Thursday, September 30, 2010

Musings: Going, Going, Gone

The other morning, when the surf was big and the sky was clear and the day was glorious and I had it free to do as I pleased, I headed north, in search of beach and a view of the breaking waves. I hadn’t planned to stop at Anini — although stunningly beautiful, it’s not my favorite, because it’s lined with houses — but something told me to turn on the road to it, so I did.

Now Anini isn’t one of those beaches where access to the coastline has been blocked. No, there are several easements running between the lavish homes where the public can reach the shore.

Problem is, once you get to that beautiful white sand you’re kind of screwed, because if there’s any swell at all, and/or the tide is high — when I was there it was dropping — you can’t actually walk along the beach unless you’re willing to go into the water, which was about thigh high on me, and so overhead for Koko.

And why? Because the naupaka and other hedging materials fronting the houses that line the beach have spilled over so far into the public shoreline as to impede lateral access. It was easy to tell that encroachment had occurred because I could clearly see the debris left on the beach by that morning’s high wash of the waves. In some places the yard vegetation extended four, six, eight feet out onto the sand, which was pretty much all it took to hinder movement along the beach.

This picture offers a good example. The high wash of the waves, which marks the extent of the public beach, went all the way into the naupaka on the far left side of the picture, which just happens to be the hedge for the house behind it. You can see that the beach is effectively blocked.

In this picture, you can see where someone kindly cut an opening in the dense hedging material — and this isn’t a species that grows naturally on the beach, so I knew it had been deliberately planted — to allow people to get through. But they are delivered into a small space that is blocked on the other side by more hedging, creating a semi-private cove that no doubt is a selling point for the vacation rental it adjoins.

The houses for which our beach had been sacrificed were empty. Oh, I saw some yard guys mowing the lawn in one place and a cleaner in another, but no one was actually living in them. They were just there, being held in near-perfect readiness for the tourists who can afford the high rents along that stretch of coast, which used to be a place where local families camped. Now it’s been turned into another resort — an exclusive one, where the public is clearly discouraged.

The yards all had their Alert Alarm and Diebold security signs on prominent display. But the owners apparently don't realize it ain’t the public they need to be worried about, it's the ocean they had to build so damn close to. Because one of these days, it’s going to be rushing right through those fricking houses.

Turning my back on the houses, I sat huddled next to one of those hedges on a tiny bit of sand that wasn’t being washed by the waves and gazed at the splendor before me. The waves were rolling in, sending up a cloud of mist that billowed up from Kalihiwai, and beyond that, the lighthouse and Mokuaeae and Crater Hill. The temperature was balmy, and the sky was inhabited by white puffballs. It was picture perfect, but the joyous happiness I’d felt driving up there had been dimmed by what had happened to the beach.

And therein lies the rub. It’s not just that my way had been blocked, but my entire experience of going to the beach had been marred because all of a sudden I was thinking about how fucked up Anini had gotten, when I really just wanted to be there relaxing, enjoying the day and the beach.

I know I’m not the only one who feels that way when confronted with this kind of beach degradation all around the island, particularly on the north shore. So in order to avoid feeling junk, we start avoiding those places. I don’t know how many locals have told me they stay away from this place or that because it’s been handed over to the tourists or you can’t get there or you can’t fish there or they feel so bummed about what’s happened to it, or so uncomfortable with the ritzy resort scene, that they don't want to be there.

But I thought, no, we have to keep coming to these places. We have to keep using them and we have to keep bitching when our access is cut off and private landowners are encroaching on the public beach and the county is allowing people to build too damn close to the water and the state is approving bogus shoreline certifications.

Because if we don’t, if we all just keep going along and allowing this crap to continue, then one day soon — hell, it's happening already — we’re going to turn around and find something very real and tangible — the coastal access that is supposedly so cherished in "all beaches are public" Hawaii — is gone.

Gone in exchange for the money, honey.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Musings: Following Up

I finally had an opportunity to talk with Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry about a few things that have captured public attention lately, starting with the widely circulated email that convicted rapist Waldorf “Wally” Wilson was seen in Puhi.

The chief said police had received a report of a possible sighting of Wilson, but upon further investigation could not confirm it. “It was maybe someone who looked like him, creating this windstorm of concern among the community, which I understand,” the chief said.

Chief Perry said he then asked persons with the state Attorney General’s office, which is charged with sex registration enforcement, to visit Wilson’s employer to determine if he had been off island. The employer verified Wilson had been showing up regularly at work. The AG staff also went to Wilson’s home on Oahu, where they spoke with him and verified he is still living there.

“We have no information that would be contrary to the fact that he’s still on Oahu,” Perry said.

As an aside, Wilson has fully served his sentence and is not on parole or in any way barred from visiting Kauai, where he has family. Even though he is on the Sex Offender Registry, he does have the right to travel interisland.

I then asked Chief Perry about concerns that visitor Nola Rebecca “Becky” Thompson, whose body was found in a streambed behind Wailua Arboretum, had actually been murdered.

“I’m sure there was no foul play,” Perry said, noting that the autopsy report showed no blunt trauma and no sexual assault. “All evidence shows she was the only one out there." He gave me some other details about the suspected cause of death, but out of sensitivity to her family, asked that I not share them publicly.

We then moved on to the case of Amber Jackson, who was found murdered in Kealia in July. While the Chief declined to provide a lot of details since the investigation is still under way, he did say the police are clear on two things: “The murder of Amber Jackson is not linked to any serial killer. The deaths of Becky and Amber are not connected.”

Perry said he hoped the information would help quell rumors and ease public fears, even though he knows not everyone will believe it.

“You always get those guys who say, oh, they’re covering up, but nothing could be further than that from the truth.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Musings: Stern Admonitions

I didn’t know which way to look when Koko and I went out walking this morning. In the east, the sky was erupting in a blaze of orange and pink streaky clouds that cast a golden glow over the landscape. In the west, Waialeale was flushing purple, her notched summit clearly revealed in all its glory. And in between, tiny pockets of the season’s first mist drifted ghostlike through low spots in the pasture land.

Ah, September, one of the finest months of the year. And now the north swells have kicked in again. I got a taste of the big surf on Sunday, then last evening sat at sunset in the salt spray haze, the colors all softened, the sea foamy and alive with movement. Then I came home and ate some koshibi that a friend’s brother had caught just that day in the waters off Niihau.

It’s a favorite fishing spot for a lot of folks, including, apparently, the Kauai Fire Department. As The Garden Island reports today, KFD’s rescue boat was caught on video camera with those aboard, including supervisors, fishing and diving near the so-called "Forbidden Island." We’re told that some sort of disciplinary action was taken, but the details weren’t provided, since it’s a a “personnel matter.” That’s true, but it’s also a misuse of county funds and equipment issue, and the taxpayers have a right to know if those involved got more than the “good scolding and a stern admonition not to do it again” that Keith Robinson suggested.

What I found most amusing, however, is how Keith Robinson has suddenly turned into a monk seal champion now that he’s found the animals might be useful in trying to keep people away from Niihau. He’s quoted in the paper as saying:

The fishermen have started landing on Ni‘ihau and fishing in monk seal haul-out places without concern for nursing seals and pups, he said.

“We also started to find the dead carcasses of monk seals along the shorelines, something that had never happened before,” he said.

So far, two seals have been found at Niihau. One was at the same time Navy contractor DARPA was doing its top secret experiment, which coincided with the big unexplained fish kill. The other was this summer, right after RIMPAC exercises.

If Keith is so worried about protecting the monk seals and the purity of the waters around Niihau, he might want to consider kicking out the Navy. As for his contention that the Robinson family owns the waters surrounding that island and “has never renounced that claim,” does that mean he’s a supporter of Hawaiian independence, too? ‘Cause ya know, Keith, they’ve never renounced their claim to the archipelago, either.

