Friday, April 30, 2010

Musings: "Dirty Fucking Hippies"

I was intrigued by an Anonymous comment left on yesterday’s post:

Joan said "I found it amusing that Diane is a former Taylor Camper. Doncha just love the evolution of those great ''60s values?'"

Taking the evolution of one individual's values and implying an entire generations values evolved in a like manner indicates unfounded bias. John Harder of Zero Waste Kauai was also a former Taylor Camper, and still seems concerned about the planet.

What have you got against the '60's generation? Anti war, civil rights, women's rights, black and Chicano power, gay, lesbian and transgendered rights, free speech, questioning authority, alternative media and the environmentalism were all resurgent movements in the '60's.

I may be wrong Joan, but it seems the values you express in this blog are largely from the sixties or don't you agree with these sentiments

And then the commenter left a link to a youtube video that presented still images of war, environmental devastation, capitalist excesses, political corruption and other ills of the past 50 years, accompanied by a gritty narrative that lays out the ongoing decline, punctuated by the frequent refrain: “the dirty fucking hippies were right.”

It’s true that I share the values that the video reflects, and that "the dirty fucking hippies were right."

“But what bothers me about the ‘60s,” I told my neighbor Andy, when we met up on the road while I was walking Koko this morning, “is the way it created all this momentum and then just stalled out.”

“That’s because so much was done in the ‘60s,” Andy said, naming off the same things that Anonymous had cited, although I did have to point out that feminism and questioning authority got their start well before the 1960s. He then talked about how the ‘60s generation had broken open a closed, conservative society and achieved long-lasting social changes that are still in place today.

“I don’t disagree that major changes did occur,” I said, “but it’s not like all the problems have been solved, as the video points out. And with some things, like the environment, things have actually gotten worse. So what happened to the values and movements that birthed the push for social change?”

“The generations that followed didn’t pick up the ball,” Andy said. “We started it and got it all going and it was up to those who followed to carry on.”

“That’s the other thing that annoys me about the ‘60s generation,” I said. “There’s this smug attitude of oh, we did so much, so now we can just kick back and drive our Lexuses and drink our lattes and build up our 401-Ks. Meanwhile, they failed to mobilize or inspire subsequent generations to carry the torch, including their own kids. The ‘60s generation turned out to be the biggest consumers in the history of the planet, aside from perhaps their kids.”

Andy said he could agree that if the ‘60s generation had failed in any way, it was in spoiling their kids, giving them too much (and, IMO, failing to make them work for it). But he wasn’t willing to agree that the ‘60s generation failed because the movements it started stalled out, or that activists sold out.

Yes, it’s true that many activists are still active, and Andy and I both acknowledged that we were dealing in generalities. But it is also true that many of those from the ‘60s generation have drifted into materialistic complacency.

Andy pointed out that the right has been extremely aggressive in demonizing the ‘60s values and the people who held them, which had the effect of pushing them further to the fringe and making it difficult to pick up new converts. There's definitely something to that. Just look at the War on Drugs, which was launched by Nixon, and as the video noted, the word peace has become a pejorative in this era of Homeland Security and the War on Terror.

And part of the problem lies in societal complacency, Andy said. Subsequent generations took feminism and equal rights and other such accomplishments for granted, forgetting the struggles that created them. People still hold the values that led to those changes, he said, but they don’t have the passion accompanied the movement to implement them.

Then he observed that part of my problem is I hold the belief that everything can be fixed, so I think the ‘60s generation failed because we still have so many ills.

I’ll admit I’m a utopian, but isn’t that a ‘60s value? And I’ll also admit that I do wonder how people who embraced those values deeply at one time seem to have just let them fade away, much as I wonder how people can shift from being a Democrat to a Republican.

“You guys should be out there fighting,” I admonished Andy, who said he still was, to a certain extent, but the fact is, he’s tired.

And that brings me to my original point. If you failed to instill your values and passions in future generations, and you’re too tired to carry on, no wonder the world isn’t getting any better.

I probably could have developed this more thoughtfully and deeply, but I’m rushing to attend a seminar on fair housing laws, which is probably one of those legacies of the ‘60s.

But lest the ‘60s generation get too cocky about their accomplishments, I’ll leave you with the words of Taylor Camp chronicler John Wehrheim, who also provided me with the link to this very amusing article:

"We threw the baby out with the bathwater. It was all over as soon as the counter-culture idealism and art of the sixties was packaged and marketed as a billion dollar entertainment industry and our heros and idols changed from barefoot gurus with begging bowls and chillums to rock stars in limousines chugging Dom Perignon and hooving coke."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Musings: Belly Full

First thick clouds, then heavy rain, muffled moonlight, stifled sunlight and waylaid walk plans for a while, but eventually Koko and I were able to venture out into a dripping landscape with roadside rivulets.

The sky briefly blushed pink atop Waialeale, which was buried in a heap of fleece, and a black cloud curled up like campfire smoke from the belly of the Giant.

Hanalei resident Mark Daniells was busy bellyaching in The Garden Island yesterday about his “vindictive and malicious” neighbors in Hanalei. It seems they're not pleased that he has been operating an art studio for the past 20 years under a temporary permit that actually expired 19 years ago. Now he's trying to make the permit permanent in preparation for subdividing and selling — as a much more valuable “commercial” property — the 7,900-square-foot lot where he and his wife, Diane, also run a day care and vacation rental.

I found it amusing that Diane is a former Taylor Camper. Doncha just love the evolution of those great “'60s values?”

Meanwhile, The Garden Island today took up the evolving topic of legalizing vacation rentals, with nary a word on Tuesday’s planning commission vote on the matter, and no reference to when it will be back on the County Council agenda. But at least it did shed some light on how Councilmen Tim Bynum and Jay Furfaro, both avid supporters of the new TVR bill, think:

Like this comment from Jay, offered as rationale for why we have to allow TVR operators on ag land to apply:

“Not only the county accepted tax money, but the state accepted revenue,” he said.

So if an ice dealer pays some taxes, that gives him a claim to legitimacy?

Or this:

“They still have to meet all codes, conditions, show their records and so on,” said Furfaro, adding that owners will also have to prove that they were actively operating legally on March 7, 2008, otherwise they won’t be granted a permit.

Yes, but if no inspection is required, how will we know if they’re meeting all codes and conditions?

Or this example of Tim’s naivete:

Hanalei-Ha‘ena Community Association Board Member Barbara Robeson said many property owners have abused the current ordinance, claiming they have been running a TVR, and obtaining a permit, despite no such activities.

“They would be committing major fraud; they can go to prison for that,” Bynum said.

Yes, but who is going to go after them? The planning department doesn’t even want to hear about those kinds of complaints and the prosecutor’s office is in shambles. Meanwhile, the perps are laughing all the way to the bank.

The article underscores the lawsuit phobia driving this bill and the county in general — a phobia fed by opinions from the county attorney’s office that aren’t even made public.

I was talking to a Council and Commission observer who pointed out that the County Attorney’s office regularly pressures members to get with the program by saying they will not be given legal representation if they go against the County Attorney’s opinion.

So then essentially what we’re getting is rule by the County Attorney’s office. And who appointed them king?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Musings: Sell Outs

It’s shaping up to be a tough week for folks who are concerned about protecting Kauai’s agricultural lands and stymieing the spread of resort uses around the island.

But it’s looking like a very good week for the Realtors and speculators and off-island second-home owners and investment consortiums that wield such tremendous power here.

Yesterday, with virtually no discussion — and in spite of a 2009 opinion from the state Attorney General’s office to the contrary — the Planning Commission approved a transient vacation rental (TVR) bill that will allow TVRs on ag lands and open the door to an expansion of that industry.

And today the Council takes up the so-called “farm worker housing” bill, which gives certain ag land owners the chance to build a home on land they bought dirt cheap — we’re talking $10,000/acre — knowing full well it had no housing rights. Furthermore, it allows unscrupulous ag land owners, of which there are more than a few, a chance to build a little hale or two or three that they can use for any number of purposes, including vacation rentals.

Because let’s face it, inspection and enforcement are not Kauai’s strong suit. The TVR bill eliminates inspections altogether, and even though the Council has tried to build in safeguards against abuse, the planning department has already said it cannot enforce the farm worker housing bill. So why, given the long history of land use abuse on this island, are we even going there?

I mean, how many farmers, especially the dirt poor ones grossing $35,000 year, which is all you have to make to qualify for a farm dwelling, are going to let someone live for free in a unit they could be renting out for $1,000 to $1,500 per month? The temptation is just too great to cheat and say OK, pay me under the table and I’ll list you as a worker. Worse, the bill allows interns — read tourists — to occupy the units, so they don’t even have to prove they’re paying a worker wages.

