery, which is just a couple of blocks from where I now live, paying their mortgages once a year with the proceeds from their harvests.

And rather than buy their food in giant air-conditioned super stores, they frequented individual shops to purchase fish, pork, meat, bread — all of it locally produced. Barter was more common, too, with people trading fish or a cow or vegetables for items they wanted.

So it seems that when we talk about sustainability and feeding Kauai, we need to look beyond the sheer mechanics of producing more food to the social and community structures that would support and facilitate such a shift.

In other news, Kauai’s school board rep, Maggie Cox, proved she’s no friend of civil liberties when she cast her vote to waste precious Department of Education resources teaching kids that the Constitution doesn’t apply to them. As the Advertiser reported:

But Kaua'i member Maggie Cox, a former public school principal, said allowing for suspicionless searches would "give (principals) the tools to be able to deal with the small group that are causing the problems."

Yes, Maggie, and the same applies for holding detainees without charge and torturing them at Gitmo, too.

Too bad the BOE wasn’t akamai enough to take this approach:

Jeanne Ohta, director of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, suggested that the board put money into programs that prevent drug abuse rather than spending money on a drug sniffing dog program.

"It sounds like ... drug-sniffing dogs are going to help the drug problem, but it really doesn't help. ... It doesn't address usage, it doesn't decrease usage. Isn't that the end result of what we want?" Ohta said.

Good question.

And finally, how interesting that as the 50th anniversary of “the fake state” nears, the U.S. is going all gangbusters to protect “American territory” from the very dubious threat of a North Korean missile launch, with Kauai’s own PMRF playing a pivotal role.

I liked this paragraph in the Advertiser’s story on how Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system at PMRF to team up with Pearl Harbor’s sea-based X-Brand [correx: X-Band] Radar:

Together, the systems theoretically could detect and shoot down a North Korean missile if it came to that.

Aha. A theoretical defense for a theoretical threat to a theoretical state. Perfect.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Musings: Fighting Faux Farmers

Koko and I greeted the day on the mountain trail, where the ohia lehua — the orange-colored blossoms are really coming on now — and beautiful cloud formations stole the show from a rather muted sunrise.

I noticed similar dramatic cloud patterns – cumulus, cirrocumulus and contrails, which some people apparently mistake for ”chemtrails,” could all be seen, moving in different directions across the sky — late yesterday afternoon at the beach.

On the way down from the trail, which crosses state lands leased for pasture, I got to thinking about agriculture, especially since I’ll be joining Jimmy Trujillo to host a show on that topic at 4 p.m. today on KKCR. You can listen at 91.9 FM or live on line.

Our guest will be Jerry Ornellas — aka Farmer Jerry — and he’ll be talking about all the hot ag topics currently under discussion on Kauai: farm worker housing, vacation rentals on ag land, water availability, obstacles to farming, the challenge of feeding our island, important ag lands and whatever else folks who call in (826-7771) want to discuss.

They’re all topics of interest to me, but I’ve been especially tuned in to the transient vacation rental (TVR) issue, which The Garden Island touched on in an article last weekend.

It discussed a proposed amendment to county zoning laws that would “temporarily” allow TVRs on ag land until the important ag lands are designated. Deputy Planning Director Imai Aiu recommended the planning commission oppose the bill and defer action; the matter will be back on the commission’s agenda June 23.

Instead, the planning department wants applicants to use the special permitting process that has been set up to legitimize TVRs in neighborhoods outside the Visitor Destination Area. A whopping 500 such applications have already been received, and 41 of them were for TVRs on ag lands, although I’m quite certain that doesn’t reflect the full count.

Now here’s where things get squirrely, which pretty much sums up the entire TVR issue. The proposed ordinance, Bill 2298, would allow TVRs on ag lands through “enforcement agreements.” But as TGI reported:

Such agreements would actually be non-enforcement agreements contrary to state law, which mandates county government to enforce state Land Use Commission approved uses within state Land Use Districts, said Deputy County Attorney Ian Jung.