Meanwhile, a friend just called to say he'd heard a report on KONG that DLNR had issued a statement saying it had not yet completed its clean up of Kalalau. "Sure sounded like a response to a blog post," he noted.

In other news, CNN has an guest opinion today about the failed war on drugs and marijuana, with the director of the Drug Policy Alliance reporting:

Even though police made more than 850,000 marijuana arrests last year, a recent government report shows youth marijuana use increased by about 9 percent.

He goes on to note that "76 percent of Americans recognize the drug war has failed; millions are demanding change."

Drug use is so widespread the FBI changed its policy of not hiring people with a history of illegal drug use because the policy disqualified so many people that it could not fill its law enforcement positions.

The racial disparities are appalling. As Michelle Alexander so eloquently shows in her new book, "The New Jim Crow," a drug conviction automatically makes a person a second-class citizen who can be legally discriminated against in housing and employment, denied school loans, and barred for life from serving on juries, accessing public benefits and even voting. While African Americans make up only about 13 percent of the U.S. population and about 15 percent of drug users, they make up about 38 percent of those arrested for drug law violations and a mind-boggling 59 percent of those convicted for drug law violations.

Support for marijuana legalization is growing, and not just in California. Legalization will happen. It's just a question of how many lives and tax dollars will be wasted before it does. Some vested interests, of course, will fight change until the bitter end.

Ain't that the truth – in more ways than one.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Musings: Cycling Through

The moon, still big, though waning, led the way as Koko and I went out walking this morning while bright stars — Sirius and Betelgeuse among them – had our back. Before us, the clear summit of Waialeale was outlined against the pale blue of the pre-dawn sky as behind us, clouds slowly poured in over the Giant. It was totally still, without a hint of wind, and the grass was thick with dew.

“Do I denote a change in the temperature, the season?” asked farmer Jerry when I encountered him along the road. I agreed that it had indeed turned quite chilly since we passed the fall equinox.

He’d just come a round of meetings, including the two-day Hawaii Agriculture Conference, that had kept him indoors for several days. “It does something to you when you spend so much time inside,” he said, and from the grimace on his face, and my own experience, I knew it wasn’t something good.

He’d found the conference interesting, though he said it underscored his own assessment of the situation in Hawaii: “We have this land, but no farmers. Nobody wants to farm unless they’ve never done it before and think it sounds like fun.”

As a result, the conference attracted a lot of folks with ideas about how things should be done, but no real practical experience or time on the land. Jerrry and some of the other longtime farmers are particularly skeptical of the push toward bioenergy products, especially the Navy’s plan to fuel its ships with stuff grown here. First, they don’t believe Hawaii can compete against states with a lot of acreage in production, like Iowa and Nebraska. Second, many of the proposed biofuel crops are invasives, which pose their own problems and risks. And third, , they don’t want to see energy crops being cultivated at the expense of food.

As Henry Curtis noted in his excellent, and thorough, coverage and analysis of the conference for Disappeared News:

There is tension between the Hawai`i farming and bioenergy communities. This tension erupted two years ago when DBEDT encouraged the bioenergy to go after Hamakua land.

[Big Island] Senator [Russell[ Kokubun [a former farmer]: “The emphasis on clean energy, particularly by the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative I think also creates overzealousness, let's put this that way, I think, it's not necessarily a bad thing but, we need to be very careful in our approach to ensure that agriculture meaning food production agriculture is not lost in the discussion about alternative energy agriculture. ...

As a result of that tension, Henry reports, the Legislature adopted a bill that requires a public hearing on the affected island whenever a bioenergy project is proposed for state lands. The governor vetoed the bill, but the Lege overrode it, so at least citizens can be involved in the process.

Shifting gears, a friend who was out at Kalalau this past weekend told of seeing camps that had been destroyed by DLNR, but the stuff was just left there. Guess the much-vaunted clean up has not yet been completed. He also encountered one camper in the valley who had apparently been missed in the recent sweep of “feral people.” My friend was especially interested to discover that the guys doing the rock removal were brought in from the mainland. So much for supporting the local economy and cultural sensitivity...

I was talking to another friend the other day about a visit from her aged parents. She hadn’t seen her dad in 10 years and was struck to find him smaller, frailer and sleeping a lot, which prompted her teenaged daughter to draw parallels to the young baby in the house.

“We do go backwards,” my friend said, which made me recall how the last time I saw my mother, I’d washed her hair and dried her skin, tugged sox onto her feet, slipped a shirt over her head, pulled up her pants over a diaper. Though her mind was still sharp, she’d regressed physically to a large toddler.

We’re all cycling through life, just like the changing seasons.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Musings: And Meanderings

The moon has been the source of so much pleasure lately, from watching it rise big and orange through the clouds to seeing it slip, pale yellow, behind Waialeale. Last night I awoke to find it staring at me through the skylight, so Koko and I went out to take a broader look and found shiny Jupiter holding its own in a 4 a.m. sky made day-like by the moonlight.

One of the best things about having a dog is the way they tell you things you really need to know. Like the other day, I was off from my regular job, which meant time to work on writing assignments, but my heart wasn’t in it, so I was restless and edgy, as was Koko, and when I finally posed the question — should we go beach? — and she responded with the tail-thrashing, wild, crazy, spin-dance of yes, well, I knew it was advice that should be heeded.

I was reading an online piece by Time magazine that reported, as if it were new news, that Native Hawaiians are at greater risk than whites of dying early. While they don’t know for sure why, the study’s authors speculate that high obesity rates, diabetes, mental illness, substance abuse and poor pre-natal care may be factors.

Yet more evidence of the ongoing genocide that stems directly from colonization and the imposition of a Western diet, values and culture. And I got to thinking, what would it take to distribute fish and poi to Hawaiians through the food pantries?

In response to my last post, several people in comments offered their thoughts on what separates humans from animals, aside from time and money. In thinking about it further, it seems one of the primary differences is that we’ve lost our ability to survive in self-contained habitats. A kolea stakes out a patch of grass that’s big enough to provide the food it needs, and it stays there, minding its own business unless another bird intrudes on its territory (or it gets developed).

We, on the other hand, wage wars for oil that we can burn to bring us grapes from Chile and vacuum cleaners from China, destroying other humans, animals and quite possibly the environmental conditions that allow us to survive on Earth in the process.

Ran into my neighbor Andy while walking this morning and we got to talking about the elections. He said he remains supportive of JoAnn Yukimura because she’s done so much for Kauai, particularly on environmental issues. “At least she got people thinking about the issue of development,” he said. “Before it was never even questioned, and now it’s at least made an impression on all the other candidates.”

“Yeah, remember when Ron re-branded himself as the “green” candidate?” I asked, pointing to a green Kouchi for senate sign. “Now they all talk about keeping Kauai Kauai and balancing growth with progress, whatever any of that means. They’ve all jumped on the slow-growth bandwagon, at least rhetorically.”

“And if you say something enough times, people start to believe it,” Andy noted.

So what are we to think of Duke Aiona, based on the glossy, eight-page brochure that arrived in my mailbox this week? Titled “Rise & Shine Hawaii,” it pushed for alternative energy, support for small businesses and education reform — all issues with broad appeal.

Still, a few things jumped out at me. One was his assertion that “it starts with keeping our families safe.” Huh? The other was his pledge to “foster a business friendly environment.” It's easy to crack that code. And under the heading of “protect the beauty of our land and natural resources,” well, there weren’t actually any references to any sort of protection.

But what got me most was the very first quote attributed to him, a sentence that doesn’t make any sense:

”I’ve learned as a judge, even as an advocate, as an attorney, whether I advocated for or against a particular issue, is to be as impartial and objective as I can listen and then make a decision.”

Of course, it does lend credence to his argument that the DOE needs to be upgraded…..

