Thursday, March 31, 2011

Musings: High Rollers

Here’s a follow up to the inaugural post I published on my new site PIKO. It seems that just about the same time Southern California developer Nicky Michaels was cleverly skirting flood zone requirements by dramatically upgrading North Shore vacation rentals under building permits issued for “unsubstantial improvements,” he and others were also being sued by the State of California for scamming senior citizens:

[California] Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi today [Feb. 10, 2005] filed a $110 million-plus lawsuit against a living trust mill that tricked senior citizens into using their retirement investments to buy annuities that often made less financial sense for the elderly victims but earned the con artists substantial commissions and other income.

The case was later settled for $7.2 million — with no party admitting any wrongdoing. Whatta a guy. Why is it that Kauai attracts so many high-rolling scammers?

Speaking of high-rollers, I’ve been increasingly curious about Bill Porter, the man who is developing the mini golf course/amphitheater in Kilauea. And what I’m wondering is why people who already have a gazillion bucks feel like they must make more, more, more — supposedly under the guise of “helping the community.” For instance, Porter bought 473 acres of land off Kuawa Road and two days after the sale CPR'd it into 43-lots — or in other words, gentleman’s estates. And you know they ain’t gonna be cheap — at least, not cheap enough to make actual sense for real farming.

So how exactly does that fit into his self-professed plans for promoting agriculture and sustainability in Kilauea? Sounds more like the same old ag land profiteering that we’ve seen carried out ad nauseum here on the Garden Island.

Along that same vein, the other day I heard some folks on the radio talking about how the amphitheater and mini golf course are desirable because there’s “nothing to do” on the North Shore. Well, then move into town. Why do people buy land in the country and then beg for urban amenities — on ag land, no less — that undermine the rural nature of the place they originally found so desirable?

Returning to high rollers, I was interested to learn that Kauai Coffee workers were forced to take mandatory drug tests last week after coffee mogul Massimo Zanetti purchased the company. As the person who told me the news noted, in reference to the human trafficking scandal in which Kauai Coffee was implicated:

I think the irony is that it is ok to stuff ten Thai workers in a shack, but not ok to free their mind from it.

I found further irony in Mayor Carvalho’s remarks about the sale, as reported by The Garden Island:

“We look forward with great optimism that Kaua‘i Coffee will continue to flourish on Kaua‘i and make valuable contributions to our community as a model employer, a sustainable agricultural operation and generous supporter of worthy causes under the leadership of Massimo Zanetti. We unite to move forward.”

Apparently Carvalho is unaware of the 17 worker discrimination complaints filed against the "model employer" since 2006.

Finally, after reading today’s newspaper account of veteran County Councilmembers failing to understand that when they vote down a bill in committee, it doesn’t proceed to the full Council, is it any wonder that Derek Kawakami wants to escape to the state House?

Seems only County Attorney Al Castillo and Councilman Mel Rapozo understood the process, with Tim Bynum proclaiming:

“I’m dismayed, I’ve been here five years,” Bynum said. “I didn’t think any bill could get fully approved or killed in committee.”

Kinda makes you wonder what else these guys aren't getting. Which may answer my earlier question: why is it that Kauai attracts so many high-rolling scam artists?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Musings: Sounds Like Politics

A sheet of gray blowing southwest offered a warning that rain was on its way, but by then, Koko and I were already on our way, headed mauka, where the clouds were darker still. Before I saw it or felt it, I heard it — that distinctive low rumbling of an approaching shower. But it was spring-like in its gentleness, dampening, but not drenching, and it accompanied us home as a red and gold glow filled a gap in the eastern sky.

There’s a notable gap in the list of three Democratic candidates sent to Gov. Abercrombie, who will choose one to fill the House seat vacated by Mina Morita when she became chair of the state Public Utilities Commission.

Yes, the name of Joel Guy — Mina’s former legislative aide and her personal top choice for the job — is glaringly absent.

Surely, Susan Wilson, Jay Furfaro and the other members of the committee knew that Mina wanted Joel to carry on her work. Surely they knew that Joel is a mirror-like reflection of Mina’s values and vision. Surely they knew she would have wanted Joel to at least be in the running.

Instead, they nominated Derek Kawakami. No surprise there. That was a given.

And Neil Clendennin, a North Shore physician who advises drug companies and proved his political hardiness by heading up JoAnn Yukimura’s last Council campaign. OK, fair enough.