TVRs are not specifically allowed on state Land Use District agricultural lands according to state law — Hawai‘i Revised Statutes chapter 205.

And as I reported in a Honolulu Weekly article last year:

Kauai’s (TVR) measure was created when Tony Ching, then-director of the state Land Use Commission, issued the opinion that such accommodations were not allowed based on his reading of the law.

That opinion does not mesh with the view taken by the attorneys who represent the real estate industry, Lorna Nishimitsu and former state Senator Jonathan Chun among them.

At the planning commission meeting, Lorna first whined, then threatened:

TVR owners outside the VDA are being “targeted,” said Lorna Nishimitsu, an attorney representing several owners of land within the state agricultural Land Use District operating TVR and a member of the county’s Cost Control Commission.

Nishimitsu predicted that litigation will result if her clients’ and others’ non-conforming-use applications are denied.

“Unless it’s prohibited, it’s permitted,” she said.

Here’s what Chapter 205 actually says:

The law defines farm dwelling as “a single-family dwelling located on and used in connection with a farm, including clusters of single-family farm dwellings permitted within agricultural parks developed by the State, or where agricultural activity provides income to the family occupying the dwelling.”

The law also allows for agricultural tourism on working farms or as part of a farming operation, but prohibits such tourism in the absence of a bonafide farming operation. It further directs the counties to establish ordinances for overseeing and enforcing activities on ag land, including “requirements and restrictions for accessory facilities connected with farming operations, including gift shops and restaurants; provided that overnight accommodations shall not be permitted.”

As Jonathan noted in the article I wrote:

“Neither my clients nor us [the law firm of Belles, Graham, Proudfoot, Wilson & Chun] have taken the position you don’t have to do any ag use,” he says. “The question is how much ag do you have to do? Nobody has ever taken that bull by the horns and said, under state law, this is how much ag use is required to satisfy the law.”

And that’s one of the key issues that’s hanging up the worker housing bill, because the law has to be drafted not just to meet the needs of the real farmers, but to prevent abuses by the faux farmers. You know, the folks who plant a few trees and claim they’re farming, but in fact want to advantage of the lucrative side businesses — ag tours, TVRs, healing retreats.

Heck, I even noticed Michele Rundgren (Todd’s wife) is staging an event at the “Wailapa Road amphitheater,” which I know is on ag land. What I don’t know is whether the county issued a permit for such a use.

A source told me that the planning department is going to allow TVRs on ag land, but they're going to push hard to make the applicants prove there's a legitimate farming operation. And that's great, because that's as it should be. But how, exactly, are they going to do that in the absence of a clear policy on what constitutes farming?

We can continue to approach this issue through the back and side doors, but until the county and state get serious about defining a bonafide farm — and are willing to stand up to the real estate industry — we’re not going to be giving the real farmers any relief. Instead, we’ll just be letting the faux farmers slide in as we keep spinning our wheels on Kauai’s slick red clay.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Musings: The Real Threat

The moon, rising late and shrinking, was hanging in Venus’ cloudy neighborhood when Koko and I went out walking in the gray of pre-dawn, long after the roosters had awakened, and just as the other birds were stirring.

Getting out for walks, and to the beach at dawn and dusk yesterday, has been a nice break from the total immersion in “stuff” that characterizes moving. I’m making progress, and got my phone hooked up yesterday, but the Internet isn’t working. Luckily, I’ve been able to get on line because the Airport feature on my Mac automatically picked up a wireless signal from someone living nearby.

I was on the phone, telling a friend about the details of my new house, when he interrupted to say, “Yes, but does Koko like it?”

What’s not to like? She’s got tons of new smells to sniff, ample opportunity to mark new territory, and when she’s outside, the neighborhood kids all want to pet her.

“I might actually get some trick-or-treaters for the first time ever this year,” I remarked to a friend, surveying the keiki that move like flocks of birds from one yard to another on my street.

“Garans ball bearin’s,” he replied.