Both of these bills are essentially handouts to landowners. Just ask Councilman Daryl Kaneshiro, a rancher, who has been trying to water down the farm worker housing bill so he can build some units on his land. He really should recuse himself from voting.

The bills also work to legitimize illegal dwellings and activities, which brings us to the AG’s opinion regarding TVRs on ag land.

The Aug. 19, 2009 opinion was issued in response to an Oct. 7, 2008 request from Sandra Kunimoto, chair of the state Board of Agriculture. She specifically asked: is it legal for a county to allow a vacation rental or B&B on a working farm that is conducting ag tourism allowed by county ordinance? May counties allow such uses on ag land with no ag activity? Are counties required to assess and consider the cumulative potential impact to farms, ag activites and an area’s ag resources prior to issuing Special Permits in the ag district?

After saying that the state Land Use Commission should appropriately interpret legal uses of ag lands and standards for Special Permits, Deputy Attorney General Bryan C. Yee offered his opinion, which was approved by AG Mark Bennett. It’s lengthy, but I’ll just touch on two extremely relevant points.

The first is that B&Bs and TVRs created solely for ag tourism purposes are not allowed. The second is that people do have the right to build houses on ag lots created before 1976, without the need for agricultural activities.

But there is nothing to suggest that the right to build a single family dwelling (without the need for agricultural activities) encompasses a right to use that single family dwelling for a B&B or a TVR.

In summary, we are not aware of any justification by which a county may allow a B&B or a TVR on agricultural lands as a permissible use under section 205-2(d), 205-4.5(a), or 205-5(b)

Given that, exactly how does the county think the TVR bill can legally fly? To his credit, Planning Commission Chairman Caven Raco wanted to defer action on the bill to review the AG’s opinion, presented by former Councilman Mel Rapozo. But the others just wanted to be rid of the bill — heck, they didn’t even have any questions — so he did not prevail.

It seems that on Kauai, the opinion of the AG means nothing, but the opinion of a junior county attorney, well, that’s gold.

These bills are the handiwork of Jay Furfaro, Tim Bynum and JoAnn Yukimura, all of whom want you to elect them again, and all of whom believe they’re doing the right thing.

Tim thinks he’s saving the county from an expensive lawsuit from TVR owners, while JoAnn and Jay think they’re saving agriculture. But given the history of rampant land use abuses on this island, they’re simply opening two new cans of worms that could still expose the county to lawsuits while making it even harder to ensure that ag land is affordable and actually used for farming.

They’re also helping resort uses become more firmly established in what used to be residential and farm communities, even though the county’s General Plan clearly states that the values and lifestyles of the residents should not be compromised to accommodate the visitor industry.

As one advocate for the people expressed it so aptly: “Sold out, we is.”

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Musings: Another Planet

The moon, full tomorrow, peered boldly through my windows last night and at some point in the silence of the wee hours Koko and I walked outside blinking, blinded by the brilliance of its cool white light.

It was not long in bed before I was again roused from mine, this time by streaks of red-gold that lit up the eastern sky. We hurried out, me enthralled by the beauty, Koko by the smell of freshly-squeezed garbage juice dribbled the entire length of the street.

At the end of it, we ran into my neighbor Andy, and his dog, Momi, and were confronted by the splendor of the mountains, their summits clear, though by the time the sun rose red, casting the trees in alpenglow, thin bands of clouds had layered atop Waialeale and absorbed the dawn’s colors, creating the effect of Saturn-like rings.

I spent yesterday on another planet — Honolulu — and ran into Sen. Gary Hooser in the airport enroute. He seemed fresh, even though the legislative session is winding down, and said he’s ready now to ramp up his race for Lieutenant Governor. Go Gary!

Later, meeting Earthjustice attorney David Henkin, who ran for that post in 2006, I couldn’t help but wonder what Hawaii would be like today if he and his running mate, William Aila, had won the election. Sigh.

I also talked to our own Rep. Mina Morita, who has managed to rescue HB 1808, the shoreline vegetation bill, from the dust bin where it was tossed under pressure from wealthy coastal landowners. As chair of the conference committee, she’s shaped it into something that has a good chance of passing and gives DLNR the authority it thinks it needs to enforce against those who are gobbling up the public beach.

All I can say is thank goodness for Mina.

I wish I could say the same about the very bad transient vacation rental (TVR) bill introduced by Councilman Tim Bynum, which is being heard by the Planning Commission today.

Planning Director Ian Costa and his deputy, Imai Aiu, apparently are recommending approval of the measure, and why not? It would eliminate the need for all those pesky inspections, not to mention the cumbersome process of actually having to provide the public with information about TVR applications in any sort of a timely fashion, much less justify their approvals.

One attorney said he was wondering what standards the county would require agricultural landowners to meet, in terms of proving they actually have a viable farm operation to support the “farm dwelling” that they want to turn into a vacation rental.

The answer, as the TVR bill is now written, is none.

I know Tim believes this bill is needed to protect the county from a lawsuit by ag land owners, but unfortunately, it changes the law for everyone. So that means all those sketchy TVRs — you know, the ones with enclosed downstairs in flood plains and other violations that ostensibly would have prevented their approval under the existing law — will have a chance to slide on through.

Meanwhile, a quick check of county records shows that since the existing TVR bill was passed, 356 TVRs have been approved. The planning department approved 302, and the planning commission 54. Of the total, 112 are in Hanalei and 81 are in Wainiha, with the remaining 163 spread around the rest of the island. Is it any wonder that North Shore folks feel, quite rightly, like their community is being overwhelmed?

In other news, Parks director Lenny Rapozo showed himself to be a real friend of nature with his comment that it’s “unacceptable” to turn off stadium lights even though they’re killing native seabirds now teetering on the brink of extinction. Maybe he should be made to circle the lights until he falls to the ground exhausted, just to see if he’s capable of empathy.

And Paul Curtis finally got around to reporting the six-day-old ”news” that Taser victim LeBeau Lagmay was found not guilty of a third-degree misdemeanor assault charge unrelated to his Tasing, which kind of makes me wonder why the paper bothered to give it any ink at all, much less the sensational coverage that marked the trial’s start.

Surely there are more pressing issues to cover.

The paper hasn't quite been the same since Mike Levine went to another planet.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Musings: Flawed Beliefs

The moon — long time, no see — called me out last night, and then I witnessed the rest of the celestial splendor: Venus twinkling large and low in the west, preparing to drop behind the mountains; Mars, glowering in the southwest, and Saturn, high overhead.

By morning, they were all gone, but the gray-green summit of Waialeale — long shrouded in clouds, but now just dappled with their shadows — had come into glorious view instead, causing me to stop and give it my full attention. Koko, however, was far more interested in the dog biscuit offered by my neighbor Andy.

We hadn’t encountered Andy on the road in quite a while because there’s a much wider walking window now that the sun is rising early. But he obviously still reads this blog, even when he’s not featured in it, because he was curious about how my radio show on civil unions and discrimination against gays and lesbians had gone.

The show was poignant at times, and also chilling, with one of my guests describing how she’d been approached by two men while walking in Waikiki, and when they asked her if she was gay and she said yes, they beat the crap out of her, leaving her with physical and psychological scars that she carries to this day. Another guest said that when he and his then-partner were living in Alaska, the people who lived in the apartment above them had a party. One of the revelers came downstairs, knocked, and when his partner answered the door, the guy beat him up.

He said the police did nothing, so they hired an investigator to find the man and filed a civil suit against him. The woman said nothing ever happened to her assailants in Waikiki.

But she said even that horrific incident isn’t as bad as the unkindness, negativity, stink eye, stink talk, bad vibes and other ugliness she experiences every single day simply because of her sexual orientation.

As she so astutely observed: “People love to hate ‘the other.’”

I was struck by how damaging it is for people to be continually getting the message, especially from religious leaders, that they're bad, weird, creepy, sick — fundamentally unacceptable, and so unlovable. Society forces a terrible, soul-crushing burden on "the other."

The guests made a good case for why they want and need civil unions — benefits, hospital visitation rights and other legalities — and also why civil unions aren’t enough. For one thing, they’re recognized only by certain states, so gay couples still aren’t entitled to the tax breaks and other federal benefits and protections offered to married heterosexuals.

But most important, they said, civil unions create a separate mechanism for recognizing gay partnerships, and separate, as we’ve learned in dealing with race-based discrimination, is not equal.

Unfortunately, it seems unlikely we’re even going to get civil unions in Hawaii because our legislators are so wimpy. Still, Citizens for Equal Rights hasn't given up the fight, and if you'd like to join their effort to show lawmakers there is "mainstream community support" for civil unions, check out their web site.

