Sunday, February 28, 2010

Musings: The Big Wait

What a treat to wake to a cool, drippy, windy, Sunday morning, especially one that doesn’t start with wailing sirens and howling dogs, as was the case in yesterday’s otherwise beautiful dawn, when the pastures were steaming mist and spider web pictures were illuminated by the first rays of the sun.

“What’s with the sirens?” I asked my neighbor Andy, who was standing in his driveway, and he told me of the tsunami warning.

“Let’s just hope all the action gets funneled toward Joe Brescia’s house,” he said.

“Well, we’re high, so at least we’ll be OK,” I said, to which he replied: “Yes, we won’t be killed outright. We’ll die slowly, from starvation.”

I wasn’t thinking that was too likely in my case, since I generally have a lot of food on hand, but I decided to cook some of it, stockpile water and also do some laundry while all the utilities were still on.

I heard Ron Wiley on KONG telling people we wouldn’t be losing water and electricity, and wondered how he was able to make such promises, until he finally clarified and said, unless the waves knock down the power poles or a break a water line.

Well, considering that last November’s big flood did break a pipe that deprived Hanalei of water and KIUC is located at Port Allen, on the southwest side where the wave was predicted to hit, and so many power lines run along the coast, I figured I wouldn’t take any chances. I went through Iniki, and know what it’s like to be without water for days, and electricity for two months.

Thus prepared, at least for a few days’ deprivation — though in the back of my mind I was uneasily aware that things could get unpleasant if it stretched much beyond that, especially since I was low on TP — I settled in for the big wait.

Like a lot of Kauai residents, I listened to KONG, and was struck by how many things are scheduled on a typical Saturday on this little island, and so had to be cancelled in the emergency. I planned to stay at home until I heard what happened at Hilo, and if it was big, then drive to an area nearby where I'd have a view of the coast.

I surfed the net, where overworked news sites kept going down for server maintenance, and I thought of how people around the world had found themselves a front row seat at a disaster via the Hilo Bay web cam. A Twitter alert warned folks to avoid one heavily-trafficked site, where spammers would be lurking.

“Is nature out of control?” read a silly headline on that linked to a story about how “seismic shockers” are apparently increasing along the “Ring of Fire” that includes Hawaii — at least in the past 15 years, which isn’t even a nanosecond in geologic time.

“I hope this was all a drill,” Mel Rapozo said in a call to KONG.

Of course, that’s exactly what it turned out to be. Throughout the state, from the guv on down, folks were patting themselves on the back at how well we responded.

Yes, but the general public had at least five hours’ notice, and some much more.

A friend in Hanalei said his cousin woke him at 3 a.m., and folks down there were shuttling their boats and heavy equipment and animals to higher ground well before the first siren sounded.

He had gone round to his neighbors, to notify them. Some had been up all night, alerted by the previous evening’s late news. Others were sleeping and oblivious, including one tourist, who asked, “A tsunami warning? What am I supposed to do?” before popping the cork on a bottle of champagne.

“Ask your hotelier or concierge,” Ron Wiley was advising visitors, which doesn’t work so well for folks staying in the vacation rentals, so many of which are in the inundation zone.

A woman who worked at the Marriott called in to KONG and angrily wanted to know why Kukui Grove was closed, saying they’d sent visitors up there to wait it out, thinking they’d have bathrooms, food and something to do to wile away the hours.

I don’t think visitors to Hawaii realize that in the event of a disaster, they just may have to fend for themselves, and not just for entertainment, but essentials like food and water.

That’s just one small puka in our disaster planning that this most recent warning revealed. The road closures and evacuations also underscored how many communities — and key infrastructure — are vulnerable to flooding.

How, exactly, would supplies be ferried up to the North Shore if massive flooding in Wailua, Kapaa, Kealia, closed the highway? Remember how long it took to reopen the road after Kaloko washed it out, and that was the only disaster in the state?

Where would all those residents and visitors from Poipu, Kapaa, Hanalei and Kekaha go if they couldn’t return to their homes for a couple of days, or more?

I don’t think residents of Kauai realize — even though Civil Defense Director Mark Marshall has repeatedly told them — that government does not have food, water, tents and other supplies warehoused for such circumstances. People are pretty much on their own.

And then, of course, there’s the underlying insecurity that comes from being almost totally dependent on imported food and fuel. It’s the big pink elephant in the room that we occasionally refer to, but pretty much ignore, except when tsunami warnings empty the supermarket shelves and lines form at the gas stations.

Yesterday’s drill made me aware of gaps in my own disaster response plan, and reminded me once again that self-sufficiency is the key to comfort and autonomy, if not outright survival. So I’ve started a list of things I need to get.

Because as a friend observed, when I mentioned that I had a lot of pots and jars filled with water sitting around the kitchen: “I wouldn’t dump that stuff just yet.”

As another friend, who lives in an inundation zone, noted: “I’m gonna sleep with one eye open tonight. We don’t know for sure if Chile’s stopped rocking and rolling.”

“Look at how many watches we’ve had in the last few years,” said another friend. “Sooner or later, we’re gonna get it. And next time, there may not be any warning.”

Tis true. Even though yesterday's warning was cancelled, we're still very much doing the big wait.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Musings: Say It Ain't So

It was such a delight to wake in the night to rain splattering and spattering on the skylight, the leaves, the railing of the porch. And when Koko and I went out walking this morning all the plants were saying, “mahalo,” for the brief showers that failed to even touch all the soil, but at least washed off some of the dust so they can breathe.

I’m sure all the Afghanis are breathing a sigh of relief now that their saviors have finally taken Marjah and so can stop killing and maiming them. As The Washington Post reports:

Most of the wounded civilians recuperating at the whitewashed Italian-run hospital said their injuries were caused by "the foreign soldiers" - a claim that does not bode well for international and Afghan forces who are trying to get residents to renounce the Taliban and embrace the Afghan government.

Bernard Metraux, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Helmand province, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that as many as 40,000 people trapped by fighting in and around Marjah have little to no access to medical care.

As it turns out, all that death and destruction was apparently wrought for one reason, according to Washington Post reporters Greg Jaffe and Craig Whitlock:

[to] convince Americans that a new era has arrived in the eight-year long war…." U.S. military officials in Afghanistan "hope a large and loud victory in Marjah will convince the American public that they deserve more time to demonstrate that extra troops and new tactics can yield better results on the battlefield."

Meanwhile, the occupation is solidly under way as the U.S. rushes to install a new governor of Marjah. As the Christian Science Monitor reports:

The speedy rollout in Marjah of the new US strategy to “clear, hold, and build” is part of the renewed US strategy of wresting momentum from the Taliban. But some experts warn there is no way to install good government overnight.

Can you say puppet?

Much closer to home, I followed up on a comment left on a recent post and confirmed that yes, Dr. Becky Rhoades, director of the Kauai Humane Society, was indeed cited on Jan. 29 for having a dog on a section of the Path where dogs are not allowed. Hers was one of five citations issued since the ordinance took effect on Dec. 1, 2008.

Yes, this is the very same Dr. Becky Rhoades who is continually preaching responsibility among dog owners, who launched a citizen’s patrol to ensure people were picking up their dog’s doodoo on the Path and who told the County Council:

“I honestly believe we will have better dog stewardship if we pass these ordinances,” she said.

Can you say ironic?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

KKCR: Naue and More

Alan Murakami and Camille Kalama, attorneys with the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., will be discussing the legal and cultural issues surrounding the burials on Joe Brescia's lot at Naue on my next KKCR radio program from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday. Other topics include an update on the Larsen's Beach access issue, the lawsuit over the widening of the Wailua Bridge, the Akaka Bill and whatever's hot.

