Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Musings: Somebody's Watching You

I knew the moon was out there, because hours earlier I’d seen it peeking through the trees against a backdrop of stars made faint by its brilliance, but by pre-morning, clouds had reduced it to a false dawn in the west, where rays of muted light fanned out across a leaden sky.

A few things have caught my eye recently, and warrant mention here, like the fact that the County Council reappointed Jimmy Nishida as the mayor’s “environmental” representative on the Planning Commission. Remember when we fought to have those various categories instituted, thinking they would ensure the commission wasn’t entirely dominated by developers’ lackeys?

Also noticed that the mayor has appointed former Councilman Daryl Kaneshiro to the Water Board. Seems this is one arena where the Administration has fully embraced the concept of recycling. Ever get the feeling that the same, small group of people run everything on the island?

On a related note, the County Council’s Economic Development & Renewable Energy Strategies Committee on Thursday will be discussing whether to give the Kauai Visitors Bureau $200,000 — that’s in addition to the $1 million extra the county gave the agency last year, and on top of the $2 million it gets from the state — to promote an island already known around the world. According to an article in The Garden Island, KVB Director Sue Kanoho said $70,000 of that will be spent promoting the eastside in a “kama`aina campaign.” Oh, and $12,000 (6 percent) will go to “administrative fees,” as in "we’ll charge you to spend your money."

Among those supporting the allocation were, no surprise, Hawaiian Airlines. Why is it that the visitor industry doesn’t pay for all of its own ads and promotions, like every other business sector on the island? And why is the KVB going to spend $33,000 marketing the “Kauai Made” program — aside from the fact that its creator, mayoral assistant Beth Tokioka, is Sue’s best friend? Compare that to the Kauai Grown program, which got just $5,000 from the county — perhaps because it wasn’t the brainchild of the mayor’s brain.

Moving on, I got a report from peace activist Jim Albertini that folks attending a recent public hearing on the Army’s proposed expansion of the Big Island’s Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) were overwhelming opposed to the plans. That came just as the Army announced it was acceding to community concerns and so will halt live fire training at Makua, on Oahu.

Instead, the Army will conduct it at PTA.

The Big Island community concerns include the very real fear that blowing up the depleted uranium on the range turns it into deadly DU oxide dust — a concern that prompted the Hawaii County Council to pass a resolution on July 2, 2008 calling for a complete halt to all live-fire training and other activities that create dust at PTA until there is a comprehensive independent assessment of the DU at PTA and it’s cleaned up.

But that, of course, hasn’t been done, and now the Army plans to blow up even more stuff at PTA. Apparently Big Island community concerns don’t count for as much as the Oahu community concerns. Or more likely, they haven’t filed enough lawsuits yet.

While we’re talking about the Big Island, an activist there discovered, while researching an enforcement report on coral damage, that the Army used nuclear explosives to create the entrance channel to the Kawaihae small boat harbor back in 1970. But don’t worry. I’m sure, like everything else the military does, it had absolutely no environmental impact. [Update: The Army Corp contends in an Aug. 26, 2010 "information sheet" that it used "high explosives under the Research and Development study, code name "Project Tugboat" by Nuclear Cratering Group" to excavate the small boat harbor.]

Meanwhile, the Air Force is using Afghanistan to try out a new drone-based $17.5 million (that’s per) surveillance device called Gorgon Stare. It’s capable of, among other things, monitoring and transmitting live video images of all outdoor movement in entire towns and villages. The Washington Post gave it a glowing write up:

With the new tool, analysts will no longer have to guess where to point the camera, said Maj. Gen. James O. Poss, the Air Force's assistant deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. "Gorgon Stare will be looking at a whole city, so there will be no way for the adversary to know what we're looking at, and we can see everything."

But it wasn’t until the very end of the article that it got around to reporting this chilling tidbit:

They envision it will have civilian applications, including securing borders and aiding in natural disasters. The Department of Homeland Security is exploring the technology's potential, an industry official said.

Now do you see why you need to pay attention to what's happening in Afghanistan and Iraq? Because the stuff they’re using on the “bad guys” there may one day be used on you here.

But only to better serve you in a natural disaster, of course.


Anonymous said...

Good grief! Big brother does exist & is watching our every move. The use of nuclear weapons to blast away coral concerns me not only for the radioactive contamination but for coral reef ecosystem itself. Mahalo for the reporting, Joan!

Anonymous said...

Are you doing something the government would frown upon?

I'm not....so look all you want.

Anonymous said...

"Nuclear weapons" are you sure about that?

Andrew Cooper said...


I thought you were a journalist? Throwing out the unsubstantiated idea that nukes were used at Kawaihae as fact? A wild accusation that needs at least a little substantiation.

Yes, the work was done by the Army, a unit called the nuclear cratering group. But as far as I know it was conventional explosives used.

I will even give you a name to verify this... Dr. Paul L. Jokiel, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. He has done extensive work in the Pelekane Bay area for decades, in particularly studying the Kawaihae harbor impacts on the reef.

Joan Conrow said...

Andrew, it wasn't a "wild accusation" or "unsubstantiated idea." If you followed the link, you would have seen it came from a report from the state Office of Coastal and Conservation Lands, which is hardly a fringe group.

However, I have since learned that the Army Corp claimed in an Aug. 26, 2010 "information paper" that it used high explosives, with a payload that was meant to simulate a nuclear explosion, but was not radioactive.

And I'm sure we can take them at their word, just like we did when the Army claimed it never used DU in Hawaii -- until we found out it did.

Anonymous said...

Joan..You are going to stick with "Nuclear Weapons" ? Please stop and think "Nuclear Weapons" !!!! Come on girl you are better than that.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's not like we're the Marshall Islands are something.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much money goes to Dickie Chang's campaign? He is the mouthpiece for the hotel industry.

Dawson said...

"Are you doing something the government would frown upon?

I'm not....so look all you want."

The lie that only lawbreakers need fear governmental invasion of privacy is as old as J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph McCarthy. Sadly, it is still touted today by their sycophants-in-spirit.

Anonymous said...

"But only to better serve you in a natural disaster, of course."

...kinda like the superferry!

Andrew Cooper said...

What? You trusted a state document on this? Think about the whole idea and it gets a bit absurd.

One of the dreams of the 60's and 70's was to use nukes for non-weapon purposes. They never managed to create a device with the smaller yields needed for useful roles they envisioned. Anything they have would not just carve a little channel, but wipe out the port and town as well.