It’s pretty hard to believe that we’re still discriminating so blatantly against gays. Yes, we all know that despite progress in recent decades, discrimination continues against non-whites, as evidenced most recently by the new Arizona immigration law, and women, who still earn less then men and put up with a lot of sexist crap.

But non-whites and women are not systematically denied basic rights afforded to other people, the way gays are, and no one would dare make a legal or moral case for depriving them of such rights, as is continually done with gays.

Much of the discrimination is couched in talk about protecting the sanctity of marriage, but what is that, really? As someone who has been through it twice, I can’t see any reason to get married other than the legal benefits, and I can’t see how we can legitimately deny those benefits to gays.

While I wouldn’t deprive anyone of the right to experience it for themselves, marriage is a highly overrated institution, much like motherhood. I was very interested to learn, while reading a book review in The New Yorker, that many activities that people think will make them happy do not, including having kids:

Studies have shown that women find caring for their children less pleasurable than napping or jogging and only slightly more satisfying than doing the dishes.

I suspected as much.

The review of Derek Bok’s new book, “The Politics of Happiness: What Government Can Learn from the New Research on Well-Being,” also laid rest to the idea that more money and stuff brings happiness:

Indeed, the average level of self-reported happiness, or “subjective well-being,” appears to have been flat going all the way back to the nineteen-fifties, when real per-capita income was less than half what it is today.

America’s felicific stagnation shouldn’t be ignored, Bok argues, whatever the explanation. Growth, after all, has its costs, and often quite substantial ones. If “rising incomes have failed to make Americans happier over the last fifty years,” he writes, “what is the point of working such long hours and risking environmental disaster in order to keep on doubling and redoubling our Gross Domestic Product?”

I’ve often wondered that myself.

The question now is how to extricate ourselves from flawed belief systems that don’t bring us happiness and cause others great unhappiness, like prejudice against people who are attracted to those of the same sex.

I think my radio guests were on to something when they said the answer — or at least part of it — lies in love.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Musings: Friday Follies

I woke in the night to the comforting sound of rain hammering on the roof, but by morning it was merely dripping from the trees and so Koko and I got out and went walking through wet grass and puddles that soon soaked my shoes and her belly, though neither of us minded a bit.

The bird song was loudly exuberant along our route, and as we returned, I caught the sun peeking out of a gold-crested cloud, glinting through the trees, which caused all their clinging raindrops to glisten like jewels as a Hwamei repeated a simple, yet richly melodic, tune.

Actor Piece Brosnan, meanwhile, is sounding the call to protect whales from commercial hunting. His appeal was made in a mass email sent out by Richard Diamond with the subject line: Pierce Brosnan Request – Save the Whales. It made me want to send out my own request: Pierce Brosnan — Save the Beach. Yes, he’s one of those Wainiha land owners whose gardeners are busily vegetating the public beach in front of his oceanfront house.

Speaking of oceanfront, The Garden Island gushed that a developer has given the county 138 acres of land makai of the Lihue Airport north-south runway “free of charge.”

Well, I could guess you could say it’s “free” if you don’t count the $1.4 billion, 400-unit Kauai Lagoons Resort timeshare projects he gets to build in return. The county is such a good negotiator. It also squeezed that developer to build 82 “affordable” rental units at Waipouli, where lease-ups are languishing because the units are, well, unaffordable.

The county’s parks and rec department, meanwhile, is saying it simply can’t afford to allow dogs on the entire length of the Path because of the maintenance requirements. Instead, it’s proposing to allow them on a 2.54-mile segment north of the Kealia lookout, even though the Council is considering Tim Bynum's ordinance to go the whole distance.

In reviewing the power point presentation made to the Council on the subject, I was struck by how differently county workers and members of the public feel about the issue. While some 97 percent of Path-users surveyed felt dogs should continue to be allowed on the path, just 21 percent of the 29 staff members polled agreed. A whopping 62 percent said no, citing such reasons as:

You don’t how safe that dog.

One grievance already has been filed, although the cause wasn’t noted.

I got the presentation because I had asked county public information officer Mary Daubert how many citations were issued on the Path after receiving a report that an unidentified Councilman had ordered a step up in enforcement, and rangers were reportedly “hiding in bushes” and handing out citations right and left.

I’m not sure a Councilman holds that kind of sway with Parks and Rec, but I checked it out and found that between Dec. 1, 2008 and Feb. 24, 2010, a period of 15 months, five citations were issued to people who had dogs in areas where they aren’t allowed. But in the past two months, 11 citations were handed out for that same offense. Kealia Beach seems to be the hot spot for tickets.

What I found more interesting than the citation figures, however, was how much people power has gone into this one relatively insignificant issue. Some 25 persons served on the “Dog Path Task Force,” and 11 “committed” volunteers surveyed 533 Path users and observed conditions on the Path, even counting every pile (65) of dog poo.

Then there’s the time. Park rangers, animal wardens and volunteers spent more than 1,000 hours over 13 months patrolling that 2.02-mile section of the Path, and it's unknown how much county and Humane Society staff time has been diverted. The Council has devoted countless hours to hashing it out, and it's not done yet. And standing-room only crowds have taken time out of their day to offer testimony on numerous occasions.

All in all, it prompted a friend who works at The Garden Island and I to wonder what Kauai would be like if folks devoted a similar amount of time and energy to the really big issues that affect this island.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Musings: Earth to County

The pre-dawn, arriving delightfully early these days, began with a smear of coral in the east and blue swatches among puffs of white in a sky that turned gray as clouds drifted in, filling up the empty spaces. Dawn itself came as a streak of yellow-white light well after Koko and I had returned home from our walk.

It’s Earth Day, the one day set aside each year to remember the source of all those insignificant little things, like food, water and oxygen, that make life a little more pleasant.

Folks pat themselves on the back for driving to an Earth Day event, picking up rubbish in plastic bags, planting a tree raised with chemical fertilizers in a plastic pot. “We’ve made progress,” they proclaim, offering as evidence the fact that LA, even with way more gasoline-sucking cars, has less smog and rivers, though now laden with chemicals from PPCPs — pharmaceuticals and personal care products — don’t burn anymore.

Sure, we’ve got global climate change to content with, but no worries, geoengineering — schemes like fertilizing the ocean, blasting sulfates into the stratosphere, placing nanoparticles of aluminum foil in the sky to reflect sunlight — will save us, and we won’t have to give up a thing. As Pat Mooney, head of the Candada-based ETC group described it on , Democracy Now!:

Well, it really is a massive manipulation of the ecosystems of the planet. It’s a major way of trying to intervene in climate change, to block sunlight or to sequester carbon dioxide in the ocean, to make a change in how the planet will function in response to climate change. I think it’s a terribly dangerous idea. It’s entirely a theoretical idea. And it’s gaining currency, strangely enough, in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom.

And tragically, it’s a bunch of rich guys in rich countries sitting around together, saying, “We can risk the planet. We can make the decision for everybody else. We can put our hand on the thermostat and decide for everybody else what has to be done.”

If that hubris doesn’t offer sufficient indication, the plastic fork and Styrofoam plate lunch box — emblazoned with a happy face and cheery “Have a Nice Day!” — that I picked up along the road this morning, like the cigarette butt I saw thrown from a county water department truck the other day, offer stark evidence of how much we’ve really evolved in the four decades since the first Earth Day was proclaimed.

Speaking of the county, I’ve confirmed from several sources that Waioli Corp. gave it three choices for the Ka`aka`aniu (Larsen’s) Beach access: the county's existing legal access; the middle, or vertical, access that goes down through the rocks; or the lateral access, which runs parallel to the beach. The caveat was the county had to assume liability for whichever access it chose.

The county picked the middle path, and apparently the papers are being drawn up. It’s not a dedicated access, like the one deeded to the county many years ago and now apparently impassable, but an easement.

I know some folks are going to scream, but I think the middle path, which might deter some people, is the best choice for protecting the monk seals and turtles that frequent that beach, and it just may help keep a few hapless tourists from drowning.

My primary concern is that it’s an easement, and not a dedicated access, so there’s always the possibility that it could be revoked.

And then there’s the issue of just who in the community the county consulted before it made such an important decision about a “public” access, and exactly when the county was planning to let folks in on the news.

I wanted to add that this arrangement does not affect the claim regarding the ala loa, or historical trail, which apparently will need to be hashed out directly with Waioli Corp.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

KKCR: Equal Rights

This week on "Out of the Box" I'll be focusing on the discrimination experienced by lesbians and gays and efforts to provide equal rights through HB444,the civil unions bill currently stalled in the Legislature. My studio guests will be Pamela Disel and Loyd Clayton, two Kauai residents actively working on this issue, and I'll be having other people call in to provide various perspectives.