So tune in at FM 90.9, 91.9 or 92.7 or listen live on line. You can call in with your questions and comments at 826-7771.

If you'd like to hear the previous discussion on drug law reform, you can download the file here. Mahalo to Laura Christine for cleaning up the file and posting!

Musings: Lure of Green

A blanket of stars was replaced by a soft glow of blue, which gave way to striations of rose and gray when Koko and I went walking on this crisp, cool morning. The mountains were free of clouds and faint tendrils of mist snuggled up in the deepest recesses of the pasture. Along the road, the grass is turning brown, and not from Round-up, but lack of rain.

Flying into Kauai last evening after a day in Honolulu, I was struck by how yellow and dry it is around the airport and Hanamaulu, as well as Kalepa Ridge. It looked an awful lot like leeward Oahu, and that is not good, especially for late February, when everything should be lush and green.

Speaking of green, if you support decriminalizing marijuana, which would turn possession of less than an ounce into a civil, rather than criminal, offense and save the state about $6 million a year, SB 2450 will be heard by the Judiciary Committee at 11 a.m. on Thursday. You can send testimony to Judiciary Chair Sen. Brian Taniguchi at

And speaking of legislation, the U.S. House of Representatives did pass the Akaka Bill yesterday. As The Advertiser reported:

Democrats wanted to ensure that the bill passed before Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i, leaves Congress at the end of this week to run for governor.

"It is the culmination of a legislative lifetime for me," Abercrombie told his colleagues as he urged their support for a bill he has worked on for more than a decade.

If this crappy bill represents “the culmination of a legislative lifetime,” it doesn’t say much for Abercrombie, who now has his eye on the governor’s seat. Not that Mufi would be any better…..

I found it interesting that neither The Advertiser nor the Star-Bulletin included any comments from any Hawaiians, save for the administrator of OHA, which has supported the Akaka bill because it positions it to assume the role of the governing entity. Surely their reporters have some contacts in the independence and sovereignty movements they could call.

Since they failed to provide any opposing point of view, I will. Here’s a comment from sovereignty activisit Andre Perez of Oahu:

Despite only 1 hearing on 1 island, 10 years ago where the majority of testimony was opposed 9 to 1 against the bill and whereafter all subsequent hearings were immediately canceled, the Akaka Bill has been pushed by a few powerful Hawaiian organizations and politicians and is supposed to represent self determination for Hawaiians. Nothing could be further from the truth. Today, about an hour ago, a new version of the Akaka Bill that was just introduced yesterday, passed in the house and will now go to the senate.

This is unprincipled, NO HEARINGS = NO SELF DETERMINATION. The Akaka Bill and self determination should never, ever be used in the same sentence.

And if you want to understand more about why some Hawaiians are opposed, check out this short, impassioned clip where Kaleikoa Kaeo lays it on the line quite clearly.

The good news is, the bill faces a tough fight in the Senate, but not because Republican opponents there view it as the sell out it is. Instead, they’re touting the line of Hawaiian-hater Kenneth Conklin, who claims it will be racist and discriminatory. Of course, Conklin also claims the U.S didn’t stage an illegal overthrow of the monarchy — something Congress admitted in the Apology Resolution — so that gives you an idea of where he’s coming from.

I’m wondering where John Hodge is coming from when he makes statements like the one reported in today’s The Garden Island:

“I think it’s really important for all of us to preserve any part of the Hawaiian Islands, the beauty of the Hawaiian Islands, and the shoreline, but having the ability to preserve a part of Hanalei Bay, which is incredibly unique, would be fantastic,” Hodge said Monday. “My family and my girls and my wife would love to help do that.”

If that’s how he feels, why did he buy that 32,000-square-foot lot for $4 million to begin with? And why has he even now begun digging a foundation for a house there as he attempts to sell the lot at the magnanimously reduced price of $3 million to the Kauai Public Land Trust, which would buy it using state and county money?

One thing I found perplexing, aside from the push to acquire this overpriced parcel that flooded heavily in the last storm, and so should not be approved for a house in the first place, was the newspaper’s report that “$1.85 million in the county Open Space Fund has already been tapped,” which was followed later in the story by the comment:

Councilman Tim Bynum said Monday that he understands now is a difficult time to spend county money on land acquisition, but said both the Open Space Fund — which can be expended after recommendations from the Open Space Commission — and the Hanalei District Fund cannot be used for balancing the budget.

So how can the money in the open space fund already be "tapped" before the recommendations from the Open Space Commission are received, and presumably put out for some sort of public review and comment?

I was also intrigued by the comment from mayor’s assistant Beth Tokioka:

“Being that Hodge is one of several potential expansion parcels, it’s hard to say at this point what it will specifically be used for, however, the overall vision is to provide more and better parking, more recreational use area and to better manage and perhaps isolate commercial uses within the park,” Tokioka said. “The park is so popular and so heavily used that expansion is necessary in order for the public to truly enjoy it.”

Three million for a parking lot, or to manage commercial uses? Surely they’re not talking about the plate lunch truck, so perhaps the reference is to boating operations.

But at least the county recognizes the park is very heavy used. And perhaps that has just a little something to do with turning Hanalei into a resort by approving all those vacation rentals in town and along the bay.

Such is the lure of green, and not the kind that sprouts after rain.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Musings: Laws of Man and Nature

Thin clouds fanned out like sun rays over a star-struck sky when Koko and I went out walking last evening, and the moon, which only yesterday seemed new, was already edging past half-full.

By morning, or the dark time that precedes it, the celestial picture had shifted as the moon and constellations moved west and set, allowing a new pattern to form above us, and as we walked, the fragrance of angel’s trumpets gave way to the stink of something dead.

Such are the immutable laws of nature, which differ from the laws of man, which are always being altered and made anew.

Such is the case with the Akaka Bill, whose “final” text, or so the crafters hope, was released yesterday. It’s worth a read, or at least a skim, to get a sense of what the federal government is offering to the Hawaiians, whom they acknowledge they’ve treated badly and will continue to do so with this legislation, which they don’t acknowledge.

In short, it lays out a process by which the Secretary of the Interior will appoint the members of a commission that will determine who is a Hawaiian, based on criterion set forth by the bill, and figure out how to create a council, which – if it can get funding thru a state or federal grant or contract – will develop governing documents for a Native Hawaiian governing entity that the U.S. may, or may not, sit down with to negotiate:

the transfer of State of Hawaii lands and surplus Federal lands, natural resources, and other assets, and the protection of existing rights related to such lands or resources [and] grievances regarding historical wrongs.

That entity will be the only one that the U.S. will recognize or deal with, and its members will be subject to federal and state taxes and civil and criminal laws. It isn't given any land or money, and it can’t operate any gambling enterprises, either.

Such a deal.

As the National Review reported, members of the U.S. Commission Civil Rights, who are concerned about the creation of a “race-based government,” and also the process used in drafting this most recent version of the Akaka Bill, sent a letter to members of Congress that said, in part:

The bill slated for a hasty House vote was apparently negotiated behind closed doors among Hawaii’s Congressional delegation, possibly the White House, and certain state officials, although those actually involved are unclear. Indeed, more changes were reportedly made over the weekend and released less than 48 hours prior to the expected House vote. The citizens of Hawaii, Members of the Committees on Natural Resources and the Judiciary, and any other experts will not have the normal opportunity to discuss or debate the revised provisions of the bill. Nor will members of the general public.

We wish to register our profound disappointment that a bill of this great importance would be dealt with in this manner. The creation of the largest tribal entity in the history of the nation – potentially 400,000 strong – is too important a step to take this lightly.

If the feds plan to tell the Hawaiians who is a Hawaiian and the process they’ll be allowed to follow in forming a reorganized government, it seems the least they could have done was conduct hearings in Hawaii to see what the Hawaiians and others think.