And Foster Ducker.

“Who’s that?” I asked the person who told me the news. “What, are they just trying to make it easy for the governor to pick Derek?”

Not only is Foster Ducker a political unknown, he’s a Realtor with North Shore vacation rentals.

But far more troubling is the fact that Foster served on the committee that interviewed the candidates, which means he had unlimited time to promote himself to the other reviewers, while being privy to his competitors resumes and answers. Seems like all that gives him more than a leg up.

What’s more, he was also allowed to vote.

“Doesn’t that seem unethical, or at least questionable?” I asked my neighbor Andy when I encountered him on my walk this morning.

“It sounds like politics,” Andy said. “But it’s not the kind of politics we like to think of as being associated with the Democratic Party. We like to think that’s the sort of thing the other party does.”

Speaking of politics, I’m going to continue shamelessly promoting my new site, PIKO. In my first post, I illustrate how one clever developer — and unfortunately, he’s not the only one — transformed a simple beach cottage into a palatial mini resort under a building permit issued for “unsubstantial improvements.” And why? So he could skirt the requirements for elevating a structure in the flood zone, potentially putting the vacation rental guests at risk.

I’ll be getting into that issue, with its quirky twists, sobering ramifications and questions about why the county allowed it, in subsequent posts.

As one commenter astutely noted:

Corruption or incompetence, you decide.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Musings: New Beginnings

This marks the one-thousandth post for Kauai Eclectic, which seems a fitting time to move in a slightly different direction.

So let me introduce you to PIKO, my new site. It’s different than Kauai Eclectic in that it will be all original writing, which means no aggregating or linking and opining, and it will cover only island-related issues, with an emphasis on Kauai. In addition to new reporting, I’ll also be posting some previously published articles in an effort to create a partial repository of my work, as well as some prose pieces and poetry.

I’ll still be posting on Kauai Eclectic when I want to muse on any subject — including something I’ve posted on PIKO — and share my observations on nature.

I’ll always link from Kauai Eclectic to new posts on PIKO, and PIKO posts will link to Kauai Eclectic for those who want to comment. The PIKO site won’t accept comments.

I hope you enjoy PIKO, which can found at, and I also hope you’ll continue to visit Kauai Eclectic.

And always, mahalo nui for reading and sharing.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Musings: Just Fine

Great gray globs dotted a pale sky when Koko and I went out walking this morning. The treetops danced slowly to music I couldn’t hear, drowned out, perhaps, by birds singing an exuberant greeting to the day.

It wasn’t long before pink streaks appeared in the east, followed by a flash of scarlet, then gold, which stained the space in between the leaves, turning the tree canopy around my house into a pagan cathedral of sparkling light.

Worshippers in the Big Island-based THC Ministry suffered a setback last week when the Idaho Supreme Court nixed the religious freedom defense of a ministry member who contended he used cannabis as a sacrament. In upholding the man’s conviction, the high court cited an 1879 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found the government may restrict religious practices, but not beliefs.

In other news, Navy training exercises that included an underwater blast – the same kind of stuff they do right here in Hawaii — has been linked to at least three dolphin deaths off San Diego, prompting the National Marine Fisheries Service to open an enforcement case to see if the Navy violated federal law. I doubt it will have much of an impact, however, since the Navy is already vowing that ”the program it calls ‘mission critical’ would continue.”

I was particularly struck by this comment, seeing as how the Navy claims that simply watching for marine mammals is sufficient for their protection during exercises here in Hawaii:

[Cmdr. Greg Hicks, a spokesman for the Navy's Third Fleet] said there were no dolphins in view when the training countdown began, and when they could be seen it was too late to stop safely.

And over in Japan, it’s becoming clear that they’re nowhere close to stopping the increasingly high levels of radiation that are expected to keep leaking into the environment indefinitely— supposedly with no impact. Or so they keep saying, even though the Tokyo Electric Power Co. is unable to produce credible readings at its own crippled nuclear plants.

Let’s face it. No one really knows what’s happening over there; heck, even Tepco didn’t know about the contaminated water until its workers were injured by it. Yet government and industry officials keep downplaying the danger and telling people the exposure levels are safe.