So join us from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, April 22, at FM 90.9, 91.9, 92.7 or streaming live on-line at

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Musings: A Few Things

A few things have jumped out at me lately, like the letter to the editor from the president of the Kalihiwai Ridge Community Association, crying that a proposed amphitheater next to Banana Joe’s in Kilauea:

[I]s nothing more than an “entertainment and amusement” facility that should only be found in town or in a location that is zoned for this type of use.

Meanwhile, that “ag” subdivision is choke with expensive and illegal vacation rentals that “should only be found in town or in a location that is zoned for this type of use.”

Then there was the troubling article about the “chunky soup of plastic” now floating in the Atlantic — and coming soon to an ocean near you:

But the most nettlesome trash is nearly invisible: countless specks of plastic, often smaller than pencil erasers, suspended near the surface of the deep blue Atlantic.

"It's shocking to see it firsthand," [scientist Anna] Cummins said. "Nothing compares to being out there. We've managed to leave our footprint really everywhere."

“[P]plastics are devastating the environment across the world, said [Charles] Moore, whose Algalita Marine Research Foundation based in Long Beach, Calif., was among the sponsors for Cummins and Eriksen.

"Humanity's plastic footprint is probably more dangerous than its carbon footprint," he said.

Now that's saying something.

And here's my favorite quote of the month, uttered by Dr.Gene-Jack Wang, M.D., the chair of the medical department at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, in Upton, New York:

"We make our food very similar to cocaine now," he says.

The ingredients in purified modern food cause people to "eat unconsciously and unnecessarily," and will also prompt an animal to "eat like a drug abuser [uses drugs]," says Wang.

Which leads us to the news that Hawaii Food Bank, after leaving Kauai 16 years ago, now plans to come in — and set up a whole new food bank to compete with the Kauai Food Bank. Do we have so many hungry that we warrant two food banks?

I especially liked the report on how two more “top militants” were killed in a “devasting blow” to the heart of al-Qaeda. Except:

[T]here is uncertainty around the identity of the second militant, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. The Iraqi government has already claimed to have killed or captured him on previous occasions, and US officials have questioned whether he is even a real person or a fictionalized persona invented by Iraqi militants.

Don't ask too many questions. Just keep the money coming.

Then there were the comments by Noam Chomsky likening present-day U.S. to “late Weimar Germany:”

”The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don’t think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election.

The mood of the country is frightening. The level of anger, frustration and hatred of institutions is not organized in a constructive way. It is going off into self-destructive fantasies.”

To leave you on a high note, California is inching its way toward marijuana legalization:

The International Cannabis and Hemp Expo, the first trade show in the United States to allow on-site pot smoking, attracted an estimated 15,000 enthusiasts to Daly City over the weekend.

Clearly, some things are more addictive and deadly than pot.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Musings: A Taking

We hear an awful lot about the “taking” of private property, and how it is something to be avoided at all costs, seeing as how private property rights are sacrosanct and public encroachment upon them can be enforced and penalized to the fullest extent of the law, including, in some states, with a loaded gun.

But what about the private “taking” of what’s public, that insidious creep and claim of the private upon the public? Should it not be similarly scorned and subverted? (Though not, in any case, to the extreme of death.)

Here’s the story of the private “taking” of one small stretch of beach on one small island in one small chain of islands where such stories are far too common:

The year is 2000. A 20,028-square-foot lot in the Wainiha Subdivision has just sold for $675,000; the asking price was $690,000. The lot is described as “wooded, grassy, and the MLS remarks read:


By 2002, the lot has been cleared. It is now easy to see the debris deposited by wave wash extending well into the lot. And as we know from the Hawaii Supreme Court decision, the public beach extends to the highest seasonal wash of the waves.

Realtor Steven D. Moody, who is part-owner, lists the lot for first $1.5 million. The MLS remarks read:

Large Haena beachfront lot. 102 ft beach frontage. Listor is part owner.

Then he lists it for $1.995 million, and the MLS remarks read:

Large Haena Beachfront lot.102 Ft.frontage.
Largest lot in subdivision. Call listor for details.
Listor is part owner.Great location,swimming, snorkeling, windsurfing, surfing and a quite uncrowded beach.

By May 2003, the listing price has dropped to $1.850 million, but the MLS remarks indicate a change on the lot. It appears it’s now been landscaped:

Beautifully landscaped lot with 102 ft. of frontage on
a white sand beach.Close to swimming, snorkeling,
diving, windsurfing, surfing and kiteboarding. CC&R'S
and design review insure quality in the small 15 lot
sudivsion.One of only a few quality beachfront properties
available on Kauai's beautfil northshore.Listor is part
owner.Price reduced 6-23-03.

In April 2004, the lot — now described as “grassy” — is listed for $1.795 million, and sells for $1.65 million. Again, the MLS remarks reference the landscaping:

Spacious beachfront lot with wide 102' frontage on dramatic North Shore white sand beach allows for generous home design possibilities. Famous snorkeling and water sports are steps away at this small oceanfront subdivision with increasingly high quality home construction. Enjoy the views and sounds of surf on the outer reefs all year. Nice tropical landscaping in place is a bonus. This is the best beachfront vacant lot deal on Kauai's North Shore and offers loads of potential.

By December of 2004, as this photo shows, that "nice tropical landscaping" on the makai side of the lot, which also borders an easement, is being assisted with some irrigation:

You can still see, however, that the ocean debris continues to wash well into the lot.

By 2005, the price has escalated to $2.199 million. The MLS remarks remain the same, but now a new caveat has been added to reflect challenges by the community to the proposed shoreline boundary:

Private: Land area may vary as typical with oceanfront property. Attach Standard Oceanfront Property Addendum with all offers. Seller motivated for sale in 2005!

By 2007, the lot has sold again, this time for $1.9 million. The remarks and “private” clause in the the MLS remain the same.

The beach, however, has changed. It is no longer wide and sandy, but instead has been narrowed, become steeply sloped, due to the dense plantings of naupaka that interfere with the normal movement of sand. This is how that lot looks now, viewed from the beach:

At times, the beach that fronts it is nearly impassable because the cultivated naupaka sprawls so far makai. Meanwhile, naupaka, palms and spider lilies encroach into the public access.

This is the lot that prompted Judge Kathleen Watanabe to scold the state for improperly relying upon cultivated vegetation and current, rather than historical, wave wash data when setting the shoreline on the crest of the dune now covered with tended naupaka.

So that particular shoreline certification has been vacated, and the landowner, Craig Dobbin, will have to do the process over before he can build a house.

But how does the public ever get back the beach that’s been taken?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Musings: Just a Thought

Wind-driven clouds shape-shifting mountains, silver light gleaming off water gray, cool and utterly embracing, had me feeling clear, pure, happy, like Koko spinning on the coarse coral sand.

Later, skin still salt-encrusted, listening to Kamran on the radio, talking about his show as a place of “coming awake together… common people saying enough is enough,” and then he went on to opine: “the war on terror should never have started.”

And that got me thinking, can we not all agree that, at its essence, war = terror?

So what in the world can the world be thinking to wage terror on terror; wage terror on drugs; wage terror on crime?

Is it any surprise that in waging terror, we get terror?

So what if were to decide instead to wage something other than terror on the world’s woes, put all our resources into that, instead of our various and sundry terror machines?

Would those campaigns be any more successful? And what kind of world would we be living in along the way to finding out?

Just a thought.

Because you know, anything is possible.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Musings: Colonial Legacy

Dawn arrived with great gusts, a smattering of chilly rain and streaks of yellow and rose in an otherwise leaden sky. Koko and I were out walking in it, quickly, so I could keep warm, but not so quickly that she couldn’t indulge in the smells that are her primary connection to the world.

As we walked, I reflected on some of the events of the past week, particularly Waldeen Palmeira’s decision to discharge — she couldn’t exactly fire them, as The Garden Island headline proclaimed, since she wasn’t paying for their services — her two attorneys from the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., just as a hearing on a motion for an injunction against the DOT’s highway widening project at Wailua was about to begin.

Her announcement stunned everyone — attorneys on both sides, her friends and supporters in the courtroom, folks following the issue and most likely even The Garden Island reporter, of whose presence she was obviously unaware, because she intended to keep her actions private, apparently not realizing that anything that happens in an open courtroom is public.

Blogger Andy Parx wrote a scathing assessment of her decision, in which he chastised Waldeen for forgetting that even though she was the plaintiff, the case was not about her, but a place, and an issue, with tremendous significance to the community.