So why didn’t they?

Because they knew there wouldn’t be support and they didn’t want the public embarrassment?

Because they didn’t want to give a forum to the people who would come and say we want something better, something else?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Musings: True Costs

The day dawned dry, again, and when Koko and I, out for our morning walk, ran into my neighbor Andy, he said, “If this is the start of global warming, we’re in trouble here in Hawaii.”

That reminded me of an article sent around by Light Line News that noted, in reporting on the prospects of algae as a jet fuel source, that the U.S. military is the nation's single largest consumer of energy.

And that got me wondering, pond scum aside, could the solution to global warming be peace? If so, then we’re sunk, because that’s an even tougher sell than giving up your car for the bus.

As we watched, Waialeale started flushing lavender in the light of the rising sun, giving meaning to the lyrics “for purple mountains majesty,” which is not to imply that I accept Hawaii as a rightful part of America, and Andy pointed out the place where a tunnel, which we both had been through, connects the Wailua and Hanalei valleys.

Since it was built in 1924, it might have been constructed by the Japanese, or even the Filipinos, Andy said, because the Chinese had pretty much moved off the plantations by then and Hawaiians didn’t like to do that kind of work.

“Have you ever run across anything in your historical readings to indicate that perhaps Hawaiians were opposed to such work because they believed the mountains were sacred and shouldn’t have holes drilled in them?” I asked.

“Oh, Joan, where do you come up with these things?” he asked, and that led to a discussion about the deification of animate and inanimate objects, the ways in which the ancient Hawaiians altered their environment — and the rituals, prayers and chants that accompanied their interaction with it — pre-overthrow land redistribution, sovereignty vs. independence and the prominent role that venereal disease played in decimating the Hawaiian population by inhibiting births.

“Of course, if they hadn’t been so promiscuous, none of that would have happened,” said Andy, tongue planted in cheek.

“And since women contracted it from Cook’s crew and spread it to the rest of the population, we can once again blame women for all the ills of the world,” I added, as we parted company.

It was far too fine a day to go inside, so Koko and I headed down to the beach, where we were the first to walk upon fresh sand. The surf was high, but the tide was low, guaranteeing that I’d be able to take a swim.

As I sat facing the sea, to my left was a mosaic of white foam and green water and the reddish-brown of reef, while to my right, it was all blue shimmer and sparkle, as far as the eye could see, with spray blowing off the tops of silver-backed waves. Ahhhh. And not a person in sight.

Btw, did you know the name of the Iraq war has been officially changed from “Operation Iraqi Freedom” to “Operation New Dawn?” In a memo to Gen. David Petraeus, Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote:

“Aligning the name change with the change of mission sends a strong signal that Operation Iraqi Freedom has ended and our forces are operating under a new mission.”

But as Democracy Now! observed:

Operation New Dawn shares the same name as the November 2004 US attack on Fallujah that killed hundreds of Iraqi civilians and displaced thousands more.

Do ya spose that duplication of names was just an oversight?

Call it what you will, it’s an occupation, and a dirty, deadly, debilitating one at that. As Nobel Economist Joseph Stiglitz noted in a Democracy Now! interview:

The fraction of those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan that are coming back disabled is enormous. It’s now almost one out of two.

Wow, that's a lot of maimed young women and men. Wonder why we don’t hear much about those guys….

Just like you don’t hear much about how the world’s largest companies cause an estimated $2.2 trillion in environmental damage and would lose, poor tings, one third of their profits if they were held financially accountable, according to an unpublished study for the U.N. As the Guardian reports:

The report comes amid growing concern that no one is made to pay for most of the use, loss and damage of the environment, which is reaching crisis proportions in the form of pollution and the rapid loss of freshwater, fisheries and fertile soils.

Can it be that the world is finally waking up to how capitalism and the free enterprise system, as practiced in today’s world, works? You give billions of dollars in subsidies to the big polluters and allow them to ignore large portions of the true cost of the goods and services they provide so they can reap large profits.

The Guardian went on to report:

The true figure is likely to be even higher because the $2.2tn does not include damage caused by household and government consumption of goods and services, such as energy used to power appliances or waste; the "social impacts" such as the migration of people driven out of affected areas, or the long-term effects of any damage other than that from climate change. The final report will also include a higher total estimate which includes those long-term effects of problems such as toxic waste.

So what, then, do you suppose is the true cost of producing nuclear energy and making nuclear weapons, especially when you consider that, according to anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman, it’s been confirmed that 27 of the nation’s 104 nuclear plants are leaking tritium, which is another name for radioactive hydrogen, H3, which is also a very important accelerant in global thermonuclear weapons, which have been detonated throughout the world, and being hydrogen, it mixes easily with water, and we are 70 percent water and fully 80 percent of the molecular bonds in our bodies are hydrogen bonds….

As a friend noted: "Soooooo, we are kinda the Target of interest here."

But hey, what’s a little radiation/mutation among shareholders, I mean, friends?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Musings: Idealist at Heart

The moon, a burnt umber wedge caught in a swirling vortex of luminescent clouds, had long since set when Koko and I went walking in the striated gray of morning. A pheasant cackled in the pasture and the birds awoke with slow, solitary chirps as I stepped up the pace, feeling the chill wind against my legs.

Along the road we ran into my neighbor Andy and his dog Momi, who bounded into a neighbor’s yard in pursuit of unidentified prey, which caused Koko, who was leashed, to emit a chorus of bitter whining yelps in protest, which prompted another neighbor preparing to leave for work to comment: “You’ve got an interesting call of the wild going there.”

But Koko was not chagrined, nor is Sarah Palin, who continues to put her inarticulate, buffooning self into the spotlight, despite the derision and jokes at her expense, and who had entered our conversation when Andy asked, in response to my comment that Obama wasn’t turning out to be much different than W, other than he speaks with a lot more intelligence, “Well, who would you rather have, Obama or Sarah Palin?”

And that sobered us both up, especially when we recalled that we’d laughingly dismissed the prospect of Reagan getting elected, and then the next thing we knew, he was winning an Academy Award for his role as president. Terrifying as the thought may be, Sarah Palin as president is not an impossibility in America.

Sen. Dan Inouye, meanwhile, launched his campaign for yet another six-year term — he’ll be 92 when it’s pau — with a banquet at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Wednesday night. It was attended by some 2,000 persons and Farmer Jerry, pressed into service to represent the Kauai Farm Bureau, was among them.

“Did he give a speech?” I asked.

“Yes,” Jerry replied. “He talked about his new wife a lot, and how she’s well-proportioned.”

It’s kind of hard to understand why Inouye needs to raise money or even campaign, seeing as how no one has even announced they’re running against him. He’s one of those job-for-life politicians, who really knows how to bring home the bacon, especially when it comes to the militarization of Hawaii.

Obama, meanwhile, has delivered the bacon to Exelon, the largest operator of nuclear power plants in the United States, with his recent endorsement of that highly toxic, yet somehow also "clean and green," energy source and promise of federal “loan guarantees” — as if the $8 billion (for starters) will ever be paid back. As Democracy Now!reported:

And the firm was a major—has historically been a major backer of President Obama. And two of his chief aides have ties to Exelon. Rahm Emanuel, as an investment banker, helped put together the deal that eventually merged, created Exelon. And David Axelrod was a lobbyist for Exelon. So there are very close ties between the chairman of Exelon, John [“Chicago Johnnie”] Rowe, and the Obama administration.

A journalist friend who has covered the nuke industry for decades was more explicit when we exchanged emails about the broadcast:

The deal is campaign money from pro-nukers, a least a million for approval for 81 nuclear reactors.

Straightforward. Pretty simple.