Not everyone agrees. Consider this interview with Hirose Takashi broadcast last week by Asahi NewStar:

Hirose: Around Fukushima Daiichi Station they measured 400 millisieverts – that’s per hour. With this measurement (Chief Cabinet Secretary) Edano admitted for the first time that there was a danger to health, but he didn’t explain what this means. All of the information media are at fault here I think. They are saying stupid things like, why, we are exposed to radiation all the time in our daily life, we get radiation from outer space. But that’s one millisievert per year. A year has 365 days, a day has 24 hours; multiply 365 by 24, you get 8760. Multiply the 400 millisieverts by that, you get 3,500,000 the normal dose. You call that safe? And what media have reported this? None. They compare it to a CT scan, which is over in an instant; that has nothing to do with it. The reason radioactivity can be measured is that radioactive material is escaping. What is dangerous is when that material enters your body and irradiates it from inside. Inhaling even the tiniest particle, that’s the danger. When it enters your body, there’s no telling where it will go.

[Interviewer] Yoh: So damage from radioactive rays and damage from radioactive material are not the same.

Hirose: If you ask, are any radioactive rays from the Fukushima Nuclear Station here in this studio, the answer will be no. But radioactive particles are carried here by the air. When the core begins to melt down, elements inside like iodine turn to gas. It rises to the top, so if there is any crevice it escapes outside.

Yoh: Is there any way to detect this?

Hirose: I was told by a newspaper reporter that now Tepco is not in shape even to do regular monitoring. They just take an occasional measurement, and that becomes the basis of Edano’s statements. You have to take constant measurements, but they are not able to do that. And you need to investigate just what is escaping, and how much. That requires very sophisticated measuring instruments. You can’t do it just by keeping a monitoring post. It’s no good just to measure the level of radiation in the air. Whiz in by car, take a measurement, it’s high, it’s low – that’s not the point. We need to know what kind of radioactive materials are escaping, and where they are going – they don’t have a system in place for doing that now.

Is it any wonder some folks in Japan are saying just gimme some truth?

Meanwhile, it was revealed the Navy helicopters that flew missions in conditions the Japanese claimed were safe were actually exposed to radiation, contaminating an American aircraft carrier that still has “hot spots” — despite a massive clean up.

And as the Wall Street Journal reported:

Part of the nation's key radiation warning system was out of service as the U.S. braced for possible exposure to the fallout from a nuclear crisis in Japan.

In California, home to two seaside nuclear plants located close to earthquake fault lines, federal officials said four of the 11 stationary monitors were offline for repairs or maintenance last week. The Environmental Protection Agency said the machines operate outdoors year-round and periodically need maintenance, but did not fix them until a few days after low levels of radiation began drifting toward the mainland U.S.

But no worries. I’m sure the government is on it and everything is just fine.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Musings: Par for the Course

“What happened to our spring?” asked a neighbor that Koko and I passed on our walk this morning, following a night of heavy rain that brought out the waterfalls on Makaleha, and beneath thick gray clouds that promised — and did indeed deliver — more showers before we returned home.

Hey, rain IS spring. It seems that people have become so accustomed to the drought conditions that now they whine when windward mauka Kauai gets a normal amount of precipitation. I’m so grateful we’re getting all this rain, as I can see it visibly replenishing the island, plus it always makes me happy and puts me in a good mood.

Still, I found myself feeling annoyed when I read today’s article on the Kalihiwai Ridge neighborhood association dropping its contested case hearing against the amphitheater and associated commercial uses on ag land in Kilauea.

Part of it stemmed from seeing attorney Roy Vitousek given extensive space to spout “gag me” platitudes like:

“I have never been part of a project where there has been as much heartfelt, widespread support in the community,” he said.

Perhaps that’s because he’s typically doing stuff like suing the state on behalf of landowners in the conservation district who want to vacation rental their houses — I won’t call them homes, because they’re commercial enterprises — even though they signed agreements when they were given permits to build saying they wouldn’t engage in such uses.

I don’t really have an opinion about the amphitheater, but the developer’s choice of Vitousek, who is always on the wrong side of land use issues, sure raises a red flag.

And part of it stemmed from reading Deputy County Attorney Mauna Kea Trask, who is supposed to be representing the county, and by extension, the public, taking an advocacy position on behalf of the developer:

Trask said the particular area approved for the project was not good for agricultural use, and it was used by the now-defunct Kilauea Sugar as a baseyard to store machinery.

“This was essentially the loudest place in Kilauea, up until Kilauea Sugar went under in the early 1970s,” Trask said.