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Musings: Time and Money

Last night’s moon-Jupiter show began with a swatch of blue like new day right along the horizon. Above it was a layer of bluish pink that gradually shifted to full on pink, which turned into a patch of yellowish clouds. That’s where the moon was hiding, peeking out every now and then, awaiting her debut, which occurred when she was well above the water. And all the while sparkly Jupiter was tagging along, below and off to the right.

They created a sparkle on the ocean that turned into a path of light that grew wider, brighter, shinier as the moon climbed higher. Watching it, I could see why a revolutionary movement with the name “Shining Path” would draw people. Who wouldn’t want to follow the kind of ethereal shimmer that stretched before me?

Unfortunately, human structures seem to fall short of natural models. Enroute to the beach, a friend noted and commented on an egret with a hefty chameleon in its mouth. That got us talking about how we humans are essentially working for our food each day, too. But unlike animals, whose search for food and shelter is their lifestyle and life, we humans have it all compartmentalized into job, home, recreation, social life, grocery store that leave us feeling disjointed, harried, out of step with the flow of life.

“And it’s all because of money,” my friend said.

I think what’s separated us most from the natural world, from all the other creatures, is our dual obsession with time and money, both human constructs that allow us to be controlled and regimented, and cause us so much angst.

If we really want to change the world, maybe we need to start by challenging — or at least questioning — the stranglehold of those two concepts.

Another concept that needs challenging is the whole idea of drug prohibition. Democracy Now! has a piece today on how a local newspaper in the town of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, published a front-page editorial directed to the drug cartels following the murder of a photographer:

"Explain to us what you want from us, so we know what to abide by. You are at this time the de facto authorities in this city because the legal authorities have not been able to stop our colleagues from falling. It is impossible for us to do our job under these conditions. Tell us, then, what you expect from us, as a newspaper..."

This is how bad things have gotten in Mexico because of American’s insatiable demand for drugs. Yet instead of legalizing them, which would end the illegal trade and its associated violence, U.S. officials continue to pretend that this problem can be resolved by continuing the utterly failed war on drugs.

Closer to home, the ongoing war on hunger got a small boost when the state Department of Human Services decided to change its administrative rules to eliminate an asset test for those applying for food stamps, or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) as it’s now known. So effective Oct. 1, people will be qualified based solely on income, whereas before they used to take into account what sort of assets you had, including a car and even a wedding ring. As a result, more people will be eligible for assistance.

Judy Lenthall told me about the change when I was in the Kauai Independent Food Bank the other day. Seems Hawaii is the 39th state in the nation to change its rules, which were stricter than even the federal guidelines.

Yet folks will still need to fill out a 12-page application — unless they go through the pre-qualification that KIFB offers. But since DHS has cut so much of its staff, the agency is already lagging behind in determining eligibility, and a new flood of applications will likely worsen the backlog — even though federal law requires people to be notified of eligibility within 30 days, or seven days in an emergency.

Thirty days or more is a long time to wait when you’ve just lost your job and have hungry kids. Just another kind and caring legacy of the Lingle Administration. Still, the rule change is another step forward in getting more of the federal money that is already allocated for Hawaii. And when people can buy their own groceries with food stamps, it puts money into the local economy and gives them a little space and time to get back on their feet.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Musings: Worth Looking Up

It’s been feeling like fall, and today it’s official, with the equinox occurring at 6:09 p.m. HST. That’s right about the time the moon, which reaches fullness at 11:17 p.m., will be rising in the east, followed shortly thereafter by bright Jupiter. Meanwhile, Venus will be setting in the west.

It’s definitely worth looking up to see a celestial pairing like that, and if you miss them on the rise, you can see them hanging around together all night long.

Dr. Becky Rhodes, director of the Kauai Humane Society, will no longer be hanging around, according to an article in today’s The Garden Island. The weird part is the mysteriousness surrounding it:

“Upon advice of my attorney I cannot comment on my separation from the Kaua‘i Humane Society,” she said.

Her departure, like that of longtime director Sherry Hoe’s before her, came suddenly, without notice or explanation to the public.

I don’t know why, as I severed my involvement with the Humane Society (I was doing PR and grant writing for them) when Sherry was driven out in a vendetta led by Board President Laura Wiley. As a result, Sherry was never given credit for all the work she did to fund and build that really nice shelter at Haiku. In fact, that shelter would never have happened without Sherry and Raymond Hoe. Worse, it was made to seem like she had engaged in some sort of malfeasance, which was a real slap in the face after all the work she did. In short, it was an incredibly crappy way to treat someone.

I don’t want to rehash that sordid mess from 10 years ago, but it did serve to sour me a bit on Dr. Becky, who came in and was treated, and acted, like she was the savior of KHS, without anyone giving due credit to Sherry for all she had accomplished. In fact, even in today’s article Dr. Becky was quoted as saying:

“I’m very proud of the new humane society that we created and making it a true community resource for animals,” Rhoades said.

And now Dr. Becky is out, and apparently it’s not a smooth transition or the Board would be saying how great she is and she wouldn’t have an attorney on hire.

So maybe now folks might want to look a little deeper and see if perhaps the problems might lie with the Board leadership, and not the executive directors of that organization.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Musings: Some Good News

Driving home from the beach yesterday evening, the big white moon was sliding in and out of streaky clouds and bright Venus hung low in a pink Western sky. By the edge of morning, when Koko and I went out walking, the moon had set and it was brilliant Jupiter’s turn to stand guard above Waialeale. Millions of stars — one shooting, another falling — twinkled above us, where Orion’s belt pointed the way to the dense cluster of Makalii.

We could hear, but not see, horses munching grass in the pasture and a little further on, the snuffling and snorting and rustling of pigs, most likely feasting on guava in the brush, and beyond that, the rush of water in the valley and the sighing of wind through the trees. And then slowly the landscape took shape as the eastern horizon began to glow.

A friend wanted me to write about the Tea Party — WASP-dominated, but no, they aren’t bigots — and how this supposedly grass roots movement is getting all its money from right wing fat cats, but I think we’ve had enough of politics for a while. So let’s look at some other news — some good news — instead.

For starters, the BP oil well that caused so much havoc is "effectively dead." The government swears it. And the dispersant worked! All the oil has magically disappeared. Well, except for the “constellation of little dots” on the ocean floor:

”It's in such small droplets that you can see it -- you can filter it and see it," [University of South Florida microbiologist John Paul] said. "But if you look at it, it's transparent, and small larval fish see these droplets as food so they're ingesting pure oil."

Kinda like the way albatrosses mistake floating plastic for squid and feed it to their chicks, sometimes to the point where they’re so clogged with plastic they die of dehydration.

Ah, the gifts that keep on giving.

While we’re on the topic of consequences of our actions, seems the nutty preacher who wanted to burn 200 copies of the Koran on Sept. 11 has been hit with a large tab for security. He didn’t seem to care that his stunt resulted in massive protests and even some deaths. But wow, that big bill sure caught his attention.

I’ve got more good news. Remember how the ozone layer was shrinking? Well, not anymore. In fact, it’s due to be back at “full strength” by 2048, although it hasn’t actually started increasing quite yet.

Oh, and the recession has officially ended. Was back in June 2009, in fact. What, somebody forgot to tell you?

Doesn’t matter, though, because capitalism is on the verge of death, anyway. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says so:

"The discriminatory order of capitalism and the hegemonic approaches are facing defeat and are getting close to their end," Ahmadinejad said at a summit meeting assessing progress on achieving U.N. goals to drastically reduce poverty by 2015.

Ahmadinejad offered no clear alternative to capitalism but said, "The world is in need of an encompassing and, of course, just and humane order in the light of which the rights of all are preserved and peace and security are safeguarded."