Hmmm, I have always thought all these Psycho MFs sell us out pretty fucking cheap! These are likely to be $10 to $20 Billion dollar construction projects apiece.

BLNR Chairwoman Laura Thielen, meanwhile, has signed off on Bruce Laymon’s Conservation District Use Application, which means he can build his cattle fence at Larson’s Beach, which means we’ll see if the county really meant it or was full of shit when it said we won’t let Bruce do anything that would close off access to that beach.

Andy, who shared the news, said he was disappointed that Thielen didn’t require a public hearing, as the information contained in Bruce’s application was so rudimentary, with many questions about the project’s environmental and cultural impacts left unanswered.

“So you’re disappointed that the agency charged with protecting the public’s resources, isn’t?” I asked.

“Yes,” Andy said. "I am."

“I don’t know why, when you’ve seen time and time again that they don’t,” I said. “But that’s what I like about you, Andy. You’re still an idealist at heart.”

So is my reporter friend, and farmer Jerry, and even I.

How else could one go on?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Musings: Two Worlds

The sky was patchy, gray upon gray, with an increase in light offering proof that the sun was about to rise, though not necessarily shine, when Koko and I went walking this morning.

Strong gusts carrying an occasional sprinkle of rain blasted through the ironwoods, sounding like a train on a track, surf on the shore, big wind in big trees.

It’s albatross weather, and I spent some time in their world yesterday afternoon as chilly squalls blew in off the ocean, prompting parents to fold their wings into windbreaks for their chicks, gather them up into their soft, warm breasts. Some even got the smoosh treatment, though they didn’t seem to mind.

And then I came back to the human world, and thought about writing about the destruction we’re wreaking on civilians and others in Afghanistan, what with our effort to “take Marjah,” just as we’ve sacrificed children and troops in countless other assaults on cities and strongholds across the globe over past decades and centuries, for reasons that tend to blur, or even be exposed as craven or false, through the lens of time.

I thought about writing about how President Obama has turned into a shill for the nuke industry, earmarking some $50 billion in federal loan guarantees for the most toxic of energy sources, which is now, Orwellian-like, being billed as “clean” because it is “carbon-free,” and making chilling comments like:

"On an issue that affects our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, we can't continue to be mired in the same old stale debates between left and right, between environmentalists and entrepreneurs," Obama said in a stop at a job training centre in Lanham, Maryland, a Washington suburb. "Our competitors are racing to create jobs and command growing energy industries. And nuclear energy is no exception," he said.

I thought about writing about the wasteful, $6 billion spectacle of the winter Olympics, which took one man’s life and had Canada ridiculously flying and trucking in snow, and the protests launched by the indigenous people there who raised a cry that is achingly familiar:

We are not a defeated people. This land was never surrendered. Our nations and our people still exist and will continue to exist.

I thought about writing about those topics, and then I thought about the albatross, tending their chicks so lovingly and carefully.

I thought about the teenagers that stop by to check out the nests, perhaps performing a bit of impromptu grooming before joining the other pre-breeders in their crooning, mooing, clacking flirtations, and the chick that, as my friend described it, had already flown, though the parent hasn’t yet given up hope.

I thought about the weeks-old chicks already practicing flight with stumpy wings that, in just a few months time, will span 7 to 8 feet.

And I decided to let my thoughts linger in that world for just a little longer.

Photos by Hob Osterlund

Monday, February 15, 2010

Musings: On Miscellany

The dark sparkle of a clear, moonless night had given way to streaks of orange that became more vivid and were joined by splashes of purple just about the time Koko and I ran into my neighbor Andy, who informed me it had been even purplier earlier.

I always hate missing any of the dawn’s splendor, but it was cold, and a holiday, so I figured no sense bolt out of bed at first light when I have the full day to do as I please. Most likely that will include an excursion to the beach, where the mornings have been exquisite the past couple of days — not too hot, with a low tide partly exposing the reef and creating those irresistible turquoise pools amid the shimmer.

Yesterday, a monk seal was hanging out in the channel after my swim, so we left to give it some space to come in if it wanted. Later, the pigs were crashing around in the valley below my house, setting off the neighborhood dogs and causing Koko to pace and whine, the fur raised on her back.

I was made vividly aware of the technological differences between the generations this past week when a young friend was convalescing at my house after surgery.

“I’m sorry there’s no TV,” I said, to which he replied, “No worries. I was just gonna look at YouTube on my phone.”

“Do you want any reading material?” I asked later, to which he replied, “No, I was just reading some stuff about Lemuria on my phone.”

“Do you need a flashlight?” I inquired much later, to which he replied, “No, I’ve got my phone.”

Aside from home-cooked meals, and a little TLC, there was only thing he needed: “Aunty Joan, could you go out to my truck and look for my charger?”

By yesterday, he had recovered sufficiently to play music at the grand opening of Children of the Land, a Polynesian cultural center in what used to be the Kauai Children’s Discovery Museum, next to Papaya’s, in the Safeway shopping center. I stopped in to hear his band play, and ran into a fellow DJ from KKCR, who remarked on my show about drug law reform.

“Thank God for Sen. English,” she said, in reference to the Maui lawmaker’s efforts to decriminalize marijuana — possession of less than an ounce would be a civil offense with a fine no greater than $100 — and allow the counties to license medical marijuana dispensaries, which the bill calls “compassion centers.”

Btw, if you support such legislation, you’d better speak up. The decriminalization bill — SB2450 — was introduced by 20 of Hawaii’s 25 senators, and sent to the Judiciary Committee. Now is the time to email Judiciary Chair Sen. Brian Taniguchi at and ask him to schedule a hearing on this bill, which will actually save the state money.

The compassion center bill, SB2213, was amended and sent to the Ways and Means Committee, which is headed by Sen. Donna Kim. Again, email her at to express support for a hearing on the bill, and its passage.

Anyway, after singing the praises of Sen. English, who has distinguished himself on a number of issues, including the Hawaii Superferry, she joined me in bemoaning the loss of our own Sen. Gary Hooser — a loss that is made all the more painful in light of who might take his seat.

So far, Ron Kouchi, who lost a run for the mayor’s office and his most recent bid for a Council seat, has expressed interest. Unfortunately, he’s just the sort of good old boy who so often is sent to the Legislature. In fact, he's working there now, as a lobbyist for the County.

At least Councilman Jay Furfaro, who has also expressed interest in running for Gary’s seat, has a conscience. And his departure would open up another seat on the Council, not that I’m expecting that would make much difference in the overall scheme of things.

Folks often talk about changing the political structure on Kauai, but I’m not sure the citizenry really gives a hoot. All you have to do is look at the home page of The Garden Island, where the most popular stories consistently are crashes, Kauai’s most wanted, the arrest log and obituaries, to get a sense of where people's heads are at.

And finally, if you’re interested in the Naue burial issue, check out the story I wrote for The Hawaii Independent. It offers more depth than my blog post, (and the correct photo of Brescia’s house, unlike The Garden Island's story) as well as some interesting quotes about the process, which is one of the key issues here.

I especially liked this comment, because it summed up how citizens had to take the lead in correcting the government’s mistakes, and they’re paying a price for that involvement:

”Our government has thrown us under the bus,” said Louise Sausen, who is among numerous Kauai residents named in a civil suit that [Joe] Brescia filed against project opponents. “They don’t want to get sued, but let the citizens get sued.”

Ultimately, the most important thing to come out of last Thursday’s Burial Council meeting was the very clear message that capping burials in concrete and building a house atop them does not conform with the Council’s vision of “preservation in place.”