How do you know that Mauna Kea, when you aren’t a farmer and you weren’t even alive in the early 1970s? And should you really be going public with your project-friendly opinion — or any opinion — when the Planning Commission has yet to make a decision?

Kinda makes it hard to believe that the folks who oppose the project will be given a fair shake at the April 12 meeting. This is the sort of thing that makes the public think, why should I even bother to participate when it sure looks like a done deal?

But then, that’s all par for the (putt putt) course at the Kauai County Attorney’s office and planning department.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Musings: Not So Pretty

I haven’t been closely following the debate over the amphitheater proposed for the land on the mauka side of the highway in Kilauea, other than to express my dismay over the tacky miniature golf course that was the first phase of that project.

But then someone posted a link to this video in the comments section of yesterday's post, which was followed late last night by an email with the subject heading “Keep Kauai Country” and the headline “Preserve Kaua'i's Ag Land Urgent Action Needed.”

It framed the debate in a slightly different way than has been covered in the local paper (emphasis in the original):

So far, the controversy about whether to build the Kilauea Pavilion has focused on the surface-issue of whether or not the community wants or needs an entertainment complex, which includes an outdoor amphitheater, in Kilauea. A story has been spun to make it sound like the controversy is about "elitists" of Kalihiwai Ridge who don't want the noise -- versus the local people who "need" the services of such an amusement center.

Though the surface issue is noise from the amphitheater, the deeper issue that has not been discussed is the dangerous precedent that would be set by the Kilauea Pavilion development. This would be the first case on the island that a developer would be granted a "Special Use" permit to build a commercial facility on State-zoned agricultural land. Don't we want to preserve our precious agricultural lands? Once this precedent is set, it could have grave impact on Ag land across the entire island.

It then discusses how the developer allegedly launched a successful campaign to change the composition of the Kalihiwai Ridge neighborhood association board to eliminate opposition from that quarter, and speaks of a final public hearing on the permit to be held by the Planning Commission next month.

I’m not sure who is behind Keep Kauai Country, and I’m always a little suspicious of stuff that is sent out without any connection to a real live person. Still, the sentiments expressed speak to the ongoing struggle on this island over how ag land should be used. These debates are likely to become more intense as the economy worsens, which tends to make the county look more favorably upon any property tax-generating development.

And will the economy worsen? Well, I paid $4.53 a gallon for premium gas (which I need to prevent my engine from my knocking) in Lihue yesterday, and a friend on Oahu said she paid just over $4 for regular. When you consider how rapidly rising fuel prices will affect our electric bills, shipping, airline tickets (and thus tourism), food costs and just about every other facet of economic life on this island, and then factor in the fallout (hopefully not literally) from the devastation in Japan, it doesn’t look pretty.

Also not so pretty was the response that Hope Kallai got from Planning Director Mike Dahilig regarding her request to have the county look into Bruce Laymon’s fencing project at Lepeuli:

The context and specific relief outlined in the letter are not actionable given the form of the letter and its conformance with the Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Kauai County Planning Commission.

Ahhh, now I understand why Bernard chose an attorney, rather than a professional planner, to head the department. It aids the process of obfuscation.

Finally, Civil Beat, in following up on my post about Eric Shinseki eying the Senate seat being vacated by Akaka, printed a refutation of the claim. But interestingly, it came not from Shinseki, but Peter Boylan, Sen. Inouye's spokesman.

I guess the thinking there is that no one runs for a Senate seat on the Democratic ticket in Hawaii without Inouye’s knowledge and/or approval.

And that's not so pretty.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Musings: Inclusively Exclusive

The wind roared through the trees, causing the ironwoods to bend and sigh and shake off the rain that still clung from the nighttime showers when Koko and I went out walking this fresh, chilly morning. Clouds billowed like smoke over the waterfall-streaked face of Makaleha as two-thirds of the sky stained orange, signaling the shift from dawn to day.

There’s been a promising shift on the Planning Commission, with Herman Texeira yesterday assuming leadership of that panel after Jimmy Nishida resigned as chair. Texeira has frequently spoken up and out against some of the questionable recommendations from the Planning Department, so at least he’s not afraid or unwilling to buck the tide on what is otherwise a go-along board.

I was especially heartened to read this comment in The Garden Island’s report:

“I would like to be more proactive,” he said. “It’s not just working on the agenda. There are other matters that I would like to work on.”

Wow, proactive planning. What a concept.

