Friday, September 11, 2009

Musings: Moon Missions, TVRs and Bitch Slaps

The surf was roaring at the bottom of the hill, while atop it, the lull time between night and dawn was so quiet this morning that I could plainly hear the clicking of Koko’s nails on the pavement and the crunch of gravel beneath my feet as we went walking.

Somewhere in the distance a barn owl screeched — look out, rat — and a star fell to its death in the blackness that surrounded the hulking mass of Waialeale. The rest of the stars and Venus were bright amidst swirling clouds that formed a ring around a perfect half-moon, and as I looked up at its silvery-white form, I thought about the Centaur rocker booster that's heading its way.

When I first saw the blurb “NASA Planning to Bomb the Moon” on Richard Diamond’s “Museletter,” I dismissed it as Internet fiction. But then I heard a few other people talking about “blowing up the moon,” so I Googled that phrase and discovered NASA doesn’t really plan to blow up the moon — unless something goes terribly awry — just attack it. According to an enthusiastic report from The Mercury News (honest, that’s the paper’s name):

NASA is preparing to fly a rocket booster into the moon, triggering a six-mile-high explosion that scientists hope will confirm the presence of water.

And despite all the serious scientific talk about hydrogen signatures and lunar regolith, flying a rocket booster into the moon at 5,600 mph to trigger a massive explosion is just flat-out cool.

Cool? Or flat-out weird? Mostly, just so typical of human beings, who seek to explore and learn through force and destruction — always taking the least subtle approach.

“Does the moon belong to us?” asked a comment on one website. “Do we have the right to blow it up?”

“am I the only one who thinks we should blow everything up *here* before we start blowing everything up elsewhere?” asked another.

Anyway, after digging around a little bit more, I discovered that today NASA is announcing which crater is lucky enough to be targeted in this $79 million mission, which is scheduled to impact the moon on Oct. 8. Poor moon. What did it ever do to us?

Much closer to home, I went to the County Council meeting this week and was reminded that such gatherings have long been a social event on Kauai, and I did, indeed, see some of my favorite, and not so favorite, people. I remarked to one friend that it had been a long time since I’d sat in on a session and got the reply: “Yeah, and they’re still shitty as ever.”

I was there for the public hearing on a bill to regulate vacation rentals on ag land, and posted my story The Hawaii Independent yesterday.

One thing that struck me as rather strange is the way JoAnn Yukimura continues to draft bills, including this one, even though she’s no longer on the Council.

Those who have been operating TVRs on ag land offered up a number of reasons as to why they should be allowed to continue. One said it was written into his deed, which prompted a friend to say, “So if I write into your deed that you grow pakalolo, does that make it legal?”

Apparently even Councilman Jay Furfaro has bought in on that line of thinking, arguing to a mutual friend that these folks had been paying their GE taxes, which was like a permit. To that logic my friend replied: “So if I start a whorehouse and pay my GE taxes, does that give me a permit to keep operating?”

Talking with attorney Dan Hempey afterward, it’s clear that at least a few folks are going to be hard hit by a prohibition against ag TVRs, like the man who was farming, then had to stop for health reasons and was counting on his rental for income, and now has nothing.

But on the other hand, you have the woman who flew in from LA for the hearing, wasn’t quite sure what fruit trees she’s growing, has never sold any of her produce and bought her land three years ago with the idea of vacation rentaling it until she can eventually retire.

It’s kind of hard to feel quite so sorry for her, or the folks who own the 11-bedroom (each with ensuite bath) Beau Monde Villas with its “four principal buildings totaling more than 11,500 square feet of enclosed living area plus 4,000 square feet of lanais, verandas, porte-cohere, decks and garage,” or the five-bedroom, seven-bathFun House, with its 50-foot water slide. Oh, it has fruit trees, too, so they must be farming.

This is the kind of stuff that’s happening to our ag lands through TVRs, folks. Actually, it seems more accurate to call these structures lodges or boutique hotels. And tell me, what do you think that’s doing to the price of ag land?

According to a survey done by Protect Our Neighborhood Ohana, properties with TVR uses have a 30 to 50 percent higher valuation. And when it’s a multi-million property, that’s not chump change.

That’s a mighty big gift the county is giving some people.