A parade of kids has stopped by over the past few days to tell me their names and ask about Koko. Dogs are great for initiating conversations with strangers, like the old Filipino man this morning, who was walking his Golden Retriever puppy down to the store, where he planned to meet a friend for a cup of coffee and a cigarette, and yesterday, the dumpmaster, who took the old pillows I was tossing to use as bedding for his four dogs while asking what I fed Koko to give her such a glossy coat.

“I cook for her,” I answered, and he nodded, saying he made food for his dogs, too — Costco chicken, vegetables and rice — and did I have any suggestions on what oils he should use as his bulldog had a tendency toward dry skin.

If only we could so easily strike up friendly conversations with world leaders. Maybe Obama would make more progress if he took family dog Bo with him on his global rounds. Then perhaps we wouldn’t have to spend $80 billion to expand the war in Afghanistan and keep it going in Iraq. The $106 billion bill approved by the House also includes $5 billion for the IMF’s line of credit, a $1 billion incentive package to get folks with old cars to buy new ones and nearly $8 billion to “fight” H1N1 Flu.

Gee, I wonder how much of a role the automobile, pharmaceutical and defense lobbyists had in drafting that bill?

No one in power really wants to cut military spending, aside from a few anti-war Democrats like Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who was quoted on Democracy Now! as saying:

“We’re destroying our nation’s moral and fiscal integrity with the war supplemental. Instead of ending wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan now by appropriating only enough money to bring our troops home, Congress abdicates its constitutional authority, defers to the President, and asks for a report. That’s right. All we’re asking for is a report on when the President will end the war."

And even if a war were to wind down in one place, Pentagon officials and people like failed Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain are busily fanning the flames of fear elsewhere. Take North Korea’s missiles. As the Associated Press reported after covering a Senate missile defense hearing:

North Korea’s missiles could hit Hawaii or Alaska in as few as three years if the reclusive rogue nation continues to ramp up its weapons system, Pentagon officials said today.

Wow. They're breathing down our necks. Maybe we shouldn’t cut that $1.2 billion from the missile defense budget after all.

But if you read a little more, things get a bit murky, what with all those qualifiers like “if” and “could,” not to mention the unanswered question of why, or even whether, North Korea might be inclined to launch a missile at Alaska or Hawaii.

[Deputy Defense Secretary William] Lynn did not immediately know how long it would take North Korea to build a powerful enough missile to hit Alaska or Hawaii.

But Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it would take at least three to five years for North Korea to pose a real threat to the West Coast of the United States.

“That’s assuming a lot of luck on their part in moving forward,” Cartwright said during questioning by Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind.

Of course, focusing our attention on external bad guys makes it easy to ignore the gravest threat yet to “the homeland” and America’s materialistic way of life, even as the Obama Administration released what the Guardian called “the most authoritative report to date on the effects of global warming in America.” Its article quotes Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as saying:

"I really believe this report is a game changer. I think that much of the foot-dragging in addressing climate change is a reflection of the perception that climate change is way down the road in the future and it affects only remote parts of the world," she told a press conference today. "This report says climate change is happening now. It is happening in our own back yard."

"The most important thing in this report is that the impacts of climate change are not something your children might theoretically see 50 years from now," said Tony Janetos, one of the study's authors and a director of the Joint Global Change Research Institute at the University of Maryland.

"The thing that concerns me the most is that we have a whole host of impacts that we now observe in the natural world that are occurring sooner and more rapidly and that appear to be larger than we might have expected 10 years ago. If anything we might have underestimated the rate and the impact of changes in the climate system."

So where's the $80 billion appropriation to deal with that threat? And more important, when are we going to stop waging war on nature?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Musings: New Digs

Had a truly delightful weekend immersed in the joys of moving. Nothing quite compares to dragging all your stuff out of the house, packing it into cars and trucks, carting it over to a new place, rooting through it there to find whatever it is you need — now where did I put that bag of screws? — before you actually put it away, and cleaning both the place you’re moving into and worse, the place you’re moving out of.

But thanks to some great help, the bulk of it’s behind me now. Well, aside from the oven at my old house, which I still must tackle today.