In skimming the article, it struck me that Bernard “together we can!” Carvalho has assembled a planning commission comprised entirely of locals. Kinda makes a mockery of his campaign rhetoric, which spoke of “creating an inclusive method of leadership that brings everyone involved together.”

I found it quite interesting, considering that boards and commissions are supposed to be representative of the entire community and the applicants coming before the panel are so often mainland haoles, either transplanted or not.

And it’s particularly intriguing as I seek confirmation on whether investigations have started into complaints of systemic racism in the planning department.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Musings: Shinseki Eying Senate Seat

Following the news that Sen. Daniel Akaka will not seek re-election comes word that Eric Shinseki, the retired U.S. Army General who now serves as Secretary of Veterans Affairs, plans to run.

The news was broken in an exclusive by Veterans Today:

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Shinseki has informed his private staff he plans to resign his post and run for the Senate seat to be vacated by Daniel Akaka, Democrat of Hawaii. Shinseki is considered a “shoo in” with no strong opposition in place.

We heard his talk, we heard his promises and we waited. While Shinseki met with the lobbyists and phonies, America’s vets suffered and died. Those that spoke up were investigated and jailed.

Shinseki took over Veterans Affairs at the lowest point in its history, underfunded, totally corrupt, medical system in collapse, two wars going and over a million vets queued for disability processing.

Two years later and 80% of the Bush disaster is still in place and Shinseki considers his job done. We disagree, he has yet to begin.

Well, it may be that he doesn’t consider his job done, he just wants a different one — one with more perks, more power, more acclaim and a lot more flower lei.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking it will speak volumes about Hawaii's role in the overall scheme of things if we end up with two hard-core military guys as our senators. It really locks in the occupation, if you know what I mean.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Musings: Revised Estimates

The moon, noticeably thinner than her super-sized fullness, was headed toward the mountains and yellow when Koko and I went out walking this morning. The eastern sky shifted to soft pink, then orange, in anticipation of the big event, and I watched the luminous moon turn white as the sun, with a cloud crossing it diagonally in the universal sign of “no,” rose as a scarlet disk in a gilded fleecy bed.

As the death toll — and rebuilding costs — in Japan continue to rise, so, too, does the casualty count in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, where federal wildlife officials say seabird losses have greatly exceeded early estimates. According to a news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

Surveys of the Refuge reveal that more than 110,000 Laysan and black-footed albatross chicks – about 22 percent of this year’s albatross production – were lost as a result of the tsunami and two severe winter storms preceding it in January and February. At least 2000 adults were also killed. Wisdom, the 60-year-old albatross that recently hatched a chick, was initially reported as surviving the event because her nest site was not overwashed, but biologists have not been able to confirm her survival. Update: Wisdom has been found.

As you can see from this graphic graphic, the tsunami waves washed over a good portion of the three atolls in the Midway refuge, with devastating effect:

Biologists are confident that, absent any other stressors, the albatross population could rebound from this event, [Barry] Stieglitz [Project Leader for the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex] said, but “we remain concerned about the compounding effect of this tsunami on the existing stresses of invasive species, global climate change, incidental mortality from longline fishing, and other threats to albatross and other wildlife populations.”

Thousands of burrow-nesting Bonin petrels also are believed lost, and officials are still trying to assess the impact on other low-lying islands in the Northwestern part of the chain:

Wildlife losses here [Laysan Island[ cannot be estimated with the same degree of accuracy, but at a minimum many more thousands of albatross chicks were lost, [Monument Superintendent Ray Born] added. For instance, it is possible the entire translocated population of endangered Laysan finches on Pearl and Hermes Reef were roosting on the ground when the tsunami likely overwashed the low-lying islands there.

Meanwhile, estimates of the cost of our latest war — launched, ironically, on the eighth anniversary of our invasion of Iraq — also continue to mount, with National Journal reporting:

On the first day of strikes alone, U.S.-led forces launched from ships stationed off the Libyan coast 112 long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles, which cost in the range of $1 million to $1.5 million apiece. That is $112 million to $168 million for the first day's strike in missiles alone.

And that doesn’t include fuel costs and combat pay. What’s more, with the French saying the action is going to last "a while yet,”, it looks like the U.S. is going to be doing — and spending — more:

“If it goes on more than a month, we’re going to be in the forefront [of operations] or we’re going to let Qaddafi stick around,” said [former Pentagon comptroller Dov] Zakheim, who served during the George W. Bush administration. “The choices aren’t very pleasant.”