As Native Hawaiian Legal Corps attorney Alan Murakami noted in an email:

At this point in the process, the Council’s recommendations can be accepted or rejected by SHPD (State Historic Preservation Division). In other words, SHPD can still accept the plan over the KNIBC’s recommendations. SHPD can also request further revisions to the plan from BRESCIA and bring it back before the KNIBC. Nevertheless, this is the very FIRST formal statement voted upon by the KNIBC that objects to the placement of the house over the 7 iwi kÅ«puna now lying under or near the house footprint. It also places the SHPD in the position of being forced to deal with recommendations that run directly contrary to Nancy McMahon’s April 24, 2008 approval of the burial treatment plan that allowed a house to be built in this location, which Judge Watanabe threw out.

It'll be interesting to see how Nancy, Joe and their lawyers dig themselves out of this one.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Musings: "It Stings"

A few smatterings of stars were out, but they quickly dissolved into the baby blue that dissolved into the pearly white that dissolved into the bleached white that awaited, as clouds blew quickly toward the south, an infusion of color from the dawn when Koko and I went walking this morning.

Waialeale was clear, but Makaleha was capped with those mystic, misty swirling clouds that are such a perfect topping to Kauai’s jagged, verdant peaks.

And yesterday’s unanimous recommendation by the Kauai-Niihau Island Burial Council to reject the 16th incarnation of Joe Brescia’s burial treatment plan for his house atop an ancient cemetery at Naue was a perfect topping to hours of heartfelt testimony urging it to do just that.

“But what does that mean?” asked a lawyer friend, when I shared the news. I’m not sure, since the county Planning Commission has already rejected attempts to revoke Brescia’s permit because he hasn’t met Condition No. 5 of the design review commission, which states, “No building permit shall be issued until requirements of the State Historic Preservation Division and the Burial Council have been met.”

Except it does send a very clear message — one that even Princeville Corp.’s Mike Loo supported — that capping burials with concrete and then building a house on top of them is not the Council’s idea of “preserving in place.”

In making the motion to recommend rejection, Council Vice Chair Keith Yap said “caps are not appropriate, and we’re still very much against any kind of building over the graves.”

During public testimony Kumu Kehau Kekua had explained that “our kupuna need to huaka’i [travel] into higher and different realms of life…. This movement cannot occur if there are cement caps restricting movement.” She also noted that Naue means “to move, to tremble,” and it, like Wailua, was specifically chosen by the Hawaiians as a burial area because it facilitates such movement.

Later, in response to questions from state archaeologist Nancy McMahaon, Yap reiterated: “We don’t feel good about building over the iwi, especially the caps. We don’t know what the solution is, but we think the solution should come from the owner.”

Nancy then said she’d thought she’d heard from those testifying that placing concrete jackets over the iwi “would be OK,” but the crowd of about 40 persons quickly corrected her, saying, “No, nobody said that.”

The Council also expressed concern about the concept of “vertical buffers,” which references the space between the house and some seven burials beneath it, as well as Brescia’s landscape plan, which calls for coconut trees in front of the house, where Wainiha resident Caren Diamond said even more burials are likely to be found. The Council members said they were worried that burials would be disturbed during the planting process, as well as by tree roots.

The Council further directed Nancy to have Brescia provide more details about his septic system, and how the leachfield could impact burials, as well as to disclose his plans for providing access to the iwi by lineal descendants.

Jeff Chandler, who is a descendent, asked the Council during his testimony: “What am I supposed to do? Toss a flower over the fence?”

Uncle Nathan Kalama offered what he termed a "cowboy hat" solution: Allow Brescia to build atop the bones, but require him to post a sign out front welcoming people to a cemetery, and mark all the locations of the 31 known burials on the lot, so that it would be clear to anyone on the property that they were walking on graves.

He then went on to say that “a Hawaiian problem can only have a Hawaiian solution and the Hawaiian answer is a`ole [no]!”

I mentioned Uncle Nathan’s comments to my neighbor Andy this morning, and he liked the idea of the sign. We then got to talking about the issue, and Andy said that when the Hawaiians go to visit the burials, they should wail, especially at 5 in the morning, as the sun is rising. Andy said that Captain Cook had reported in his journals that even aboard his ship, he could hear the mourners wailing on land.

And I said yes, maybe the Hawaiians could go to Wailua, and all the resorts and vacation rentals and other places where burials were disturbed and wail there, too, and perhaps that would start getting people’s attention.

Because when I go to the Burial Council meetings and talk to Hawaiians — as well as non-Hawaiians who are sensitive to this issue — I pick up tremendous grief and pain. It was palpable in the County Council chambers where the meeting was held — with DOCARE officers stationed out front, even though the crowd was respectful and orderly — and evident in many of the comments that were made.

“This desecration is very, very eha to us; it’s painful and it stings,” Aikane Alapai said. “Haena has already had one tidal wave. This hewa, this desecration, is the recipe to one more happening.”

“I’m from Michigan, but my stomach hurts badly thinking about these things,” said Leslie Lang.

“Those are my tutus up there,” said one young man, whose name I didn’t get. “Please make that house go away and make it back into a cemetery. Just leave the bones alone. Leave ‘em alone already.”

The comment that really got me, though, was one the made by Aukai Peter, from his wheelchair, his voice strained: “When I close my eyes at night, I try to imagine that immaculate place, perfect, as it was. Now all I hear is screaming, intense pain. I have nightmares. You need to correct the wrongs, leave the bones alone. That’s all I have to say.”

And it struck me then that landowners who want to build atop bones should be required to attend the Burial Council meetings and listen to what the people have to say. They shouldn’t be allowed to insulate themselves from the grief and the anger by sending an attorney in their place. They should be forced to be present at the proceedings so they can be made fully aware of the implications of their actions.

I asked Brescia’s attorney, Calvert Chipchase, if he told Joe what was said in these meetings, if he conveyed the depth of emotion that was expressed.

“Oh, Joan, you know I can’t disclose attorney-client privilege,” he said, somewhat exasperated.

“Yes, but I just wondered if he knows what's going on here, if you ever talked with him about these things,” I pressed.

“I know what you’re getting at, but I just can’t comment,” he said.

Nor could he comment when I asked what sort of solution they might have to the Council’s concern about the burials being capped and the house being built atop iwi.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what’s in draft #17.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

KKCR: Drug Law Reform

The topic of my radio program this week is drug law reform, with a special look at the bills now before the Hawaii State Legislature. It will air from 4-6 p.m. HST Thursday on KKCR (FM 90.9, 91.9, 92.7 or as live streaming audio.)

My guests will be James Anthony, an Oakland, Calif. Neighborhood Law Corps attorney; James Gierach, a former Cook County (Chicago) prosecutor — both members of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) — Maui Sen. J. Kalani English and Jeanne Ohta, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii. They'll be calling in at different times throughout the show, and we'll also be taking calls from listeners. (808-826-7771 or tollfree 866-275-1112.) So join us!

Musings: Dispensing Treats

A late-rising thin sliver of white illuminated the dark whole of the moon in an eastern sky smudged coral-pink in anticipation of dawn when Koko and I went walking this morning.

We were headed toward clear-toppd Wailaleale, which was destined to flush lavender when the sun rose. I kept turning around to watch the smoldering color spread across the sky. Koko, however, kept turning around to watch for my neighbor Andy, whose pocket magically dispenses treats.

It’s not unlike the relationship between Hawaii Superferry and some members of the state House — most notably Joe Souki and Calvin Say — who have introduced a bill that would create a special fund to establish a state-subsidized ferry system using the Alakai and Huakai.

The bill directs the Ferry Authority to seek federal funding assistance and seek to buy or lease the two fast ferries, or other suitable vessels, so long as they can carry at least 400 passengers and travel at speeds of 30 knots or more, which really narrows the market.