Another problem with JoAnn’s bill, besides giving these folks a chance to keep their foot in the door, is it’s tied to the Important Ag Lands study. Her idea is that lands found to be important can’t have TVRs, which totally screws over real farmers who might actually benefit from such a use so they can supplement their farm income, while those that aren’t "important" are up for grabs in what Farmer Jerry has started calling “the third mahele.”

Meanwhile, as some folks are paying four grand a night for a vacation rental on Kauai, Democracy Now! reports:

The Census Bureau says 2.6 million Americans were plunged into poverty last year, bringing the poverty rate to an eleven-year high of 13.2 percent. It was the first major increase to the poverty rate since 2004. Median household income also fell 3.6 percent—the largest such decline on record. Meanwhile, the number of people without health insurance rose from 45.7 million to 46.3 million, the eighth straight year the ranks of the uninsured have grown. On Thursday, President Obama said the figures underscore the need for healthcare reform.

But hey, the politicians, doctors, insurance folks and lobbyists haven’t lost their insurance, so what’s the rush?

And finally, after Lingle did some bitch slapping at the Maui business community over its tepid support for the Superferry and Maui's legislative delegation for its "pathetic" reaction to the sailing, the Maui News, whose publisher, Joe Bradley, is the chairman of the Maui Chamber of Commerce, slapped back yesterday. An editorial entitled ”Governor’s sour grapes” concluded:

Frankly, we are tired of politicians who will not admit they made a mistake. Fess up, governor, your administration blew it. The Superferry may not have made it even with an EIS, but without one, it was doomed. And your administration is the one that let it sail without one.

So, governor, the next time you are looking for someone to blame for the failure of the ferry, try looking in the mirror. Without that personal admission, everything else is just sour grapes.

And just so Linda knew that it wasn’t written by some run-amok liberal editor, it concluded with the note:

Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.


Andrew Cooper said...

Hitting the Moon with an impactor is a simple and less expensive method to learn what we want to know. To simply get to the Moon your craft has to be moving fast to start with, impacting means you do not need to slow down. This requires less fuel, no retro rockets and a lot of other gear you can leave off.

As for the effect? The Moon has no ecosystems, no atmosphere and nothing else to damage. It gets naturally bombarded on a continual basis even without humans adding one small crater among the billions.

Net effect to the moon? Zilch. Addition to human knowledge? Read the mission goals, the existence of large quantities of water near the poles may be important to future exploration.

Anonymous said...

just so typical of human beings, who seek to explore and learn through force and destruction — always taking the least subtle approach is not a reasoned argument. It's an aesthetic complaint and a sweeping generalization.

Anonymous said...

"Cool? Or flat-out weird? Mostly, just so typical of human beings, who seek to explore and learn through force and destruction — always taking the least subtle approach."

-- c'mon...really? seems like a relatively low cost way of verifying info (that water/ice is there)

"the woman who flew in from LA for the hearing"

-- funnay!!

"bringing the poverty rate to an eleven-year high of 13.2 percent."

-- wow!! last time i checked (yrs ago) the fed def of "poverty rate" was some crazy low $$ number for a family of 4 or whatever (and totally unrealistic, and prob under reported / underestimated). very bad news

otherwise - that superman thing in the "fun house" is pretty tacky looking, in my view

very diverse and interesting stories - from kauai and maui to the moon in a few paragraphs!


Anonymous said...

The Kalihiwai Ridge rentals give you the complete Kauai experience, including mosquitoes!

Anonymous said...

was funny to see you on hoike pass thru the chamber door to sit next to joann; i guess the ac was on as joann donned and doffed her red blazer.
i wondered if you'd mentioned the frequent flying farmer who killed her avocado income whose broken neck mom is all alone in venice while her farmer wannabe daughter pleads her case to the county. those hard hitting questions from dickie c got j to cut short her response of 'no i haven't sold my fruit, yet'.good tv w/out commercials. mahalo hoike!

Dawson said...

Go Linda! Go Linda! Go Linda! YEAH!

nowondertheyhateus said...

yea. damn good question...doesnʻt the moon belong to everyone? And will this affect tides? And itʻs amazing, but Iʻm sure all you know-it-alls will have those answers readily available. Even though something like this has never been done before and the only reason itʻs probably being attempted is just to see if they CAN and WHAT will happen if they do.

Same with the HAARP testing. Just to see WHAT happens because they CAN.

Mel Rapozo said...

This is a page out of my blog, as it pertains to TVRs on ag land:

This is simply WRONG!!