Monday, September 20, 2010

Musings: Political Heat

Talk about the elections is continuing, and likely will even beyond the General as pundits and the public scrutinize how and why folks voted the way they did.

A friend wondered yesterday if Kaipo Asing’s poor showing in the Council race — the perennial high vote-getter came in eighth — was due to what he called “the mean factor.” You know, the way Kaipo has treated Councilman Tim Bynum. His animosity toward Tim is hardly concealed, and maybe Hoike-watching voters got tired of seeing the former Mr. Aloha, whose campaigning is characterized by blowing kisses, gunning for Tim in the Council meetings.

Others have expressed annoyance that Kaipo ran again, when he said he wouldn’t, and still others have said he should have gotten out while he was ahead.

Still, as one reader noted in comments, Kaipo has done a lot for Kauai and the environment, and that shouldn’t be forgotten, especially his tireless efforts to control the proliferation of vacation rentals.

Councilwoman Lani Kawahara, who chose not to run for re-election after her first term, took me to task in comments for yesterday’s post, in which I conveyed disappointment about Gary Hooser's decision to wage a failed bid for Lieutenant Governor — and also expressed appreciation for all he has done:

Aloha, Joan. At what point did u and others begin to believe that u owned gary hooser? At what point did u begin to believe u had a right to dictate how he would lead his life? Should he move on when we say he can ? At what point did u decide that what he has done for Kauai is just NOT enough?

Your false sense of entitlement is disappointing. U say we r "stuck" w/ Kouchi. If we r, as u say, stuck w/ Kouchi, it is not because gary wanted to serve at a higher level. It is because no one else wants to serve at any level at all. You have two years to build name recognition, Joan, to build your base, and start raising money. Anyone can do it, right? If u don't want to do it, find someone with like values who will. It is up to us to find leaders or become leaders. Why don't more people run? Why don't good people stay in govt? Could it b that cheap shots from bloggers and anonymous vicious unfounded personal attacks give good people pause? Pull your papers in two years, Joan and run against Kouchi. Don't forget though, once u run and u r elected- some people might think they own u.

NOT Anonymously,
Lani Kawahara

This was followed by a second comment, in which she quoted Theodore Roosevelt:

"The credit belongs to those people who are actually in the arena...who know the great enthusiasms, the great devotions to a worthy cause; who, at best, know the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

I can only speak for myself, Lani, and I’ve never felt I “owned” Gary; indeed, one of the great things about Gary is that I don’t believe he is owned. And of course he has the right to move on whenever he wishes. But politicians aren’t like doctors or teachers or firefighters or others who serve. They depend on our support, our time and energy in a campaign, our money and our votes to get elected. So I do think we the people have a right to express our opinions about political choices a candidate makes, especially those of us who have been (and still are) long time, loyal supporters.

We elected Gary to the state Senate. He chose to vacate that post mid-term in order to seek higher office. Again, he has that right. But you can’t deny that by doing so he created an opportunity for the governor to fill his seat, which she did, with Ron Kouchi. And now we r stuck with him.

I agree, Lani, that it’s up us to find or become leaders. Not all leaders, however, choose to lead in the arena of politics. As for why more good people don’t run or stay in office, well, I can’t answer that, but I'd certainly be interested in hearing any ideas that the readers might have. Politics has long been known as a dirty business, and it’s a job that comes with extremely high exposure. To paraphrase another political quotation, if you don’t like the heat — be it from bloggers, the media, the public, your constituents, other politicians or special interests — get out of the kitchen.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Musings: Surprising and Not

A bright and growing moon was replaced by heavy showers that kept Koko and me in bed later than usual on this quiet Sunday morning. When we emerged, it was into a landscape tamped down by low clouds, which drifted across the Giant and slid down the summit of Makaleha and totally obliterated Waialeale. In the distance, Haupu was obscured by a big rain falling on Lihue.

Koko splashed through puddles and stopped to sniff toads flattened in the road and I munched on guava washed clean by the rain. It’s so nice to be out when the cars aren’t because, as a friend who walked with me yesterday observed, “People drive way too fast.”

Returning home, I checked the final election results on-line, recalling the days when I’d have to drive somewhere to get a newspaper. Or more likely, would have been up late the night before at the county clerk’s office, waiting for results to call in to the city desk. And then there were those evenings of listening to Bill Dahle read the print out on KUAI.

Nowadays, anybody with access to the Internet can find out the results whenever they want, which is what prompted a call from a friend last night.

“No surprises in this election, except Morikawa,” he said, in reference to the way political newcomer Daynette “Dee” Morikawa utterly trounced incumbent Roland Sagum in the District 16 House race. "I just looked at the results on Starvertiser."

“Yeah, and I just checked the results on Civil Beat,” I replied.

I’d heard Roland was running scared, and with good reason, given his stance on the issues, tendency to blow off voters and utter ambivalence about his elected position, which inconveniently cut into his ability to make money as a land use planner and consultant. Still, even all that is no guarantee you won’t be re-elected on Kauai.

The big disappointment, though it wasn’t a big surprise, was Gary Hooser’s poor showing. He came in fourth, trailing three well-known Oahu candidates, with just 9.8% of the votes.

“What was he thinking, crossing over like that?” asked a friend yesterday. “He had no chance over those Oahu guys. Now we’ve gotta suffer with that fucker Ron Kouchi.”

I’m sorry, Gary, but that’s what a lot of folks are saying. I gave you money, I voted for you, I talked up your candidacy and I believed in you, and still do. But why did you abandon us to run in a crowded field dominated by Oahu candidates?

As a result, Ron Kouchi, who couldn’t even get re-elected to the County Council, was handed the Kauai Senate seat by his old pal, Linda Lingle. Now Ron’s a given to win in November, despite the confidence expressed by his opponent, Dave Hamman, in The Garden Island:

”I think I’ve got a good chance. A lot of people don’t like Ron Kouchi.”

Yeah, Dave, but just as many don’t like you.

Well, at least we’ve still got Mina Morita…..

And at least Mufi Hannemann didn’t get in….

And Gary, thanks for all you’ve done. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for your many years of public service. I only wish you were still in office, and I hope you will soon run again.

I wasn’t surprised to see Derek Kawakami come in first in the County Council race. His campaign contribution report shows a lot of small individual donations, which indicates to me he’s got broad community support.

Slightly more surprising was newcomer Nadine Nakamura’s strong showing in second.

“That’s because her brother-in-law counts the votes,” said a friend.

“I’m sure that had nothing to do with the outcome,” I replied, knowing County Clerk Peter Nakamura to be an honest person. Besides, I’ve talked to him previously about accusations that he manipulated results, and he said it would be impossible for him to do so.

My friend, however, remained unconvinced.

“If you can steal the Presidential election, you can steal anything,” he said.

I think Nadine got in on her own merits. She raised a lot of money, and like Derek, most of it came from small individual donations. She’s smart, reasonable and understands the process, which gives her a leg up on some of those now serving. And surprisingly, especially for Kauai, I haven’t heard any stink talk about her at all.

As for the rest of the Council, Mel Rapozo, Jay Furfaro, JoAnn Yukimura and Tim Bynum are in, as I predicted. We’ll just have to wait and see whether Dickie Chang can keep his slight lead over Kaipo Asing, who once again is promising that this will be his last election. It may well be if he can't edge out "Walaau." Isn't that how you usually address Dickie?

And of course the mayoral race turned out as expected, with Bernard Carvalho easily dominating political neophyte Diana LaBedz. More surprising, and interesting, was the fact that 10 percent of those voting didn’t choose either.

No matter who is elected, they have their work cut out for them — assuming they are all indeed motivated by the desire to serve the public. As Mike Levine reported in Civil Beat yesterday, a new U.S. census report shows that median income in Hawaii dropped by more than 13 percent between 2007 and 2009, and the poverty rate increased by 67 percent. Surprisingly, those are the biggest percentage changes in the nation.