I despaired — for Waldeen, who has been experiencing great grief and stress; for Alan Murakami and David Kimo Frankel, who were being publicly repudiated after expending tremendous effort to prepare for the hearing; for the future of the case, since very few lawyers are willing to take cases that involve Hawaiian cultural issues and burials, especially when there’s no money in it; and for the Wailua area, whose cultural significance was so beautifully articulated by Kehau Kekua and Aikane Alapai on one of my recent KKCR radio shows. (Mahalo to Angus and Laura Christine for getting it into the archives.)

But I also felt angry, because the whole situation reflects the ugly legacy of colonialism that continues to undermine the Hawaiian people and their culture. Waldeen reportedly was motivated in large part to sever her relationship with NHLC because she felt she couldn’t trust the organization or the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, whose compliance officer, Kai Markell, was scheduled to testify as an expert witness.

Because OHA was created by the state and receives money from the state — albeit revenues generated by the state’s leasing of the so-called “ceded lands” that comprise the Hawaiian nation’s land base — and because NHLC receives funding from OHA and the state Judiciary, among other sources, both organizations are considered by some to be instruments, pawns, of the state, and so are suspect.

I’ve heard that sentiment expressed numerous times, including on my KKCR shows that featured NHLC attorneys. In one, a caller criticized NHLC for “playing the state’s game” in its efforts to protect burials, and in another, a caller said NHLC and OHA were “wasting their time” dealing with the state when it’s an illegitimate entity.

In the broader context of things, that’s true. If you happen to believe, as I and others do, that the Kingdom of Hawaii was unlawfully overthrown, its crown lands were stolen and the Islands are now illegally occupied by the United States, then yes, the state is an illegitimate entity.

But unfortunately, it currently holds all the power, and to think that one can sidestep its legal and political processes, reject the paltry proceeds proffered from its stolen coffers, and somehow prevail, is unrealistic. I have talked with attorneys who have seen people come into court claiming they are exempt from the long arm of Western law because they are Hawaiian nationals, or who refuse to even enter the courtroom for the same reason, and they’ve seen these same people fined and sent to jail.

Even though the groups working to establish independence and sovereignty believe in their own legitimacy, and I do not disagree, the fact is, the state doesn't recognize them at all. We all saw what the county and state thought of the Kingdom of Attooi’s authority when it arrested Dayne Aipoalani and Robert Pa for impersonating police officers after they flashed their Kingdom badges at the Superferry protests.

Even the Reinstated Hawaiian Nation, in trying to gain international recognition, has been going through the painstaking process of working through the Western court system, starting with a District Court on Maui.

I heard Prime Minister Henry Noa on the radio a while ago being asked about the Naue burials case, and what the Nation could do about it. He replied essentially nothing, because they have no authority to take down the house. And when a caller asked what the Kingdom of Attooi was planning to do about it, Robert Pa gave pretty much the same answer.

Yet people criticize NHLC, which has devoted countless hours to the Naue case, as well as other issues involving Hawaiian Homesteads and water rights, for being an instrument of the state, playing by their rules, when they are the only organization mounting any sort of a meaningful challenge in many crucial issues.

NHLC attorney Camille Kalama responded to one of the critical KKCR callers by saying that while she is looking to and working toward the day when the Hawaiian nation is again independent, she is meanwhile doing all in her power to prevent further losses of its land, resources and culture, and for her that means participating in the Western legal system.

Aside from revolution, what other options are there when an occupier has claimed a nation’s lands and resources?

That’s what colonialism does. It forces the oppressed to play by rules skewed wildly in favor of the oppressor, and it divides, with an eye to maintaining its dominance, the people it is oppressing.

So in the end, they often keep on losing, which is what happened in court on Tuesday when Waldeen discharged the NHLC.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Musings: Hopeful

Waialeale showed herself for the first time in days when Koko and I went walking this morning, although the wind, singing in the tree tops, was steadily blowing a new clump of clouds mauka.

We passed a dying animal, which I discerned to be a rat in the dim light of pre-dawn, apparently the victim of poison or a car, rolling and flopping its way toward the safety of the brush. The scene gave me that icky shivery feeling inside, and much as Koko was interested, we did not linger.

Sunrise is not all singing birds and pink skies.

As we walked and a few cars — the regulars — passed, I thought of how Jimmy Trujillo stopped to chat yesterday morning when he saw me walking Koko along the road. We got to talking about current events, and at some point I uttered the words: “I’m still hopeful.”

“That’s what I like about you,” enthused Jimmy. “You still have hope, like we all do, or otherwise, how could we go on?”

I wholeheartedly agreed, then later, in one of those coincidences that keep life interesting, I was reading something and found this quote:

What’s important is promising something to the people, not actually keeping those promises. The people have always lived on hope alone. -- Hermann Broch

I guess that’s because sometimes, amid the drum beats for war and the environmental devastation, the cultural degradation and the economic implosion, the societal unravelings and the human suffering, things do happen to give us cause to believe that the odds aren’t completely stacked against us and justice, occasionally, does prevail.

The most recent of these was the April 6 order signed by Judge Kathleen Watanabe in a shoreline case brought by Kauai attorney Harold Bronstein — one of my few heroes. The order essentially told the state that when it comes to setting shoreline boundaries, it’s doing things wrong.

I wrote about it for the Honolulu Weekly, and you can read the story here:

Watanabe found the state had improperly relied upon cultivated vegetation and current, rather than historical, wave wash data when setting the shoreline for a North Shore Kauai lot now owned by Craig Dobbin.

So now Mr. Dobbin, who is trying to build a house just down the beach from burial ground beneath Joe Brescia’s house, and who has been planting and irrigating naupaka and other vegetation like mad, even to the point of encroaching into the public accessway that runs alongside his lot, will have to start over. [Correction: The plantings and irrigation occured under Joe Brescia's ownership of that lot. But it's continuing to encroach under Dobbin's ownership, and he was trying to use that vegetation for his shoreline. That's why it's important to remove vegetation that has been improperly planted on the public beach.]

His attorney — good old Walton Hong — tried on Tuesday to get the Planning Commission to grant his permits, but to their credit, they said no shoreline certification, no permits. (Would that had taken a similar approach with Brescia — no Burial Treatment Plan, no permits.)

Unfortunately, as Harold notes in the article:

“This is going to happen on a daily basis, and people have gotta push them [BLNR] to interpret the law in the right way,” Bronstein said.

Only yesterday, it turns out, the landscapers were busily re-planting shoreline vegetation that the big winter waves had washed out in front of Wainiha beachfront homes owned by people like Pierce Brosnan and “Coach” star Craig Nelson. It seems pretty clear that if the waves are washing it out, it's on the public beach.

So how much longer will this theft of the public beach go on as the Legislature and the state and the county look the other way?

But hey, I’m hopeful. How else could I go on?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Musings: Don't Look, Don't Find

A few drops of rain fell from a sky that was white and gray when Koko and I went out walking this morning. The fragrance of angel’s trumpet and citrus mingled with the stench of decaying rooster, and the birds, which seem always to wake enthusiastic and cheerful, belted out a rich medley of songs.

Nearing home, I found myself eyeball to eyeball with a fierce orange sun, which shimmered through thin streaks of pink and pearly white, casting the trees in gold and causing the thick clouds above Waialeale to assume the purple tones of an old bruise.

Aunty Nani Rogers is facing the prospect of some bruising court costs following a legal challenge of the unneeded and poorly conceived Coconut Plantation and Coconut Beach resorts. She and 1000 Friends of Kauai wanted the county to require the developers to do an Environmental Assessment of the projects, which together would add some 538 hotel and condo units to the heavily congested Coconut Marketplace area.

They lost, and are appealing. Meanwhile, the county and Coconut Beach have been awarded court costs of $10,187.04 and $21,466.66, respectively, and Coconut Plantation is trying to get $7,265.34. Needless to say, the situation is creating a bit of stress for Nani, a tireless advocate for iwi kupuna and the kanaka maoli culture who joined the case out of concern over how the resorts would impact burials in the area.

It’s a bit chilling to think that when citizens go to court against the government, which finances its legal defense with our tax dollars, they could end up with some serious court costs, even if their attorneys are working pro bono. But if you go through all the hearings and still hit a brick wall, as so often happens in the “process,” court is often the only option.

That’s where Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. attorney Alan Murakami will be this morning, asking Judge Kathleen Watanabe for an injunction to stop the widening of Kuhio Highway in Wailua.