So if we supposedly started the war to stop a tyrant from “telling his people there will be no mercy,” to use Obama’s words, and then we “let Qaddafi stick around,” what, really, is the point? I mean, other than to burn some of them Tomahawk cruise missiles so we can buy more.

Which leads me to the question: why is it that we always have plenty of money for war, but have to scrimp on everything else?

And finally, the County Council continues to consume precious time 1debating changes to the plastic bag bill, which inherently makes no sense.

Unless, of course, someone can explain to me the logic in banning plastic bags made with polymers from fossil fuels while still allowing Walmart to sell carry out bags made in China from 100 percent polypropyene.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Musings: Signs of Spring

I headed down the hill last night, in search of the rising super big full moon, but turned back home when it became clear that the clouds were solid all the way to the horizon. I’d just stepped out of my car when I saw it pop out, bold yellow from a mass of dark at the end of my driveway, remaining visible long enough to remind me I don’t need to go looking for anything.

Awoke this morning to the sound of Spring roaring in like a lion among the trees, the sky a mix of sullen gray and filtered gold, the air perfumed with spider lilies, honohono, gardenia, angels trumpet, the landscape impossibly lushly green, even in places that are usually brown and dry. Everything seems so very alive.

Meanwhile, America and its allies celebrated the season of rebirth by starting another war. But while it’s apparent that the weaponry has done its job — delivering death and destruction — it’s not so clear the wagers are in agreement about either the means or the ends:

U.S. and European military officials said the assault was only the first wave in the international operation in Libya. But already there were signs of differences over the goals. France took a more assertive stance, suggesting the allies' intervention must ultimately lead to Gadhafi's downfall. The U.S. military appeared more wary of overtly taking a side and getting pulled deeper into Libya's conflict, with the top American U.S. officer saying Gadhafi's ouster wasn't necessarily the goal.

Libya's claims of civilians among the dead from the strikes also appeared to make Arab countries nervous, after the Arab League took the unprecedented step of calling for a no-fly zone. On Sunday, Arab League chief Amr Moussa criticized the allied strikes, saying they went beyond what the Arab body had supported.

"What happened differs from the no-fly zone objectives," Moussa told reporters in Cairo. "What we want is civilians' protection not shelling more civilians."

Oh, boy, here we go again, killing people to protect them. It's a good time to listen to Michael Franti.

I find it fascinating that the Libyan fighters opposing Gadhafi are labeled “rebels,” whereas the Afghanistan fighters opposing America are called “insurgents” and “terrorists.” But they’re all doing the same thing: waging armed revolution. See how government, with the help of mass media, subtly manipulates your thoughts and perceptions?

It’s not much different than all the nuanced language being used to describe the spreading radioactive contamination of food in Japan, with the New York Times reporting officials there saying things like even thought they’ve detected significantly elevated levels of iodine 131 and cesium 137, “they posed no immediate health risks.” Yes, because it takes time for cancer to form.

In truth, as the Wall Street Journal reports, they don’t really know how serious the problem is:

"Radiation is invisible, so the only way to determine the safety of food products is to conduct scientific tests," said Norikazu Suzuki, an agricultural ministry official.

But another major hurdle is the fact that there aren't enough research facilities in Japan that can conduct highly accurate radioactivity tests on food.

Still, it's the first day of Spring, the season of new life, fresh starts, hope, and its significance has been noted by civilizations from ancient times, including Hawaiians, who built the spectacular Hapaiali'i Heiau on Hawaii Island back in the 1400s. At the vernal equinox, the sun sets directly along the centerline of the temple.

Pretty darn cool.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Musings: Native Rights

Way back in 2004, the state issued three citations to Lloyd “Ikaika” Pratt for camping in Kalalau for longer than is allowed, and without a permit. In defending himself against the charges in District Court, Ikaika countered that he needed to stay in the valley for extended periods to care for a heaiu there — something he had been doing for 37 years — and it was a traditional and customary Hawaiian practice protected under Article XII of the state Constitution.

Under State v. Hanapi, the Hawaii Supreme Court set forth a three-part test that defendants must meet in claiming a PASH defense: they must be Native Hawaiian; engaged in traditional Hawaiian practices, and exercising the right on undeveloped or less than developed property.