It ain't gonna be easy digging ourselves out of this hole.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Musings: Three Years Down/Up/Down

I’d been thinking that the anniversary of Kauai Eclectic was coming up, and when I went to check this afternoon, turns out it’s today. Yup, I launched this site three years and 868 posts ago, and to borrow lyrics from The Grateful Dead, “what a long, strange trip it’s been.”

Looking back at the first posts, I couldn’t help but note (with some satisfaction) that Hawaii Superferry has died, the Honolulu Advertiser has died and voters today are choosing a candidate who will ultimately replace Gov. Lingle.

Yet Koko and I are still here, and still walking.

I was totally naïve about the blogosphere when I started Kauai Eclectic. I was merely looking for a place to store some of my writing, including unpublished literary pieces, where I could direct editors and others seeking samples and clips. But then the Superferry sparked something and this blog did an immediate 180.

Since then, it’s continued to take its own direction, as truth be told, it kinda writes itself. Like most creative endeavors, I don’t know where some of this stuff comes from. I just let it through.

I’ve discovered that one of the best things about having a blog is the speed with which the muse can move from spirit to publication. I don’t have to find a buyer, wait for an editor, or subject it to the ruthless revisions and criticisms of my perfectionist nature. And I love that it’s endlessly dispersible. I’ve been amazed at some of the places where these blog posts turn up.

Not so fun has been the comments section, but then, that’s also the place where I’ve gotten strokes and appreciation (mahalo!), and where I’ve learned a lot about myself and other people. Some folks tell me they don’t read comments, so for their benefit, I’ll share one of my recent favorites:

"From the masses to the masses" the most / Revolutionary consciousness is to be found / Among the most ruthlessly exploited classes: / Animals, trees, water, air, grasses . . . 

--Gary Snyder, "Revolution in the Revolution in the Revolution"
September 16, 2010 4:00 AM

Yes! Someone who gets it!

Sometimes I’m asked questions in comments, and if they’re of a personal nature, or I sense the asker is more foe than friend, I tend not to answer. Frankly, it’s hard to trust in the underworld of anonymous. That’s why I didn’t respond when I was twice asked what I was like as a child by a reader(s) apparently seeking to gain some understanding of how I grew up to be “so ‘different’ (weird).”

But it did get me thinking, and so in the spirit of this blog’s very first post I’m posting an unpublished piece of personal writing. This one is about my first childhood memory, at about age 4:

I remember the barbed wire, or maybe it was razor wire, but at any rate, it was sharp wire, and it caught at my pants, creating a small tear that I knew would mean later trouble, though there was no helping that now as I attempted, and failed, to escape the confines of the air force base — Stead, it was called — in the dry, dusty, radioactive Nevada desert inhabited solely, it seemed, by blowing tumbleweeds that frightened me because they picked up and carried along everything they encountered and that might possibly include me, because I was smaller than most of them.

I had seen a rider on a horse gallop by on an unpaved road outside the base, followed by a gusting whirlwind of their own making, and I wanted nothing more than to join them, be pulled up on that saddle atop that heaving horse, its mane blowing like streamers in the ever-present, ever-gritty gray wind, occasionally tossing its head, yearning, I imagined, to go even faster.

I do not know if it was a man or a woman astride the horse, and it didn’t matter; I just wanted to be a part of the scene that I watched through a hole in the fence that I’d been unable to scramble over. They were riding away from me, and I thought surely, if I waited long enough, they would return and see me and take me with them, and so I did, I waited, with the sense of no time that’s a child’s, until an older sister found me and said come, you have to go home now.

Many thanks to all of you for indulging my muse these past three years by reading, commenting, remarking, forwarding and yes, even criticizing. it just wouldn't be the same without you.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Musings: Almost Surreal

Upon looking at clouds, I often wonder, what exactly is that color? And last evening was no exception as I gazed upon the clouds that hung over the water. They were a remarkable shade of pearly gray-blue that defied any known (to me) color, and in honor of the sunset, were crowned with salmonish-pink.

Just before that, I had been wondering as I drove through Anahola and saw a dead cat, body twisted, mouth and eyes wide open, lying alongside the road, why that particular stretch of highway seems to have a higher than average carnage rate. I get so tired of seeing dead cats and chickens and birds and dogs along all our roads, because it tells me that people are driving too fast and they just don’t care.

Yesterday morning I was driving down Kuamoo Road, following the course of the Wailua River, which was snaking along on my right, watching squalls gathering on the horizon before me, seeing everything all sparkly and silvery and shimmery in the early light and then I turned onto the highway and there they were, the incumbents and hopefuls, holding signs that bore their names. And I just had to laugh, because it seemed almost surreal, this strange way we have of choosing our elected officials, and also because I know and like most of them, even if I don’t always agree, and it was funny to see them out there, humbling themselves, mindful in the days before an election that we motorists, on our way to work or wherever, are the ones who will decide their fate.

Then they get elected and do the bidding of those who gave them money.

I’ve been poking around in some of the campaign contribution reports and while it’s tedious, it offers an interesting perspective. For instance, I noticed that Rep. Jimmy Tokioka got $1,500 from Monsanto, $500 from Dupont and $2,000 from the Hawaii Association of Realtors.

Meanwhile, Councilman Jay Furfaro got a grand each from Jeff Stone and Mike Loo, his buddies at Princeville, and a thousand bucks from the Kauai Alternative Vacation Accommodation Assn. I'm sure it's just a coincidence that they forked over the money after Jay cast a favorable vote on the bill that allows vacation rentals on ag land.

I found Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s reports especially revealing, what with $5,000 from the Ironworkers Local 625, $4,000 from the Hawaii Operating Engineers Industry, $4,000 from the Plumbers & Pipefitters PAC, $3,850 from SHOPO, two grand each from the Hawaii Laborers, Masons and HGEA PACs, $1,800 from the ILWU, $2,000 from the IBEW, $2,000 from the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers PAC and $1,300 from the Carpenters and Joiners union.

I think it’s pretty clear what they all have in mind. More building! More government! More control!

Then there was $3,000 from A&B, which is no doubt relieved at his decision to move the new dump off its land. Falko Partners gave a whopping $4,000, which prompted just a tiny wondering about what development plans it might have up its sleeve. North Shore developers Jeff Stone and Jeff Lindner gave $1,000 and $1,500 respectively.

And then there were all the contributions from county employees, including his assistant, Gary Heu; county engineer Don Fujimoto and his deputy, Ed Renaud; Deputy Police Chief Mark Begley; film commissioner Art Umezu; finance director Wally Rezentes Jr.; transportation director Janine Rapozo; county spokeswoman Mary Daubert, and of course his brain, Beth Tokioka, among others.

That’s to be expected. After all, their jobs are at stake. And to give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they also believe in Bernard. But I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to those county workers who didn’t give, at least a little.

And I felt more than a little uneasy when I saw the contributions from Al Castillo and the deputy county attorneys, who are supposed to represent not only the Administration, but the Council and Planning Commission, too. If they’re giving money to the mayor, how can they honestly say that they’re giving unbiased opinions to the Council and Commission, especially if they’re on a different track than the mayor?

Yet even as I looked through the reports last night, I kept recalling the comments I'd heard Adam Asquith making on KKCR earlier. He was talking about peak oil, and how independent scientists agree that we are definitely going to get to the place where oil becomes too expensive to burn indiscriminately, like we have been. The only question is when, with a lot of folks saying sooner than later.

As Adam pointed out, high-priced oil has tremendous implications for Kauai, where the economy is based on tourism and virtually everything, including the fuel oil for our electricity, is imported. The time to start planning for such an upheaval is now, he said, in order to ease the pain of economic transition.

Yet not one politician is talking about that, he said; heck, it’s not even a topic of discussion.