He contends that an EIS and Burial Treatment Plan must be completed before construction begins because the area is a previously identified burial site. The Kauai-Niihau Island Burial Council also needs to determine the boundaries of the burial site, and how much of it should be protected.

An underlying problem is that plans to widen the highway, add another lane to the cane haul bridge and build the bike path are being viewed as separate projects. So even though they’re all impacting the same area, their cumulative effects are not being considered.

The county is taking a similar approach to the Path, dealing with each segment as if it were stand-alone, rather than related to all the others.

It’s all part of an effort to minimize the likelihood of identifying significant impacts that could force changes in the project or give interested parties more of a say in what happens. Just as the military addresses gays in its ranks through the policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” state, county and federal governments approach burials and environmental concerns and other possible hinderances through the mindset of “don’t look, don’t find.”

Meanwhile, a new report has found more questionable practices associated with Hawaii Superferry:

Between 2004 and 2009, the U.S. Maritime Administration, or MARAD, a federal agency that supports the U.S. shipbuilding industry and merchant marine, made just one loan from its troubled Federal Ship Financing Program, also known as Title XI. The borrower was Hawaii Superferry Inc., a politically connected company that hired a former chief counsel and deputy administrator of MARAD, among others, to lobby the agency. In 2005, Hawaii Superferry got a taxpayer-guaranteed loan for $139 million to build and operate a pair of high-speed ferries in the fiftieth state. Just four years later, the company filed for bankruptcy, listing assets of a mere $1 million.

The two ferries have a book value of only $2.8 million, and were delivered to MARAD. They were used recently to aid the relief effort in Haiti.

Wow, an investment of $139 million nets products worth less than $3 million. Such a deal.

A related story addresses the military component of that big boondoggle:

{T]he company’s lobbyists at Blank Rome LLP reported being paid $210,000, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, to lobby for inclusion in a Defense Department program that would pay to have improvements made to the Hawaii Superferry’s two high speed catamarans that would make them more militarily useful.

The increased lobbying activity came when Hawaii’s Supreme Court was considering a suit that ultimately shut down Hawaii Superferry on environmental grounds.

Overall, the Superferry was a highly successful scam, screwing taxpayers at both the state and federal levels. Seems some of its shortcomings might have come out in an EIS that delved into finances before we made such a big investment.

But when you don't look, you don't find.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Musings: On Security

Doesn’t it make you feel more secure knowing that KPD employees are actually “alert” enough to recognize someone on their own “most wanted” list when that person shows up at the cop shop? Crackerjack police work! Now that’s for sure front page news!

Doesn’t it make you feel more secure knowing that in this time of economic hardships, with social programs being cut and local governments on the ropes, the feds are gonna spend $5 billion this year alone just to make sure we can still destroy the world many times over better than anyone else?

Secretary of State Clinton: “We intend to maintain a robust nuclear deterrent. Let no one be mistaken. The United States will defend ourselves and defend our partners and allies. We intend to sustain that nuclear deterrent by modernizing the existing stockpile. In fact, we have $5 billion in this year’s budget going into that very purpose. And with this emphasis on our nuclear stockpile and the stewardship program that we are engaged in, that we’ll be, you know, stronger than anybody in the world, as we always have been, with more nuclear weapons than are needed many times over, and so we do not see this as, in any way, a diminishment of what we’re able to do.”

You go, grrrrl! Don’t let anybody say you ain’t got balls!

Doesn’t it make you feel more secure knowing that Defense Secretary Robert Gates thinks the WikiLeaks video that showed an American helicopter crew firing on unarmed journalists and civilians in Iraq will not have any “lasting consequences” for our world image?

Whew. I thought for sure it might make other people — especially those whose countries we’re occupying — hate us even more. But then, if you’ve got more nukes than anybody else, and you’re willing to use them, who’s gonna say anything?

Oh, btw, the folks at WikiLeaks say Gates was lying when he claimed the crew was being fired upon and operating in “split-second situations.”

Doesn’t it make you feel more secure knowing that the young soldiers who are put in these situations, who are trained to dehumanize and are doing what they’re trained to do, who are troubled by the things they saw and did, come back to the U.S. all messed up? According to Josh Stieber, a veteran of that company:

And unfortunately, that’s what a lot of soldiers turn to when they get back, is alcohol or possessions or just something to try and push these to the back of their mind, rather than to try to address the system that put us in this situation and encouraged us to do these things.

Doesn’t it make you feel more secure knowing that American troops are making great strides in the “war on terror” by shooting up a passenger bus in Afghanistan? But it’s OK, because NATO “deeply regrets” it and promises a speedy investigation, which likely will be just as meaningful as the one that cleared the helicopter crew. Still, it did piss some folks off:

Hundreds of demonstrators poured into the area around a station where the damaged bus was taken on the western outskirts of Kandahar. They blocked the road with burning tires for an hour and shouted “Death to America” and “Death to infidels” while also condemning the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, according to people in the area.

Despite a drop in overall civilian deaths from American and NATO forces, checkpoint and convoy shootings have not declined, worrying commanders who believe such killings turn Afghans against the occupation. More than 30 people have been killed and 80 wounded in these cases since last summer, but not one of the dead was found to have been a threat, military officials say.

Oops. Yet we need to beef up security because we just can’t understand why anyone would want to engage in terrorism against the US of A.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Musings: Military Encroachment

Orion, Triangle and Pleides were marching toward Makaleha when Koko and I went out into the night and gazed up at the starry sky, which by morning was dotted instead with streaks and puffs of clouds, some tinted pink, others pale orange or gray.

We ran into my neighbor Andy, who also was not planning to take his dog on this morning’s Kauai Humane Society-sponsored walk on the Path — or rather, that small portion of the Path where canines are allowed. I heard the walk being billed on the radio as a statement of the people’s rights, a strong voice for beach access, but the logic for such claims escaped me.

Having to obey a whole host of rules to use an area that previously was unregulated doesn’t seem to be an expansion of the people’s rights, and since you can’t legally stray more than 10 feet on either side of the Path with a dog, it actually works to hinder access to the beach itself. You can look, but you can’t touch.

Scientists are trying to get a closer look at what monk seals do when they’re not lying on the beach. And why? So the Navy can determine just how much they can harass the critically endangered creatures with sonar and other military training exercises without being sued under the Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection acts.

The Navy is paying for NOAA to do the research, which seems to create a conflict of interest, seeing as how NOAA is also the regulatory agency for Navy activities that affect marine life. And in the past, we’ve seen NOAA cave in to Department of Defense pressure when it comes to sonar use. It also raises the question of whether the study, which emphasizes the seals’ range and dive depths, two questions critical to sonar use, was designed primarily to satisfy the Navy, rather than to generate data that could enhance the survival of the species.

Because much as scientists love to glue on transmitters and affix tags and bands, we don’t really know how these devices affect the animals. Just check out the picture that accompanies The Advertiser story. The caption states the seal is “oblivious to the transmitter on his back,” but even if that were the case when the photo was taken, I’m quite sure it no longer will be the minute he rolls over.

It is obviously disturbing, in an alien abduction sort of way, to capture, immobilize and tag any animal, so if you’re going to traumatize them, it should be for a really good purpose. And in my book, that doesn’t include having the government spy on seals to help pave the way for sonar training.

Save that for us humans, who have unwittingly allowed the government to track our every move through the ever ubiquitous cell phone. As Steve Chapman notes in The Chicago Tribune:

For years, the cops may have been using it to keep close tabs on you without your knowledge, even if you have done nothing wrong.

They don't have to get a search warrant — which would limit them to situations where they can show some reason to think you're breaking the law. All they have to do is tell a judge that the information is relevant to a criminal investigation and send a request to your service provider.

This does not appear to be an uncommon event. Al Gidari, an attorney for several service providers, told Newsweek they now get "thousands of these requests per month."

Oh, and the data are not limited to your movements today or in the future. The government can also see records of where you've been in the past.

Or as Damien Marley sings:

So beware of them cellular and pager. ‘Cause as I see them I see danger.

I see danger in plans for the military, which already controls extensive acreage in Hawaii, to encroach onto even more land through its new demand for biofuel crops and some 6 million square feet of solar panels.

The Navy and Department of Agriculture have already signed an agreement to expand use of renewable energy sources, using Hawaii as the testing ground, which had DOA’s Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan crowing:

”This charter partnership, under the agreement, gives us the chance to tap the under-utilized agricultural potential of Hawai'i," Merrigan said at a news conference.

So instead of actually growing crops to wean our dependence on imported food, Hawaii’s farm land will be used to further entrench the military’s presence in the Islands and its wasteful, destructive and deadly activities everywhere.