I really liked my old place, with its big trees, spacious yard and resident shama thrushes. The house, however, was a feasting ground for termites, and they’d done a lot of damage. As my friend Ka`imi noted when he came over to help with the move, “Well, at least you won’t have to worry about the ants anymore, or the toilet falling through the floor.”

It was a little hard to leave initially, but as soon as I pulled all the taro, it broke my connection to the place. And even better, I had some ono poi to keep me sustained and a few bags to pass along to my moving helpers.

I saved all the huli for Ka`imi, who planted the first taro behind my old house, saying he was making an army of Hawaiians to guard me. I have just a very small yard at my new house and asked him to pick out a few warriors to come with me. He selected an assortment of black, variegated and green varieties, and I planted them last night at sunset, which gave a couple of little girls— Shanna and Diana, cousins — a chance to come over and check me out, ask a bunch of questions and share a bit of gossip about one of the families down the street, which made me realize that, I, too, could be the subject of gossip in this tightly-packed little neighborhood.

A comment was left on a previous post asking me to elaborate on what I meant by hard-scrabble Kapahi. I think of Kapahi as being two distinct areas, with the park as the rough dividing line. You’ve got the spacious lots mauka, with orchards and pastures and lots of moist greenery, and then you’ve got the drier, much smaller, higher-density lots on the makai side. The hard-scrabble part, where I now live, is that part of the latter that has the industrial and commercial uses thrown in.

I like it, though, and the house is cute and brand new, built single-handedly over six years by my landlord, who lives next door. It’s the first place I have ever lived on Kauai (this is number nine) that didn’t require major cleaning and/or an extensive overhaul. I’ve painted, drywalled, ripped out moldy carpet, patched roofs, trapped rats, fixed electrical problems, replaced broken windows and landscaped bare dirt, just to make the houses habitable.

Most landlords seem to view their rentals as simply a way to make money without ever having to invest a penny in them. And rentals have been so scarce over the years that they’ve been able to get away with it.

But all of a sudden, rentals are fairly abundant (although they still tend to fall into one of two categories, funky or unaffordable, especially for a single person) so it’s no longer a landlord’s market. Some of the places are vacation rentals that have been put back into the longterm market, others are spec houses that flopped instead of flipped, and perhaps others were vacated by people who have left the island or moved back in with family due to the economic downturn.

When you drive around now, you actually see for rent signs, and some of them have been up for a very long time. I’ve never experienced anything like it during my time on Kauai.

Koko seems to be enjoying all the new smells in our neighborhood, although she’s still figuring out a lot of the sounds, and she said goodbye to the old house in her own way, by chasing down and killing one of the chickens that had been taunting her for months.

And when we took a walk on the path that runs alongside Kawaihau Road this morning, and looked at the front side of the Giant, instead of the back, and cloud-topped Makaleha, and saw Kalalea and Hokualele vibrant in the clear Anahola light, and the sun rising up out of the sea, we both felt right at home.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Musings: Digging Deeper

Jupiter, not far from the moon, was the first to fade from view, then Venus disappeared as the pink light of pre-dawn filled the sky while Koko and I were out walking this morning.

Waialeale was cloud-cloaked, which allowed her to soak up the purples, reds and oranges cast by the rising sun, and I caught the fragrances of mock orange, spider lilies, angel’s trumpets and plumeria at various points along our route.

I’m going to miss this road, and all the people who wave as they pass, and Farmer Jerry, even though I haven’t seen him in a while because this time of year I’m out way earlier than he is, and my neighbor Andy, who today was walking slowly, and not wanting to laugh, because he likely cracked a rib while paddling yesterday.

But things inevitably change — except when it comes to Wainiha subdivision landowners, who remain reluctant to dig too deeply on their lots for fear of finding burials.

It seems that at least some members of the county Planning Commission have been sensitized to the presence of burials in that subdivision following the outcry over construction of Joseph Brescia’s house atop some 30 burials there. So when a proposal to build a house just two lots down from Brescia’s came before the panel this week, it caused a bit of uneasiness.