Instead, when you look at the candidates’ contributions and platforms, it’s as if they believe it’s going to forever be business as usual, a steadily growing stream of cars filled with workers and tourists, merrily waving and smiling at the candidates holding their signs.

It's almost surreal.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Musings: Belonging

The world was transitioning from night to day when Koko and I set out walking this morning. Overhead, Orion’s belt still shone alongside stars whose names I do not know, while in the east, above the Giant, smoky pink was streaking a baby blue sky.

We walked toward and through pockets of sound: the baying howls of hunting dogs in the valley, the muted roar of wind through the tops of tall ironwoods, the whining hum of an electrical transformer. And as we walked, the heavens turned gold and the birds sang out and Jupiter slipped into a bed of pearl grey fleece that had been laid atop the summit of Waialeale.

It’s hard to describe why I like this time of day so much. It’s partly due to the freshness, the marked absence of human sounds, the undercurrent of excitement that accompanies a new start. But it’s also because I can lose the edges of myself as I move, feeling almost invisible, through the murky light, unseen, yet still a part of what’s unfolding.

In short, I’m at ease in that place of half-light, half-dark, that world on the brink of becoming something else. That’s where I feel most that I belong.

My sister was struck during her recent visit by all the discussion about who belongs here and who doesn’t. She heard people talking about haoles and locals, malihini and kama`aina, residents and visitors, rich and poor, Polynesians and Hawaiians. She heard locals worrying about being mistaken for tourists, and tourists trying to pass themselves off as locals, and she commented on how people seemed preoccupied with sorting one another out, figuring out where they and others belong in the nuanced social circles of modern day Hawaii.

She was particularly amused when the talk turned to who is attracted to whom, like when a local guy asked her, “How is it possible that the local brothers have ignored you?” and one of my Hawaiian friends sang a song about how the fair skinned wahine tempt the local kane. "It's like there's attraction and rejection going on simultaneously," she observed.

On her way back to America, she stopped in Honolulu to visit an old friend from grade school, a man who had lived on Oahu for 25 years and was married to a Chinese-Hawaiian woman. Yet he was still an outsider, he told my sister, and he always would be. They were joined by one of his daughters, who attends Kamehameha Schools, as did her mother, and the girl spoke at length about hapa haoles and Eurasians and the ethnic composition of her classmates, and who was pairing up, and the obstacles and opportunities presented by one’s skin tone.

“Belonging seems to be such an issue there,” my sister reflected when we spoke on the phone, “such a major topic of discussion.”

I wondered about that, and when I saw my neighbor Andy yesterday, I asked him why.

Being a historian, he looked to the past and thought some of it stemmed from Hawaii’s plantation heritage, and the way that different ethnic groups were housed in distinct camps; indeed, they tended to want to live apart, and took pride in preserving their culture, which was reflected in their gardens, their food, their religious worship, their lifestyles and languages.

Though some of that has softened over time, it hasn't disappeared, and it still informs the way people look at one another, especially on an island, where family ties are strong and the borders are fixed and it's more easily determined who is grown here and who is flown here.

But I wondered, too, if this question of belonging isn’t rooted in the uneasy knowledge that Hawaii is an occupied nation, a place that America and its citizenry have claimed, but don’t really own. And even deeper than that, if it’s based in the recognition, deeply buried though it may be, that the ones who truly belong are the plants and animals that evolved here — the endemic species that we’re slowly and surely destroying in our desire to belong.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Musings: A Bit of Snarling

Rain book-ended the dawn, falling when the sky was dark, save for a mere smudge of red on the horizon, then departing, then returning when the sun was already up and trying hard to shine. In between, Koko and I went walking, splashing through the rivulets that run alongside the pavement, tromping through the wet grass, hearing the drip of drops from the leaves. Though Makaleha’s summit was socked in with white clouds, two falls could be seen streaking down her green face, following an ancient course worn in the rock.

Before long, we ran into my neighbor Andy, walking his dog, as well as his daughter’s, and after a bit of snarling — between the dogs, not us — that was eased by the distribution of biscuits all around — again, between the dogs, not us — we continued on together.

Andy mentioned he’d asked a neighbor, who is sporting large Bobby Bunda for LG signs in her yard, if she was related to the guy. Turns out they’re first cousins. That just might explain the presence of his signs in other Kauai yards.

“Soon the election will be over,” I said to Andy, and he nodded wearily, indicating I’m not the only one having a hard time getting excited about Saturday’s (yawn) election. “And then maybe some of the signs will come down.”

And maybe some of the mailings and emails and phone calls and sign holdings will stop. Please.

Aside from Gary Hooser’s bid for LG — he’s emerged as a true candidate of the people, getting enough grassroots support (small contributions totaling $50,000) to qualify for matching public funds — the 2010 election is a snore. We’re certainly not in for any surprises in the local races. Even without The Garden Island’s unscientific poll, it’s pretty obvious that the “new” Council will comprise a lot of familiar faces: Derek Kawakami, Jay Furfaro, Kaipo Asing, JoAnn Yukimura, Mel Rapozo, Tim Bynum and Nadine Nakamura.

Let’s face it: despite all the bitching and moaning that goes on about the Council, a majority of voters seem to like what they've got. And while I hear Rolf Bieber’s a nice guy, his recent email about chemtrails over Kapaa isn’t likely to build his credibility or expand his following.

A friend said that after reading about Mufi Hannemann and Neil Abercrombie, Duke Aiona is starting to look like a viable candidate. In my opinion, they’re all junk. Mufi is a sleaze ball (which makes you wonder about Bernard Carvalho’s endorsement of him), Duke’s a dud and Neil is a career politician whose best moment may have been 40 years ago when he passed around mimeographed flyers on the UH campus calling for the legalization of marijuana.

But any of the three will be a step up from Lingle, whose latest bit of hypocrisy is ordering a financial review on the rail project:

Lingle released a statement Monday saying she has a legal responsibility to ensure that the project's environmental impact report complies with state law.

She says she also has a fiduciary responsibility to determine what it could cost taxpayers.

Funny, how she wasn’t similarly compelled to conduct such a review of the Hawaii Superferry, which would have saved the state considerable angst and tens of millions of dollars.

While we’re speaking of reviews, I’ve been receiving some emails from folks who are pissed about the state Department of Health’s planned site visit to Sunrise Capital’s Kekaha shrimp farm Thursday morning. It seems it’s an invitation-only event, even though the farm’s request for a permit related to its plans to discharge its waste into the ocean is at stake.

According to the email sent to eight of the 12 invitees (the others apparently were notified by mail):

[T]he DOH has had to limit the number of guests that may be invited to the facility, and therefore is inviting only those 12 persons which the DOH has considered to have submitted comments on the public notice Draft NPDES permit that are substantive in nature.

As one person noted in an email to me:

This is totally amazing pandering to the business. [DOH] limits visit to those who submitted "substantial" comments although we do not know what the criteria were to decide what was substantial.

In its report today, The Garden Island noted that 167 comments were submitted during the public review of the permit application, with many expressing serious concern over the proposal.

Wow. Does that mean the other 155 comments have been disregarded as fluff, their authors deemed unworthy of further consideration? And what does that say about how state and other agencies typically respond to public comments and testimony?

If you ever get the feeling that your voice doesn’t count, and isn’t being heard, well, I'm sorry to break the news, but you’re probably right.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Musings: Fortuitous Times

I stepped outside last evening at a most fortuitous time, when the lavender-gray sky was streaked with silvery wisps and tendrils and clouds shaped like chess pieces marched along the horizon. A hazy crescent moon, cozily aligned to Venus, was setting in a decidedly southern direction as a faint smear of pink glowed behind the white-ringed purple summit of Waialeale, making it easy to understand why it’s considered wao akua — realm of the gods.