And it’s not just land they be needing, but water. Just two days after The Advertiser printed its glowing account of the Navy's hearty appetite for alternative energy and biofuels, it published an editorial saying that the state Commission on Water Resource and Management should favor A&B’s Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar over kalo farmers in deciding the allocation of water from Nā Wai Eha, “the four streams” of west Maui.

To bolster its stance, it referenced an alliance that had been formed just the day before:

But the death of sugar isn't something new and HC&S has been slow to transition toward new crops, and less thirsty ones. That's why yesterday's announcement of an alliance among HC&S, the Department of Energy and the Navy for biofuels production is so encouraging. Receiving adequate water from the commission should be seen as a commitment by HC&S to agriculture, and the federal dollars will help support its fulfillment.

I’m sure the timing of this alliance, orchestrated by good old Sen. Inouye as CWRM deliberates in the Nā Wai Eha case, is merely a coincidence, just as it’s a coincidence that once again the plantations and the military that helped to cement their power have joined forces, supposedly for the public good.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Musings: To the Heart of the Conflict

The sky was turning pale yellow when Koko and I set out walking, me a little bleary, as I tend to be on Friday mornings, and so I forgot to grab my umbrella. I saw the gray clouds blowing in, but we were too far out to turn back, then I heard the roar of rain — big rain — coming, so Koko I took shelter crouched beneath a thick planting of shell ginger beside the guardrail.

We were pretty snug, looking out at the downpour, when a neighbor drove by, slowed, backed up, and I saw the windows on his pick-up truck go down.

“What are you doing?” he called out. I ran over and saw he was madly trying to clear a passenger seat and floor piled high with papers that I wasn’t about to get wet and muddy.

“Just taking shelter from the rain,” I said. “No worries. We’re fine.”

And we were. It was actually quite enjoyable, and when the rain stopped and we re-emerged onto a street with rivers running down either side, the sky over the mountains — not that they could be seen — was turning soft pink and the sun was resting on a fluffy golden throne.

It’s not so easy to give the burials issue a rest because a lot is at stake right now. As Kai Markell of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs summed it up on my radio show yesterday, the burials dispute goes right to the heart of the conflict over the Western imposition of property rights onto what is essentially a cultural and spiritual matter.

“It’s all about whether you value the green Western paper Akua (god) over anything else,” he said.

And doesn’t that also speak to the heart of so many other conflicts we see playing out right now?

As Hale Mawae, now on Oahu, noted when he called in, what’s happened with the Brescia case is “going to be having a rippling effect on other cases throughout Hawaii,” including the rail project, which is projected to directly impact at least 80 burials.

Someone who identified himself as Roger left a comment on this blog the other day about how Brescia had offered to move the iwi on his lot to a cemetery, and wouldn’t that be preferable to what’s happened there now?

When I read that, I recalled the words of Kehau Kekua, who said the Hawaiians buried their dead with deliberate intent, in terms of a specific cosmological alignment chosen to facilitate their movement into and through other realms.

So it’s no small deal to take them from that resting place, and then where, exactly, do you put them? Somewhere that’s more convenient for others?

And why should the accommodation always come at the expense of the Hawaiians, especially so someone who doesn’t even live in or value this place can, as one caller so aptly phrased it, “make money off a burials ground?”

Former Kauai Burial Council Chair John Kruse called in to remind listeners of what happened when burials were discovered on the Zimmerman property, not far from Brescia’s. The house was already under construction, but a judge issued a cease and desist order so the Burial Council and community could “hash it out. Judge Watanabe should have done the same thing,” John said, so the footprint of the house could be redesigned or the iwi disinterred.

Instead, she let construction proceed, and now we've got something that probably even Brescia doesn't want.

Kai quoted the words of Mary Kawena Pukui, who told the kanaka maoli that the iwi kupuna are the most important thing they have, because it’s what ties them to this speck in this Pacific, it’s what establishes their heritage, their claim to this place.

So if you want to disrupt that claim, what better way than to literally claim the iwi, as Joe Brescia essentially has done in building his atop right atop them and saying, hey, all this is mine, I’ve got title.

And as I noted in a sidebar that didn’t get posted on the Weekly website, he’s trying to make sure that when folks speak against that practice, they pay:

Joe Brescia’s efforts to build a house on a lot he owns at Naue have been fraught with litigation, starting with a lawsuit that forced him to build farther back from the ocean than he wanted.

But Brescia, a California developer, has also been aggressive in his own use of the law. He filed civil suits against more than a dozen Hawaii residents who challenged his project, claiming they had caused him to suffer financial damages due to slander of title, construction delays and the need to hire security.

Brescia has already won default liability judgments against Palikapu Dedman, Kaiulani Edens Huff and Andrew Cabebe. But no dollar amounts have been imposed pending the outcome of the October trial of defendants Hanalei “Hank” Fergerstrom, Jeff Chandler, Puanani Rogers and Louise Sausen.

Alan Murakami of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., which is representing three of the defendants, said that Brescia’s attorneys are refusing to talk, so a settlement is unlikely.

“It’s a challenging case,” he said. “It has chilled people’s ability to speak up.”

Brescia’s attorneys did suffer defeat when, as part of their evidence search, they subpoenaed the unpublished interviews and raw video footage of independent filmmaker Keoni Kealoha Alvarez, who had covered the dispute while preparing a documentary about Native Hawaiian burial practices.

The ACLU and Honolulu attorney James J. Bickerton relied on the protections provided by Hawaii’s new media shield law to successfully fend off the subpoena, and in the process the law survived its first legal challenge.

We’re at a crossroads here with the burials issue. Because as NHLC attorney Alan Murakami noted:

When SHPD administrators override Burial Council decisions, minimize consultation and ignore public comments, “they become the arbiters of what is culturally appropriate and what is not. ”

Is that really a power we want to hand over to the state?

Finally, I just wanted to say mahalo to all those who left such thoughtful and kind comments on the post about Poochie. One of the dog owners contacted me to say he was taking steps to make sure his dog never did that again to another animal, and that’s really the best outcome I could hope for from this unfortunate situation.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Burials: Honolulu Weekly and KKCR

Hawaiian burials are the topic of both my radio show on KKCR today and the cover story I did for this week's Honolulu Weekly.

As you'll see in the article, the Brescia case has statewide implications. It also provides some answers to a comment left by a reader on a previous post about Brescia's house:

what was burial council / SHPD suppose to do in your understanding of the law? require monitoring, require data recovery, require reinternment? if your options for resolution are outside of the law, suggest changing the law.

--- can you bring more solutions to the table instead of just pointing out the glaring problems? IMO - no one here offers any solutions only anger, regret, loss, overall sense of doom and gloom or possibly the ever popular 'poor me' syndrome.

We'll be discussing some of those points on the radio today, and I'll touch on some of them in tomorrow's blog. The KKCR show airs from 4 until 5:30 or 6 p.m. on 90.9, 91.9 or 92.7 FM, or streaming live at Call in with your questions and comments at 826-7771.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Musings: What's the Point?

The earth was squishy and smooshy from frequent showers that passed through in the night when Koko and I went out walking this morning. The sky was various shades of gray, and the land various shades of green.

The monochromatic landscape made the world seem strangely stagnant, slightly surrealistic, but the birds, though largely unseen, brought it all to life with their crowing, warbling, tweeting, chirping, trilling and cooing.

In much the same way, the voices of a few brave souls helped bring the wars in far away Iraq and Afghanistan to life for me yesterday as I listened to Democracy Now! I don’t often get to hear it any more, but I happened to be driving and tuned in just in time to hear the report on the WikiLeaks video of U.S. troops firing indiscriminately on more than a dozen civilians, including a Reuters photojournalist and his driver, in New Baghdad.

I’m not sure what was most disturbing about the report and video: hearing the soldiers laughing and joking about the shootings and a tank running over a body; hearing them beg for permission to shoot even when they can clearly see two children in a van trying to pick up the wounded; hearing them dismiss their shooting of the children by saying “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle;” seeing the BS comments from the military about the attacks printed by the newspapers; learning that the Pentagon lied about and attempted to cover up the incident, claiming they were all insurgents; or hearing Julian Assange, co-founder of WikiLeaks, note:

These are not bad apples. This is standard practice. You can hear it from the tones of the voices of the pilots that this is in fact another day at the office. These pilots have evidently and gunners have evidently become so corrupted, morally corrupted, by the war that they are looking for excuses to kill. That is why you hear this segment, “Come on, buddy! Just pick up a weapon,” when Saeed, one of the Reuters employees, is crawling on the curb. They don’t want him for intelligence value to understand the situation. The man is clearly of no threat whatsoever. He’s prostate on the ground. Everyone else has been killed. They just want an excuse to kill. And it’s some kind of—appears to me to be some kind of video game mentality where they just want to get a high score, get their kill count up. And later on you’ll hear them proudly proclaiming how they killed twelve to fifteen people.