HB 2667, which the House Transportation Committee approved on Monday, goes on to give the Authority full access to all waters of the state and “access on a priority basis into all harbors and small boat facilities operated by the department [of Transportation] and the department of land and natural resources for discharging and receiving of passengers and property, wharfage, mooring, terminal, and other support facilities” and says it shall, “to the extent practicable,” use the Hawaii super ferry’s terminal facilities, ramps, moorage facilities, and equipment.

Georgina Kawamura, director of the state Department of Budget and Finance, testified that any diversion from the General Fund “cannot be considered at this time” and noted:

It is unclear if the Hawaii State Ferry System special fund would be financially self-sustaining.

Yes, that was always the big question about Hawaii Superferry, too — not to mention all those other environmental issues.

Meanwhile, the two ferries may return to Hawaii, anyway, as the Joint High Speed Vessels they were designed and intended to be. But under this scenario, they would be subsidized by the feds, instead of the state. The Army is now preparing a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to explore the potential impacts associated with stationing JHSVs at various ports, including Pearl Harbor.

And it does appear there will be some. According to the notice:

The JHSV will require fueling-at-sea training; aviation training (helicopter); live fire training; and high-speed, openwater-craft training.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Musings: A Sham and a Shame

Let’s see, what’s new? Well, the days are getting longer now, a minute or so on either end, and already it’s not quite so black when Koko and I go out walking in the mornings.

And Kauai is finally getting its first drug treatment center, but wouldn’t ya know it, it’s a five-star job for the richy-rich refugees from Malibu, not the local lost boys. The Garden Island reports it’s near Kilauea, although proprietor Kat Conway won’t reveal the exact location because she “hopes it can keep a low profile that helps patients heal.”

I hate to break it to her, but it’s kind of hard for a 10,000-square-foot estate with a spa and a private path to a secluded beach to keep a low profile. From the pictures, it’s also obviously on ag land — perhaps a former vacation rental? — so I hope she got a special use permit.

Of course, if it was a rehab center for locals, you know folks would be squawking their heads off, with the NIMBY factor running high.

So as the rich get to deal with their demons in luxurious seclusion, served by a butler, chef and trainer, the poor addicts get their asses thrown in jail. And that's really a shame — if you believe in justice, that is.

Reforming the drug laws is a topic I’ll take up on my radio show this Thursday, which runs from 4 to 6 p.m. on KKCR (, FM 90.9, 91.9, 92.7). I’ll have two guests from LEAP — Law Enforcement Against Prohibition — talking about the national scene and Maui Sen. J. Kalani English and Jeanne Ohta of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii talking about local initiatives, including the decriminalization of marijuana, a bill to license medical marijuana dispensaries and more. I hope you, and Police Chief Darryl Perry, will tune in. We’ll be taking questions, too, at 808-826-7771.

What else is happening? Oh, yes, the Kauai-Niihau Island Burial Council is finally going to have a meeting, the first in many months, and the oft-amended Burial Treatment Plan for Joe Brescia’s lot in Naue is finally on the agenda, which was finally released, just four days before the meeting.

Of course, it’s all teetering on the edge of meaninglessness, seeing as how the house atop the burials is nearly complete and the Planning Commissioners already made it quite clear that they won’t do anything even if the Burial Council again rejects the BTP.

It’s all been a giant sham, with the many revisions of what is essentially the same plan, the pretense at consultation with interested parties, Gov. Lingle’s lengthy delays in appointing members of the Burial Council, which prevented it from having a quorum and meeting in a timely manner, the bullying of Burial Council members into believing they had no power, the quasi-judicial hearings before commissioners who were bullied into thinking that even asking the great JB to show he was in compliance with his permits — and of course, he isn't — somehow amounted to the equivalent of a “taking.”

But the pain that many are feeling over this issue, well, that part is real. As Aunty Nani Rogers noted in the email that circulated the Burial Council agenda:

I am hoping for a strong showing of bodies there, to strongly support us and stop the outrageous and flagrant acts of desecration to our na iwi kupuna and the great harm to the spirits of those that are defending them. Yes, my spirit is eha, [hurt, in pain, aching] it’s been so for over a year, not just me but many, many others. That kind of harm/damage is ana `ole, immeasurable, and the worst kind used to punish any living human being.

And that's really a shame.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Musings: Monday Mix

The stars were thickly sprinkled across a clear sky they shared with a sliver of white moon when Koko and I went walking this morning. We didn’t know that within 45 minutes the clouds would stage a take-over and a light rain would fall just as the sun was rising, creating shafts of rosy light and a double vertical rainbow at the base of Waialeale.

We walked hugging the guardrail to give wide berth to those motorists, who are also usually speeding, that refuse to share the road by moving even an inch toward the center.

A slow-moving truck, the kind all walkers appreciate, slowed even more, and it turned out to be farmer Jerry, who thankfully did not talk about the Super Bowl and its commercials, whose relative popularity the Advertiser actually considers “breaking news,” but a recent meeting with the consultant who prepared the county’s energy plan.

It seems the consultant failed to conduct an inventory of Kauai’s agricultural lands and irrigation systems before coming up with a plan that recommended extensive cultivation of biofuels. “So now you have biofuels competing with food production,” Jerry said. “You can’t look at one without the other.”

He talked about all the energy it takes to ship food here, and to keep it frozen in transport. “If you want to save energy, you try to produce more food locally,” he noted. But instead of emphasizing food production, the state is pouring millions into biofuels, even though there still isn’t one successful biofuel operation in the entire state.

He was also concerned about the proposal for a 50-cent per gallon fuel surcharge, which he sees as inflationary, because businesses would pass that cost along to their customers, who would also be paying higher prices at the pump.

There’s no doubt we need to wean ourselves off imported oil, but it’s pretty hard to sock folks with an extra 50 cents a gallon before we have viable alternatives to abandoning our cars, like a much more comprehensive bus system. Otherwise, a lot of folks who are barely making it right now would be struggling even more.

Speaking of which, I attended a meeting of the Kauai Food Bank the other day where it was revealed that the demand for food increased 40 percent from 2008 to 2009, with about 18 percent of the island’s total population now receiving assistance. A third of the recipients are employed, 21 percent are homeless, 56 percent have income below federal poverty levels, 37 percent are kids, 10 percent are elderly and 40 percent are Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders.

We’re talking post-Iniki levels of need here.

Meanwhile, as The Garden Island reported, the hotels are remaining “mum” about their occupancy levels, which slipped below 50 percent in November.

Lanai, which put all its eggs in the luxury tourism and second home market after pineapple crashed, is also reeling, with reports that an estimated 10 percent of its residents moved away. The down economy makes it easier to push the massive windfarm that Lanai’s owner, Castle & Cooke, wants, but the residents, reportedly not quite so much.

I recall Councilman and hotelier Jay Furfaro saying that tourism is no longer a growth industry, and hasn’t been for the past 10 years. What is growing is the part-time resident/second-home market, which tourism feeds. But even that wasn't spared on Lanai, where construction has also ground to a halt.

So is Lanai an indication of what we can expect for the rest of the state if we don’t get our economy diversified? Or can we really believe the visitor industry folks who say, “Don’t worry, things are gonna turn around soon?”

With all the troubling economic and other issues on its plate, it becomes even more puzzling that the county is wasting precious resources bulldozing Hawaiian fishing shacks that supposedly were partly located on park land that isn't even in use. The county may now be facing a lawsuit over the action, and if it’s brought by the top-notch attorney who has offered to help the families, there’s a very good chance the county will lose.

In a follow-up story on the bulldozings that attempted to correct the glaring errors of its first mangled piece, which unfortunately was widely picked up by Honolulu media that no longer bother to cover, or even fact-check, off-island stories themselves, The Garden Island reported that the county had never engaged in any meditation or other discussions with these families before bulldozing their structures.