By morning, when Koko and I set out walking, Jupiter had slid toward the cloud-shrouded west and the overhead sky, growing blue, was flecked with bits of salmon-colored fluff. We ran into farmer Jerry at a most fortuitous time, just as a downpour arrived without warning, and he kindly allowed us to take cover in his truck.

As we waited for the rain to let up, I took the opportunity to ask Jerry what he thought about the mayor’s proposal to build the new landfill on about 120 acres at Kalepa, rather than Kalaheo, seeing as how it will take land out of agriculture there.

Jerry said farmers support the plan. They always knew the landfill would be built on ag land, because there isn't enough of any other kind, but the Kalaheo site chaffed because it has already been designated as Important Ag Lands. Under the new proposal, Jerry said, the irrigation system at Kalepa could get restored, which would provide water to another 1,000 acres of there, improving its viability for farming.

It does make sense to choose a more central location for a landfill, and since Kalepa is state land, the county won’t be facing bitterly contested condemnation proceedings, as it would with the A&B-owned site in Kalaheo. Still, I can’t help but be suspicious of Grove Farm’s strong support for the Kalepa/Ma`alo Road site.

For starters, it’s looking to grab the income-producing waste stream produced by the dump, like greenwaste and materials recovery. In other words, the public gets the toxic hole on its land, while Grove Farm gets the lucrative gravy of a “resource recovery park” on its land.

And then there’s the issue of the interior roadway this project will create. According to the mayor’s statement:

Our initial focus will be to provide access to the landfill so as to avoid high traffic areas in Līhu'e, Hanamā'ulu and Puhi. However, the long-term benefits of a bypass between Wailua and Puhi are tremendous. Grove Farm has indicated a willingness to dedicate the land for such a roadway, and I’ve already spoken to Senator Inouye and enlisted his support in obtaining federal funds for the necessary studies and infrastructure.

Oh, really? What a nice little hand out to Grove Farm. How convenient for them, as the major landowner in that area, to have a new road created at public expense to serve their current and future development plans. How likely do you suppose they will be to designate any of that acreage as Important Ag Lands if it’s going to be opened up by a major bypass road? With the ocean and mountain views and proximity to Lihue that some of that land affords, it would make for some choice gentleman’s estates.

Jerry downplayed my concerns, saying Grove Farm has an awful lot on its plate right now and the presence of a dump would likely deter luxury development.

Yes, Grove Farm does have development plans for the land around the airport that will keep it busy for the short-term, but developers are always looking a few decades down the road. And it’s the folks in Hanamaulu who will be experiencing the impacts of the dump, not the wealthy who might purchase estates on the Kilohana end of a bypass road in the future.

Overall, it looks like the proposal to site the landfill in Hamamaulu is coming at a fortuitous time for Grove Farm.

Still, as both Jerry and I agreed, the dump has got to go somewhere, because we’re nowhere near the place of not needing one. And as Jerry pointed out, when our conversation turned to my sister’s recent visit and the awareness it stirred in me of just how many businesses here cater almost entirely to tourists, we’re not likely to get to that place so long as our economy revolves around the visitor industry.

“It’s like all of us who live here are supposed to be going green, striving for sustainability, but meanwhile, we’re bringing in a million people every year to this one small island,” Jerry noted. “It’s absolutely and totally unsustainable. But nobody says anything about that. It’s like we're all pretending it doesn’t even exist.”

By then the rain had passed and we went our separate ways, but not before Jerry gave me two fruit-laden branches trimmed from his longan trees. It seems I had, indeed, chosen to walk this morning at a most fortuitous time.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Musings: Whatever Happened

The eastern sky was shot through with red when Koko and I went walking this warm morning. The world was softened by an abundance of moisture in the air, which caused the Giant to appear hazy and the pastures to glow beneath a yellowish light.

As we walked, Waialeale slowly sloughed off her white mantle, even as a bank of gray clouds edged in from the east, threatening rain that it only now delivered. As is typical for a weekend morning, a truck filled with dogs passed us enroute to the hunting area and Koko danced and spun on the end of her leash.

“You must still be on vacation,” said my neighbor Andy when we encountered him on the road, and I admitted I was, and had fallen into the habit of staying up late and rising late — that is, if 6:25 a.m. can be considered “late.”

It’s been great having both paid time off — something I haven’t experienced since I quit my job at the Star-Bulletin 13 years ago — and a visit from one of my sisters. No one from my family has been out to see me in more than a decade, as they all seem to believe it’s easier for me to make the long slog across the Pacific than them. So when I took her to the airport yesterday, I was sad to see her go.

It was interesting to hear my sister’s take on the island, which she thought looked generally down on its heels, especially Lihue, and inhabited by a lot of “aging hippie types.” As we sat on the beach at Hanalei Bay, with the St. Regis spilling down the cliffside and lavish vacation rentals lining the sand, she pronounced the area “pretty ritzy,” and I couldn’t help but feel sad as I recalled the line from the Shilo Pa song: “Whatever happened to Hanalei?”

There's been some discussion — including a post by Andy Parx yesterday— about whatever happened to Wally Wilson, the convicted rapist who was a suspect in the Westside serial killings of a decade ago. An email has been circulating with the subject line “Women on Kauai be careful...” that forwards the contents of an email reportedly sent out by the wife of Gary Heu, the mayor’s administrative assistant:

Remember those 2 murders and one almost murder on the westside a while back? Gary told me this evening that the guy that KPD thought did them but could not prove that did them is out of jail and apparently back on island - his name is Waldorf Wilson and if you search Sex Offenders in Hawaii you will find a picture of him. Apparently he rides a bike - targets middle-aged caucasian women and is currently thought to be living in Puhi. Look up his picture. Keep an eye out for him. Don't go camping alone on secluded beaches. He attacked one woman that was gardening in her yard I think. Not trying to be paranoid but Gary thought it was important enough to tell me tonight to 'be careful'......just sayin'.

When I followed up on that email I was told that the police are still trying to confirm if Wilson is indeed on island, and if he is, he’ll be required to register with authorities and the sex offender website will be updated accordingly.

That’s all well and good — if you believe the sex offender registry is an effective way of keeping track of sex offenders. According to the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center website:

Unless the covered offender is incarcerated or has registered with a designated law enforcement agency after establishing residence in another state, every January, April, July, and October, the Department of Attorney General mails a non-forwardable verification form to the last reported address of the covered offender. The covered offender shall sign the verification form and state that he/she still resides at the last reported address and that no other registration information has changed or shall provide the new information. The covered offender shall mail the signed and completed verification form to the Attorney General within ten days after receipt of the form.

Beginning July 1, 2009, each covered offender shall report in-person every year, within the thirty-day period following the offender's date of birth, to the chief of police where the covered offender resides and shall review the existing information in the registry, correct any information that has changed or is inaccurate, provide any new information that may be required, and allow the police to take a current photograph.

But one has to wonder just how aggressively the authorities follow up if sex offenders fail to report in or return their verification forms. My late friend Carl Nishiie remained on the registry for more than two years after his death, with his record bearing the disclaimer that the state could not vouch for the accuracy of the entry because “the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center has not received a required up-to-date periodic verification of registration information from this offender."

If they can’t even keep track of the dead guys, who don't move around much, well, it does kinda make you wonder…. Just like the recent unsolved deaths of two middle-aged Caucasian women, whose bodies were found in remote areas on the eastside.....

(This post was updated on Sept. 29.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Musings: "We Try Harder"

I awoke to a pink glow that had turned into a world suffused with yellow light when Koko and I went out walking this morning. Rain had fallen through the night, though dry patches remained beneath the trees, and it adorned the ironwood hedge with drops that were instantly transformed into a zillion sparkling gems once they caught sight of the sun. Makaleha, meanwhile, became a blushing green hulk under the influence of the dawn, which softened all its edges as the birds burst forth in song.