This was followed by another report on how U.S. forces killed two pregnant women and a teenaged girl during a nighttime raid in Afghanistan, then tried to cover it up, denied it, and finally had to admit it.

Are you starting to see an ugly pattern of lies and cover ups here? And does this help you to understand why the government has added WikiLeaks to its list of enemies threatening the security of the nation? It publishes stuff that actually tells the sheeple what’s really going on, like the CIA report that discusses how to take advantage of public apathy and manipulate public opinion to keep the wars going.

As blogger extraordinaire Glenn Greenwald observed about the Iraq massacre video:

My concern with the discussions that have been triggered, though, is that there seems to be the suggestion, in many circles—not, of course, by Julian [Assange] —that this is some sort of extreme event, or this is some sort of aberration, and that’s the reason why we’re all talking about it and are horrified about it. In fact, it’s anything but rare. The only thing that’s rare about this is that we happen to know about it and are seeing it take place on video. This is something that takes place on a virtually daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places where we invade and bomb and occupy.

This is what war is. This is what the United States does in these countries. And that, I think, is the crucial point to note, along with the fact that the military fought tooth and nail to prevent this video from surfacing, precisely because they knew that it would shed light on what their actual behavior is during war, and instead of the propaganda to which we’re typically subjected.

Most people have no stomach for war. If they see it, they don’t want it, which is why American opinion turned against the Vietnam war when the body bags and atrocities were aired on TV. And that's why the government has ever since attempted to restrict what the people see by forbidding coverage (remember Grenada?), “embedding” reporters and flat-out killing independent journalists.

So it got me wondering, if we’re fighting these wars to promote “democracy and freedom” — as first President Bush and now President Obama claim — yet in the process we’re losing our own humanity and turning into a totalitarian nation — you know, doing stuff like authorizing the assassination of Americans only suspected of terrorism — what, really, is the point?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Musings: Cowardly Cave-Ins

The season is definitely shifting, what with daylight lingering until nearly 7 now, and the sun rising earlier each morning. The kolea are dressed in their breeding tuxedos, ready for their flight back to Alaska, as are the Ruddy Turnstones. For the past two days I’ve seen flocks of about 40 Ruddies gathered on a quiet road with a view of the sea, where they’re staging in preparation for flying back as a group.

It speaks to a cooperative spirit that seems to have eluded the state Legislature, which really needn’t have bothered to convene these past months, seeing how little they’ve accomplished.

As Farmer Jerry noted after his last visit to the Lege, the morale at the Capitol is really low, because there’s no money, and that’s the grease.

The police chiefs shot down the medical marijuana dispensary bill, with our own Chief Perry providing the rationale, if you can call it that:

“We need to put more sound systems into place” before establishing such dispensaries, said Perry.

Well, Chief, that was the purpose of the bill, to let the counties establish such systems.

Even though it had full approval of the Senate, it died in the House, thanks to Speaker Calvin Say. Kauai Reps. Morita and Sagum voted for it, but Jimmy Tokioka was opposed. Apparently he and Calvin are very close, with one political insider telling me that Jimmy decided not to run for Sen. Gary Hooser’s seat because he’s being groomed for bigger things by Say.

“There’s a good chance Jimmy could end up Speaker of the House,” the source said.

Now there’s a scary thought.

The House also sat on the marijuana decriminalization bill, which is probably just as well, seeing as how the effective date had been changed to 2050 and the fines upped from $100 to $300 for the first and $500 for each subsequent offense. Fines like that could have the effect of even more people getting busted, since the state doesn't really get anything out of pot smokers arrested now.

But perhaps one of the more disgusting examples of total Legislative spinelessness is what happened to the shoreline vegetation bill. Introduced by Rep. Mina Morita, It started as a measure to control the practice of oceanfront landowners cultivating naupaka and other plants to expand their lots, create privacy hedges and otherwise encroach on the public beach, hastening erosion in the process.

Even DLNR wanted the bill, which included a process for levying fines against landowners who were blocking the beach, as it would make enforcement easier.

But in a cowardly cave-in, the Senate totally gutted the bill, removing the fines and all the rest of the language, which spoke to the need to protect coastal transit corridors — you know, the space where people can walk on the public beach. Now all that is left is an amended definition of shoreline and an effective date of July 1, 2050 — supposedly for the purpose of “facilitating further discussion.”

Yeah, give me 40 years to tell you all the reasons why I don’t give a damn if I’m encroaching on the public beach, because by then, there won’t be one.

This bill offers stark proof of the tremendous power that wealthy landowners and the Land Use Research Foundation (LURF), whose members include include major Hawaii landowners, developers and a utility company, have over the Legislature.

For additional proof of the power that wealthy landowners have in this state, here are a few recent photos of Joe Brescia’s house, which show just how close the burials are to his house.

So what do you think happens when they take the orange fences down? People can just walk anywhere, and pretend they're not in a cemetery?

Just fire up the barbie and have another maitai. No need worry about what's right under your feet, right outside the door.

To get these shots, our photographer had to brave the sprinklers that were watering not only the newly planted shoreline vegetation in front of a nearby vacation rental, but the plants crowding into the public accessway, too. She called to a man relaxing in a beachfront Jacuzzi to please turn off the sprinklers so she could traverse the public easement back to her car, but since he was a tourist, he had no idea how the irrigation system worked.

Just another pleasant day at the beach — for the tourists, anyway.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Musings: What We Want

A scuffle on the porch and Koko, barking furiously in the bedroom, alerted me to danger, which was confirmed when I looked out the window. Two neighborhood dogs were running, each carrying one end of my cat, and a third dog loped alongside, rounding out the pack.

Leaping over the porch railing, I shouted and ran after them, and reluctantly they dropped her in the brush and took off. I climbed down into the valley in front of my house, calling her name, wondering how I would locate her in the dense thicket. She answered with two loud meows that led me to her.

She was face down, and when I tried to move her, she cried out in pain, so I let her be, and instead stroked and soothed her. Two neighbors had arrived, one the owner of one of the dogs, and he said he was sorry and wondered how my cat was and I said not good, which I’m sure he also knew when she raised her head, unnaturally wide-eyed, mouth in a strange grimace.

I sent him away and with stayed with her, because I knew she didn’t have long, and she didn’t, maybe 10 or 15 minutes of going through her death throes, and then she was gone, but still I kept on petting her.

I finally carried her up the hill and began digging her grave, and as I did, I got to thinking, about my neighbors, and their desire to let their dogs run free, and how we all want what we want, myself included, but our actions, our choices, have ramifications, implications for others, that so often we’d prefer to pretend not to think about or see.

And it seemed the only way to avoid that dilemma is to live a life that’s aware and pono, or else make the decision, consciously or otherwise, that we just don’t care, and the latter is so much easier when we don’t know, or like, the other person(s) upon whom our desires are impinging.

Anger ebbed and flowed; I was, but I didn't want to be, causing me to think of how much easier it is to contemplate forgiving the transgressions of those we know, or like, and I wondered how we could learn to extend that same generosity of spirit to the unknown others, and the known and disliked others.

As I dug, grief welling up in me, I thought about the trauma I’d experienced seeing the attack, watching her die, and it made me think about all the soldiers and civilians embroiled in the hell of war, suffering unimaginable traumas, unfathomable grief, and again it is because the so-called “leaders” want what they want, without thinking about, or knowing about, or caring about how it impacts others.

I thought about the cat who was so dog-like that I changed her name from Jet to Poochie, and all the things that had happened in my life during the 13 years she was in it, and how strange it was that not even 24 hours before, I’d picked her up from a friend’s house, where she’d been living the past few years, and now she was gone forever.

As the shovel bit into the soil, through layers of humus in various stages of decomposition, I thought of how digging a grave is an apt metaphor for living a conscious life: clearing the ground, cutting away the surface entanglements, moving through sections of gravel and soft soil, hitting a rock and thinking you can go no further, then slowly working it free, and finally removing it, and from there it’s all loose, easy digging for a while, until you hit another rock, or decide to stop going.

And it seemed to me that in living our lives, we are essentially digging our own graves, and I knew I wanted mine to be deep and clean and wide, in soil enriched and darkened by the processes of death and regeneration, and that’s the kind of grave I dug for Poochie, and laid her in, but not until she’d grown cold, and tucked the soil gently around her and spread the leaves back over the bare, damp soil and covered it with two concrete block peace signs, just to keep her safe.