As The Garden Island reported:

Commission Chair Jimmy Nishida, Commissioners Hartwell Blake and [Herman] Texeira all expressed a level of discomfort about approving the construction of a house in an area where there might be human remains, though [county planner Dale] Cua’s report on the review was received and approved unanimously.

According to the notes of a person who attended the meeting, Nishida also asked: “Do we have the latitude that we don't want a building over the bones? We are uncomfortable allowing the building over the bones.”

The proposal also sparked discussion over just how deep the contractor should dig during excavation for the foundation. Archaeologist David Shideler, who was hired by the “homeowner,” Gan Eden LLC, a consortium of investors, said excavation would be done to a depth of three feet in preparation for the house’s concrete footings.

Shideler, county planners and state archaeologist Nancy McMahon advocate shallow digging in order to avoid disturbing burials. Their stance is based on two questionable premises: ignorance is bliss, and building a house atop burials —known or unknown — doesn’t constitute a disturbance.

But given the likelihood that burials do exist in the area, some residents said a more thorough review, and deeper digging, should be done to find out what’s there before the house goes up. As Caren Diamond testified:

Wainiha subdivision is known to have significant archaeological findings including many ancient burials. In order to avoid unnecessary adverse effects on burials we recommend that there be a full archaeological inventory done on all sections of the lot where the ground will be disturbed, including the landscape plan.

Since the Brescia debacle, it has been the strategy of other landowners in the area to dig as shallowly as possible, and avoid full archaeological inventories, to keep from finding burials that could prompt construction delays. When burials are identified during a survey, the project must go before the Kauai-Niihau Island Burial Council, which makes a recommendation to the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) on whether the iwi should be preserved in place or moved.

But if burials are found during construction, they’re considered inadvertent discoveries, and so are handled administratively by SHPD, without any Burial Council review or consultation.

According to The Garden Island:

Commissioner Herman Texeira asked if they could dig deeper than that to see if any human remains are present, and Shideler said proper state protocol is to dig only as deep as is necessary to facilitate construction, and only at the places necessary for said construction.

County Planning Director Ian Costa also said that “We don't require the landowner to dig up the whole lot."

But as Alan Murakami, staff attorney for the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. (NHLC), noted in an email in which he cited HAR sec. 13-300-31(b)(2):

As this rule envisions, you survey, identify possible burial sites, treat them as "previously identified" before the burial council when appropriate excavations confirm the presence of actual iwi kupuna. You don't avoid trying to find out, as Schiedler and McMahon would allow, under the guise of minimizing disturbance. That is a faux minimization; the harm is building on top of the burial, even when you don't confirm that they are there.

…digging shallow knowing that burials are likely to be present below violates the requirement that the SHPD provide the burial council with all information on a burial site, actual or possible. That's when you get all those distortions that arose during the Brescia case.

As one planning department observer noted: “This is a recurring theme, no look, no see.”

Meanwhile, NHLC has filed a motion to enforce the prior order issued by Judge Kathleen Watanabe on the Brescia project and is again asking her to halt construction at least until the Burial Council finishes its consultation and the state approves a Burial Treatment Plan for the project. That hearing is set for July 21.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Musings: County Sexism

The moon, four days past full, but still blazing, woke me early this morning and accompanied Koko and me down the street, past two mailboxes that had been knocked down in the night, to a place where we could look upon Waialeale and listen to the world waking up.

I heard the steady buzzing of bees tending a clump of vervain, the cluck-cluck-clucking of hens and incessant cheeping of their chicks in the bushes, the chirps and trills of various birds, the faint clattering of coco palms touched by the barest breeze.

And then Koko’s whining, which intensified as my neighbor Andy approached. She greeted him with an enthusiastic high 10, which prompted him to say he thought he would miss Koko more than me when we move to a new neighborhood this weekend. No doubt. She has a far sweeter nature.