“How’s sistah?” asked my neighbor Andy when we encountered him on the road, and I answered, in all honesty, “really good.”

She’s been visiting me from St. Louis this past week, and although she isn’t too thrilled about the early wake-up crowing — “Is anyone looking into ways to eradicate the chickens?” she asked on her first morning — she’s enjoying her stay.

What’s not to like when you’re swimming in azure waters, walking on cornmeal-coarse sand, sniffing a white ginger lei, sampling a Sunrise papaya and longan raised by a friend, enjoying the view of Waimea Canyon on a perfectly clear, sunny day?

The stars of Kokee prompted her to flop down on the dew-damp grass with a delighted exclamation: “OMG, they’re so fat! And the Milky Way! I haven’t seen it for years!”

It was, indeed, impressive, that new moon-black sky all chock-a-block with stars that formed into the thick swirls and swaths of a distant galaxy that seems even more so to the folks who, living in cities, have nearly forgotten its existence, much less its magnificence. To cap it all off, Venus was sinking in the west and Jupiter was rising in the east. We stayed out, ogling the splendor, until the chill and the damp forced us into the warmth of a cabin that a friend had so generously loaned.

Of course, it hasn’t been all idyllic. I did drag her along to K-mart, Cost-U-Less and Big Save, and she experienced the kind of rip off that is most likely perpetrated far too often when we went to rent a 4-wheel-drive to get up to the cabin. We discovered there’s been a lot of consolidation in the RAC industry, so you have essentially two companies to choose from, and they use their stranglehold on the market to impose the kind of exorbitant rates and fees that have typically been the purview of banks and airlines.

After calling to secure a Jeep at Avis, and packing up everything we needed to stay up the mountain, we arrived to find that they wanted to charge $50 more than the already ridiculous price of $130 we’d been quoted to rent a vehicle that was actually capable of 4-wheel-drive. We balked, and so they gave it to us for just $10 more. Such a deal.

Then they tacked on another $13 for me as an additional authorized driver, even as we heard them offer two married couples the opportunity for the wife to be added on at no cost.

“Isn’t that discrimination?” asked a friend when I recounted the story.

Sure sounds like it to me. Now can you see why gays want to get married? And as my sister noted, we have a closer connection than any married couple.

But the biggest screw was yet to come. We returned the car exactly 20 minutes late, for which they charged us $82.49, and then they tacked on another $13 for the additional driver fee.

“That’s when I knew I had been royally screwed,” my sister said. “It was simply beyond the pale.”

It wasn’t so much the money — a shocking $258.62 for one day and 20 minutes — that left a bad feeling in her mouth, but the distinct feeling that she’d been totally and fully ripped off.

We both were left wondering how many people end their vacations feeling burned — not that Avis probably gives a shit, but KVB might want to consider what kind of send-off the RACs are giving our visitors — and we also got to thinking of how demoralizing it must be to work at one of those places, when its policies require you to repeatedly ream the customer.

And then there was the question of how does this, exactly, reflect the Avis corporate slogan of "we try harder?"

That night, we went to the gala reception for royal visitors from Polynesia over at Children of the Land in Kapaa. Delegates from Tonga, Tahiti, Fiji, Aotearoa, Australia, Rapa Nui — site of land conflicts with the Chilean government that recently involved use of the military to stymie protests — and other Pacific nations are here all week, at the invitation of the Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi. They’ve been holding talks to discuss ways of strengthening their ties and supporting one another. Events, which are open to the public, will continue through Sunday at Lucy Wright Park in Waimea.

After meeting a number of my friends who are involved in the independence movement, listening to some great music, seeing Tahitian and Hawaiian hula and watching fire dancers perform, she was pleased to have had the opportunity to experience cultural activities that weren’t done solely for the benefit of tourists.

“I would have much preferred to give that extra $93 to the Polynesian Kingdom,” my sister said, reflecting on the earlier extortion at Avis.

But we didn’t have that option. Because as a friend noted, “What can you do? They already have your credit card.”

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Musings: Catching Up

The air was downright crisp when Koko and I stepped out into a morning washed clean from a night of showers. The sun was a sparkly white ball just cresting a bank of grey clouds, while pink puffballs bumped up against the fluted green ridges of Makaleha.

I was moving kind of slow, but Koko got all revved up and started doing her little spins when we were passed on the road by a hunter, his pick-up truck filled with excited dogs. We saw them later, the men in their orange vests gathered at the end of the road, by the sign recently erected by “Pig Hunters of Kauai” directing tourists and hikers not to pick up or take away dogs from the trail, as their owners would be looking for them.

Heading home, we passed my neighbor Andy, who was heading out, and he noted he hasn’t seen much of me lately, which is true. I’ve been getting up super early and working a lot, so much that I haven’t even had time to blog. I was busy preparing for the blessing of the new Community Center at the low-income rental housing project where I work, an event that is now fortunately and successfully past.

It was an event that was attended by the mayor and most of the Council — people of whom I am often quite critical — yet when I saw them there, and they saw me there (some expressing surprise at my affiliation with that place) it reminded me that although we can have different points of view, belief systems and ideas about how things should be done, there’s no escaping the fact that we’re all part of the same small community. And as I said in my little speech at the blessing, it's all about working together.

While preparing for the event, which required tremendous physical and mental effort, I had no time to do anything expect eat, sleep and work. It reminded me that a lot of people live like that, while also raising kids, and so it’s no wonder that they don’t know what’s going on. Following politics and staying on top of the issues is a luxury afforded by time, which is in shorter supply than cash for many folks.

When it was all done, and I’d expended just about everything I had, I wanted nothing more than to sit in a comfortable seat and be entertained, which is not typical for me, but helped me understand why TV is such a draw. So I went to see “The Return of Nanny McPhee” with a friend and found not only the diversion I sought, but also messages applicable to humans of all ages: no fighting, be kind, work together, be courageous and engage in giant leaps of faith.

And that offers a nice segue to an event that is happening this week. Members of the royal and chiefly families throughout the Polynesian Triangle are coming to Kauai to establish a Union of Pacific Islands. My friend Kaimi, a customary chief with the Kingdom of Atooi, has been working on this for months and now it’s finally coming together. There will be a royal procession and pa`ina at Children of the Land (next to the Kapaa Papaya's) on Wednesday evening, and events at Lucy Wright Park in Waimea Thursday through Saturday.

It’s open to everyone, and is mainly a chance for people to meet and connect and develop ways of strengthening the bonds between Pacific nations, with the idea of building support for an independent Hawaiian nation.

Anyway, if you can help with housing for any of the visitors, contact Andrew at or call Joe at 212-5614. If you’d like to contribute to the event, you can send donations to The Polynesian Cultural Fund, PO Box 919, Kekaha, HI, 96752. And if you’d like to attend the pa`ina, contact Sandy Herndon at 821-1234 or Erika Morningstar at 212-6687.

On a totally unrelated note, I ran into an article I wanted to share about a new study that discounts the argument that marijuana is a “gateway drug:”

Researchers found that other factors, such as ethnicity and stress levels, are more likely to predict whether young adults will use other illegal drugs.

Even unemployment appears to be more closely linked to harder illicit drug use than marijuana use, the study authors noted.

Ethnicity was the best predictor of future illegal drug use, the study findings indicated, with whites the most likely to use the drugs, followed by Hispanics and then blacks.

The article went on to report:

In a study published recently in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, [Dr. Richard D.] Blondell and colleagues at UB [University at Buffalo] reported that new research suggests that many people first get addicted to drugs while using prescription painkillers.

Mmmm hmmm.

Meanwhile, as a friend texted last week:

Heat rising from the cane fire aka green harvest yesterday and today.

When are we going to stop waging this silly war on a plant?