It seems that simply sitting down with these folks would have been a good first step, and that a bit of compassion and negotiation might also have been in order, seeing as how these families don’t have money just lying around for a survey, like the county does.

Instead, the county took the second of its usual two options: do nothing, or total overkill. And Mayor Carvalho and his mouthpiece, Beth Tokioka, got a well-deserved public relations black eye in the process.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Musings: Dichotomies

A wisp of fleece floated lazily past a waning golden moon, while in a thicket of trees, the birds stirred into wakefulness, singing, when Koko and I went walking this morning. Mist curled and steamed in the crevices of the pasture, and Waialeale was clearly visible through a fine, almost smoky, haze that muted the intensity of the pink that warmed the sky behind the Giant.

I was all agog with the beauty of the dawn when we ran into my neighbor Andy, who mentioned, after several stops and starts in the conversation caused by interactions between the dogs, that he’d gone again to see John Wehrheim’s film about Taylor Camp. And it was, once again, a packed house at the KCC Performing Arts Center, which has 700 to 800 seats, with tickets going for $10 to $12 a pop.

I shared farmer Jerry’s take on Taylor Camp, which he had expressed with particular vehemence the other day when I ran into him at Cost-U-Less: they were the ones who brought in the drugs; they came in and did whatever they wanted, without caring how the local people felt, and that’s a mindset that continues to this day; it opened Kauai up to a lot of people who never would have come otherwise; they were living off food stamps and the charity of the locals, without giving anything back to the island; and it was all about people trying to make Kauai into some fantasy of what they wanted it to be, which is another mindset that continues to this day.

In short, Jerry said, it was the beginning of the end for Kauai, especially on the North Shore.

That attitude, and the hostility behind it, is one I’ve heard expressed by a number of locals. And I’m invariably struck by how it stands in stark contrast to the dreamy nostalgia of those who were a part of Taylor Camp, or perhaps wished they had been, and how it also underscores a lot of the tension that still exists between locals and haoles.

But while I can see why someone like Andy, a historian who actually visited Taylor Camp, might be interested in the movie, I expressed puzzlement that it’s proven so popular with folks who weren’t even on the island then, saying that it seems people are caught up in the mystique, and mystique tends to be based in bullshit.

As Andy described it, the movie builds on the theme of how young people wanted to change the world, even as they desired to escape from the tensions of the war in Vietnam and other ugly political and social realities of the time. He especially enjoyed looking at the faces of the campers, because you could see in them the idealism that shaped that generation.

“Which went on to become the most materialistic in American history,” I said, and that prompted Andy to brand me a negative cynic — labels I typically pin on him, especially when we're discussing Hawaiian sovereignty.

He then went on to inform me that many positive social changes had come from that time, leaving the country in a much better place than it was in the 1950s.

I don't disagree. But I wasn’t a part of that generation — which, as I told Andy, largely failed to instill much of that idealism in its own pampered children — or the Taylor Camp scene, and so I have no desire to see the movie, or give John Wehrheim money.

Still, I remain fascinated that what one person remembers as “the best time of my life” another recalls as “the beginning of the end.” Because those strikingly different perceptions of reality speak to a dichotomy that is still very much in evidence on this island — as paradise is found by some, it is lost to others.

It's a dynamic I write about in "Parallel Universes," which was recently published in Hawaii's literary journal, "Bamboo Ridge." The piece uses snippets of actual conversations to convey how people inhabiting the same geographic area — in this case, windward Kauai — view and experience it so conflictingly.

It’s not unlike the way so many Americans continue to see this country as the bastion of freedom and liberty, even as “Christian” ministers write letters to the editor proclaiming that homosexuality is “sinful in God’s eyes,” and so gays should reasonably be denied equal legal rights, and the Executive Branch gives itself the authority to target for assassination — for now, only overseas, although certainly that could change — Americans it deems a threat to the nation.

As Glenn Greenwald wrote in Salon:

That's basically giving the President the power to impose death sentences on his own citizens without any charges or trial. Who could possibly support that?

A better question might be, how many of the supposedly democracy-loving Americans even know about that, or if they do, care about it more than who wins the Stupor Bowl?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Money Talks, Supreme Court Listens

Musings: Money Talks, County Listens

The sky was several shades of gray, save for one spot, which was inhabited by a half-moon, and it was variously white, silver and gold when Koko and I went walking beneath it this morning. A streak of guava pink appeared on the eastern horizon, but was quickly devoured by dark clouds that brought rain to a yellow sky shortly after we returned home.

It was cold, but not so cold as it has been the past few days, when it was easy to tell the residents, in their hoodies, flannel shirts and even Ugh boots, from the tourists in shorts and sleeveless shirts.

And not nearly so cold as the county, which bulldozed structures belonging to Native Hawaiians in Wainiha yesterday. The details provided by the account in The Garden Island are painfully inaccurate, mixing up two different situations, but the overall gist is correct: Hawaiians are losing what has been theirs for generations both to unpaid taxes, which have skyrocketed due to the expensive haolification of land up there, and the county’s aggression.

The area where the structures were bulldozed is the mostly hau-covered sand spit at Wainiha Bay, where the road makes that horseshoe bend, just west of the double bridges. Part of the spit is county park land, though most people wouldn’t know it because it offers no facilities of any kind. It is adjacent to three kuleana parcels, two of which are owned by Hawaiian families who erected fishing shacks. Another is owned by Peter and Sam Thayer, who use their structure as part of their Wainiha vacation rental. The fourth parcel, which abuts the highway, is advertised on Craig’s list as an RV camp site, which the state has said isn’t legal, but also hasn’t stopped.

The issue started last July,when the county went out and gave notice to several people who were living there as campers, on what they believed was the private kuleana land, but what the county thought was park land. This apparently prompted the county to start looking into whether some of the structures there, which are in various stages of improvement, were on park land.

A few weeks ago, the county sent notice to the kuleana land owners saying their structures had to be removed by Jan. 11, which gave them 72 hours. One landowner contacted both the number on the notice and KPD, but no one in the county knew anything about it.

The kuleana land owners were advised they could locate the original survey pins, pay for their own survey or accept the county’s survey. The county claimed the kuleana land had been recently lost to shoreline erosion, but one Hawaiian family contended their structure had been in the same location for years.

Anyway, the Thayers moved their structure forward, onto the public beach, and it was not knocked down. Instead, the county said the state would have to deal with it. The two Hawaiian families did not move their structures, which the county demolished.

The Garden Island story mixes up the sand spit issue with Wainiha taro lands on the mauka side of the highway in a neighborhood that in recent years has been heavily gentrified with luxury homes. These taro lands, which had been owned and worked by Hawaiians for many generations, were recently auctioned off because of unpaid property taxes, and are now in the hands of developers who for darn sure ain’t gonna be growing kalo.

Yet another loi bites the dust.

And yet more examples of how the Hawaiians are getting squeezed out of the North Shore by those who are intent on turning it into a playground for the rich and tourists.

What really bothers me about the sand spit issue is how the county is destroying Hawaiian fishing shacks even as it approves vacation rentals that operated illegally for years — and even now have the bottom floor enclosed in a flood zone and function as multi-family dwellings — and allows modest homes to be transformed into luxurious mini-resorts under the guise of “unsubstantial improvements.”

Funny, how the county sits back and does nothing as fancy vacation rentals in Wainiha encroach on the public beach, but they demolish Hawaiian shacks that may, or may not, have encroached on public park land.

What's the difference?

Well, the rich landowners have the dough to hire attorneys and surveyors and otherwise work the system.