We watched Waialeale, which looked flat-faced in the flat light of pre-dawn, gain depth, dimension and color under the influence of sunrise and shadow until its bowl and many ridges could all be clearly seen. It looks different every day, Andy said, and we talked about how I’ll be gazing at Makaleha once I move, and that view ain’t too shabby.

Our conversation shifted into the glacial pace of the legal system, with Andy contrasting it to accounts of arrests and convictions reported in issues of The Garden Island from the 1930s, which he’s been reading as part of a research project.

Seems that back then, a person — who would be identified by race, as well as name, unless they were Caucasian, and even if they were a kid — could be arrested and convicted for a pretty serious crime within a couple weeks’ time. Unless, of course, they had a good attorney, in which case the proceedings took considerably longer. That part of the process hasn’t changed in all these years.

Speaking of good attorneys, Kauai’s Dan Hempey has teamed up with former state attorney general Margery Bronster in filing a sexual discrimination and harassment suit against Kauai County on behalf of Kristan Hirakawa.

The complaint alleges that Kristan was an employee with the Liquor Commission until the relentless harassment and discrimination escalated “to the point of disabling her with severe emotional distress.”

Her case is particularly interesting because she previously was employed as a police dispatcher, where she was sexually harassed by a co-worker and filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Under the settlement of that case, the county agreed to find her another county job, and she ended up at the Liquor Commission.

The suit alleges that the county, “obviously aware of her previous case and emotional condition, placed her in a workplace with a known sexual harasser as a co-worker and a supervisor with no prior training in sexual harassment law.”

The complaint also alleges that Kristan’s supervisor, Dexter Shimatsu, complained to her that he had to remove posters of scantily clad women from the workplace “because the county made me hire you” and subjected her to ridicule, sexual innuendo, sexual emails and insults, including calling her names like "shibai" and “tonta,” which means slow, dumb or stupid, and sending her an email with the words “You Wish” and a photo of a woman dressed in a tiny, diamond-studded bikini.

Now what’s even more intriguing about her case is that it alleges the county broke its own sexual harassment policy in responding to Kristan’s complaint. And the deputy county attorney who was in charge of the matter was none other than Margaret Sueoka, who recently filed her own EEOC complaint against the county after she was fired by the new county attorney, Al Castillo.

I haven't seen that complaint, so don't know if Margaret is claiming sexism or racism or what.

Anyway, the EEOC determined last November in Kristan’s case “that there is reasonable cause to believe that Charging Party was subjected to sexual harassment because of her sex, female” and issued her a right to sue letter this past March.

Interesting how the county is so worried about being sued by developers that it bends over backwards to please them, yet spends a tidy sum defending itself against lawsuits filed by its own personnel.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Musings: Outmoded Attitudes

A light rain kept Koko and me I bed a little later this morning, so the eastern sky was already fiery when we set out walking in what can best be described as a magical wonderland of color and light. The moisture-infused air sparkled, and all the backlit spider webs shone among glistening leaves.

The Giant was draped in a garland of white, Waialeale was mostly buried in a pile of puffy clouds, save for the bits of slope that shone green-yellow, and Makaleha was fully visible and clad in hues of purple and pink. Meanwhile, a smoke-like mist floated up from all the nooks and crannies of the lush green landscape.

I was immersed in those sensory delights, but Koko was fixated on Andy, who was ahead of us, and when we caught up, she gave her usual little whines of delight. We won’t have many more mornings with Andy and Momi, since we’re moving to hard-scrabble Kapahi this weekend. Andy pronounced the news rotten, but gave me a bag of juicy lychee, anyway.

He mentioned he’d been interviewed by a former Garden Island reporter, whose name escapes me, for a film she’s doing on how Kauai has changed. She wanted him to provide her with a historical perspective, and came from the premise that most people seem to think that the missionaries had been a positive influence, an assertion that both Andy and I doubted.