It seems that on Kauai, money just doesn’t talk, it screams. And the county, cowed, invariably listens.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Musings: Trapped in the Ice

The skies were cloudy and the north wind was gusting, delivering sharp needles of rain, when Koko and I went walking — quickly, to build heat — this gray morning.

“It’s cold,” I reported to my neighbor Andy, who agreed, but then when on to tell me he’d been communicating via email with someone in Nova Scotia, where it was truly cold — an unfathomable minus 26 degrees.

At least the winter ice melts in the spring. The other kind of “ice” is present all year-round, dominating the lives of way too many people, including that whole miserable group of unfortunate souls involved in the life of two-year-old Cyrus Bell, whose chilling death is now the focus of a highly publicized murder trial in Honolulu.

Locally, it was an overriding factor in the tragic life of Ashlee Pasion Rita, the 27-year-old pregnant mother of three recently sentenced to 10 years in prison following a long string of arrests and convictions related to her crystal meth habit and the need for money to support it.

At the end of an editorial in The Garden Island that addressed the “systemic failure” evident in Rita’s case and called upon the mayor to fulfill a campaign promise to build an adolescent drug treatment facility on island, a reader commented:

Sad story but this woman is the failure- stop blaming the system it works fine for 95% of us that live here. The blame needs to be put on her family. Where were they all these years?

That comment, which was both true and false, for me raised the question, so then what do you do with Rita and all the other “failures” who are addicted to drugs? Keep cycling them through the criminal "justice" system, where it costs $88,000 per year to incarcerate them, and who knows how much to bring them to trial and keep their kids in foster care?

Meanwhile, as the editorial reported, addicts continue to impact our community, and even when they’ve done their time, they’re not necessarily ready to join society:

The Kaua‘i Community Response Drug Plan 2008-2013 states that 80 to 90 percent of all crimes committed on Kaua‘i are drug-related, and that more than 1,500 individuals on probation, parole, drug court or awaiting sentencing “need help to re-integrate into the community, but there are gaps in the continuum of care needed.”

It seems, when you look at those kinds of statistics, and the cases of Ashlee Rita and Cyrus Bell, that the law enforcement model we’ve relied upon isn’t working when it comes to reducing addiction and its associated costs and ills. Yet locally, we’re still stuck in that mode, and so are the feds, as Democracy Now! reports:

The Obama administration’s budget proposal for the Office of National Drug Control Policy sets aside nearly twice the amount of funding for law enforcement and criminalization than for treatment and prevention of drug addiction. Out of a total of $15.5 billion dollars, some 10 billion dollars are for enforcement measures. National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske praised the numbers as reflecting a “balanced and comprehensive drug strategy.”

Well, just last year the newly-appointed drug czar and former Seattle police chief had called for an end to the so-called “war on drugs," raising hopes among advocates of harm-reduction approaches to curbing drug use. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last May Kerlikowske said “People see a war as a war on them. We’re not at war with people in this country.”

It sure feels like a war, and like the “war on terror” and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we’re investing a lot of lives and money in a fight that we're bound to lose, because we're failing to address the root cause.

The Democracy Now! report served as a segue to an interview with Dr. Gabor Mate’, an author and physician who has spent the past 12 years working with drug addicts in Vancouver. As he noted:

“Without exception, these are people with extraordinarily difficult lives. The commonality is childhood abuse…..And that’s what sets up the pain biology of addiction. In other words, the addiction is related both psychologically in terms of emotional pain relief and neurobiological development through early adversity.”

When people are stressed, mistreated or abused, Dr. Mate’ said, their brains don’t develop properly, which increases their propensity for addiction.

So as he sees it, the war on drugs is effectively “punishing people for having been abused.” And since “stress drives addiction,” the war on drugs “actually entrenches addiction deeply.”

Rather than dealing with drugs and addiction from a criminal perspective, Mate’ says we need to take “a compassionate, caring approach that would allow these people to develop.”

But that shift would require us to address as well the deeper issues — the social and political policies, the economic and racial inequalities — that feed the stress and abuse. Dr. Mate’ also links stress to the rise in ADD — attention deficit disorder — which he says is not a disease or genetic disorder, but a problem of brain development.

Yet, instead of focusing on stress reduction in our society, we’ve put 3 million kids on various forms of speed and another 500,000 on anti-psychotic drugs, creating a breeding ground for another generation of addicts and future inmates.

As Dr. Mate’ noted, this approach serves some sectors of our society, and while he didn't specify which, it's pretty obvious that we're talking about the massive prison complex and pharmaceutical industry.

Meanwhile, as he observed, everyone in our society is “always seeking satisfaction from outside,” looking to quell a hunger that can never be satiated through stuff or sex or work or service or extreme sports or any of those other legal, even admired and well-rewarded, addictions:

My point is, there’s no clear distinction between the identified addict and the rest of us. There’s just a continuum on which we all may be found. They’re on it because they’re suffered a lot more than the rest of us.

And when you look at it like that, you have to wonder, what sort of society would take the stance of lock 'em up and throw away the key?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Musings: Audacity to Hope

The Big Dipper and big moon formed a triangle with big Mars pointing to big-topped Waialeale when Koko and I went walking on this brisk, clear morning.

As we neared the end of the road, I saw a pack of dogs, which was unusual, although sometimes pig hunters do go out on moonlit nights, even though it's illegal, and as they began trotting toward us, Koko whined and pressed against my legs, which was also unusual, since she's typically a little tita.

I picked her up, and as the dogs approached, I knew I had to be firm and show no fear. “Chhha,” I said in a loud, deep voice, stomping my foot, and the lead dog whimpered, tucked his tail and ran mauka, as the rest of the pack followed.

Ah, if only we could so easily banish far more serious threats, like the way the nation is hurtling toward an expansion of nuclear power as Obama continues to suck up to conservative Republicans who will never be satisfied no matter how many concessions he grants.

He’s seeking $54 billion in loan guarantees for construction of nuke plants, with talk of an additional 180 reactors being built by 2050. As the Associated Press reported:

The nuclear energy industry is waiting to see what else the administration will deliver. Its wish list includes more financing for loan guarantees, as well as tax incentives for nuclear energy manufacturing and production facilities.

Equally disturbing is the rhetorical spin that’s being put on this toxic technology to help sell it to a justifiably wary public. We've got Obama talking about “a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants,” as if such a feat is truly possible, and AP reporting:

The 104 nuclear reactors in operation in 31 states provide only 20 percent of the nation's electricity. But they are responsible for 70 percent of the power from pollution-free sources, including wind, solar and hydroelectric dams.

Ummm, since when did nuclear reactors become “pollution-free” power sources? We still haven’t figured out that thorny disposal problem, other than to “store” it on sacred lands.

As an aside, our own Sen. Gary Hooser has introduced a bill that would require a two-thirds vote of the Lege for the construction of new fossil fuel power plants, as is currently required before building nuclear reactors.

Obama also wants to increase spending on the US nuclear arsenal by more than $5 billion over the next five years, as if we don't have enough nukes to destroy everything and everyone already, and is asking for a $44 billion increase in the Pentagon’s budget — all while cutting domestic spending. As Democracy Now! reports:

Obama is seeking the extra money despite a pledge to cut the US arsenal and seek a nuclear weapons-free world.

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration attorneys who came up with the legal justification for torture won’t even get a slap on the wrist. Ethics investigators initially concluded they had “violated their professional obligations as lawyers,” according to a report in USA Today, which could have resulted in sanctions.

But in keeping with the Obama policy of concession, that was softened by one of his Justice Department appointees to they simply showed “poor judgment.” So John Yoo and Jay Bybee can continue to exercise that poor judgment, unchastened, in their current positions as UC Berkeley law professor and 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge, respectively.

I guess that’s what we get for having the audacity to hope that things might be any way other than business as usual, even with a new guy on the job.