And that got Andy thinking about how attitudes toward the missionaries had changed, from being favorably viewed to less so, during his 37 years of teaching. And that got us talking about how other social attitudes had changed in that time, especially toward women, with Andy recalling how the KCC auto body teacher once said that if any girls wanted to take his class, they had to wear a steel bra. (Or maybe it was cast iron. At any rate, you get the point, not that either makes much sense.)

I mentioned I’d just read a review of a biography of Helen Gurley Brown that recounted some of the sexism she encountered early in her career:

She was, at the time, employed as a typist at a radio station whose male personnel enjoyed a game that they called Scuttle. They chased a female co-worker around the office until they cornered her, then pulled off her panties. Brown was hurt that, for some reason—maybe she was too flat-chested—she was never their scuttlebutt. It was eventually pointed out to her that scuttling constituted a rather egregious instance of sexual harassment.

Yes, many attitudes do change over time. We’ve got an African-American president and a Latina Supreme Court nominee, two milestones that can be celebrated even though it’s discouraging to see how long it took us to get here. And face it, things are still really skewed. I mean, when you consider that of the 112 Supreme Court Justices, 108 have been white men — and conservatives are still squawking over Sonia Sotomayor — we still have a ways to go.

The same is true of the attitude toward drugs. I interviewed an 80-year-old man the other day who remembered the early days of treatment programs in the 1970s, when junkies were still called “dope fiends.” Now we understand that addiction and alcoholism is a disease, and marijuana has been approved for medical uses in Hawaii and other states.

But the old “Reefer Madness” mentality dies hard, especially among the men in blue, our own Chief Perry among them. Blogger Andy Parx took Perry to task for his views on marijuana and Green Harvest, as expressed in the Chief’s weekly Q&A column in The Garden Island.

Some of Perry’s comments rang a bell, and got me thinking about a series of articles Jim Witty and I wrote on Hawaii’s marijuana eradication program— and concerns about the link between the subsequent scarcity of pot and the rise in ice use — when working for the Star-Bulletin.

I was fascinated to read these articles again and see that 13 years later, the issues are still the same. There’s no real accountability about costs, which are hefty. People are still pissed about intrusive helicopter flights and the program's militarization. Ice use has flourished. Asset forfeiture laws have pushed cultivation from private to public lands. And the effort appears no more successful than it was back in 1989, when former Attorney General Warren Price wrote a report that stated:

”The only problem with the eradication effort in Hawaii is that it is costing over $1 million per year and it is not apparently reducing, much less eliminating, the marijuana industry in Hawaii, nor is there any evidence to suggest it is reducing local consumption," the report states.

Some national law enforcement officials have concluded that the “war on drugs” is a failure and Obama’s Administration has said it will discontinue George W. Bush’s policy of going after medical marijuana dispensaries in the states. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has even 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.

Yet Chief Perry seems to be clinging to some old, outdated attitudes. As he stated in his column:

We have not lost the war on drugs and it is not a failed policy, but we do need to reassess our long-term strategic plan and lean more toward a holistic approach.

Perry also asserts that “Drugs destroy families, whether it’s marijuana, crystal methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, or alcohol.” Yes, that’s true, although he would have a very hard time making that case against marijuana. But so, too, does arresting people and throwing them in jail repeatedly because there’s no rehab program to help them kick their addiction.

Back when we wrote those articles, we concluded that:

In the end, however, economics - and not social issues - likely will determine the fate of Hawaii's two-decade effort to halt marijuana cultivation. The state has slashed its eradication budget nearly in half for each of the past two years, county officials are taking a hard look at the program, and federal "drug war" funds are declining.

We were obviously wrong. The state and feds are still wasting money on marijuana eradication — KPD spent $27,000 to nab 75 plants in its most recent operation — and the wise words of former Rep. David Tarnas have not yet been heeded:

"The goal of a drug-free Hawaii is not do-able," Tarnas said. "We need to recognize there's a difference between substance use and abuse, and focus on reducing abuse."

Perhaps, in time, his will become the prevailing, rather than pioneering, attitude. As we’ve seen, attitudes do change. Only problem is, a helluva lot of harm can be done to people’s lives in the meantime.