But things got squirrelly because the case was heard by Judge Frank Rothschild, whose disdain for Native Hawaiians and their rights was made clear in the shockingly biased way he handled the 2005 eviction of a Hawaiian family from their taro patch in Hanalei. Here’s a sample from those proceedings, which I wrote about in the Honolulu Weekly:

‘We have lots of folks coming to our courts and serving all kinds of rights and defenses intended to give them immunity from our laws,’ the judge [Rothschild] said. ‘People say they’re not bound by the rules of the road that the rest of us follow because they belong to the Kingdom of Hawai’i. My response is, I don’t care if you’re from the Kingdom of Tonga or any other kingdom. When you come here, to this land, you’re required to follow the rules and the laws of the state of Hawai’i.’

Ummm, Frank, hate to break the news, but you’re the one who came to this land.

Anyway, Frank found that Ikaika had, indeed, met all three parts of the PASH test. But then he imposed on Ikaika the burden of proof for meeting an additional “competing interests” prong, which allowed Frank to conclude that the state’s right to regulate the valley was superior to Ikaika’s right to engage in traditional practices.

Dan Hempey, Ikaika’s attorney, appealed to the three-judge panel in the Intermediate Court of Appeals, which issued its opinion against Ikaika last November. One judge ruled Ikaika had no constitutional right to be there. Another ruled that he had a right to be there, but failed to prove his actions were "reasonable.” And a third judge ruled that he should have been acquitted because he had a constitutional right to be there and since he did no harm at all being there, it was reasonable.

Yesterday, Dan petitioned the Hawaii Supreme Court to hear the case, writing:

Thus, how a balancing test should be applied and to whom the burden of proof should be put, assuming arguendo that a balancing test should be applied, became a significant issue on appeal. It remains the primary basis for this Petition for Writ for Certiorari.

Dan argues that the ICA “committed grave error” by requiring a defendant who has already proven that his conduct is Constitutionally protected to also bear the burden of proving his conduct was reasonable “in an inconsistently-applied balancing test.”

Furthermore, if such a balancing test is to be “the correct approach,” he writes, “Hawaii litigants would benefit from guidance as to how it should be applied and who bears the burden of proving what.”

Dan goes on to raise the very interesting question of whether state regulations, which criminalize certain actions, are so narrowly drawn as to impinge on the rights of Hawaiians to exercise their traditional and customary practices.

He then dings the lead ICA opinion, which stated Ikaika had not proven that Hawaiians of lesser rank took on such responsibilities, by writing:

From Petitioner’s perspective, the case has almost played out like a trap, with the State conceding an important point at trial, the trail court agreeing that the matter has been proven, and the Petitioner then losing the case on appeal because an ICA judge held that he failed to present evidence on the very same conceded issue.

It’s been a long road for Ikaika, and it’s not over yet. But hopefully the Supreme Court will take the case and offer some clarification on whether Hawaiians actually do have the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, or if anti-Hawaiian judges can act unilaterally to strip them away.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Musings: On This and That

Out in the night, stars brilliant, air cool, clouds hugging the edges. In the 5 a.m. darkness, rain arrives, heavy and hard, departing as the sky begins to brighten. Koko and I venture out, past the heady fragrance of honohono and into the open where a mass of white fleece over Waialeale glows rosy pearlescent, as if illuminated by a hidden flame, alongside a rainbow shard.

I recall, in the weeks after Iniki, when Kauai was still a mass of rubble and darkness, the electricity mostly out, houses still draped in tarps, life totally disrupted, the days a blur of cleanup and survival, flying one evening into Honolulu, where the lights blazed and buildings were intact, and being struck by the realization no one really cares if your world is turned upside down so long as their own remains essentially unchanged.

I thought of that today when I visited the yahoo home page and saw, in the “news” lineup, the headline “Japan braces for potential radiation catastrophe” followed by “’Bachelor’ makes final decision,” “Stars play dress up” and “How to make perfect toast.”

News about the radiation continues to worsen, but it’s hard to know if we’re getting the full story, especially when the Japanese government is telling people to stay inside. Oh, that’s all it takes to be safe? And what if you don’t have a house because it was destroyed by the tsunami or quake?

We’re all supposed to be trusting nuclear plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. to know what it’s doing and be forthright about the situation, but would you trust KIUC and HECO in a similar situation? I mean, KIUC won't even give us the skinny on its true plans for hydro.

It’s also been interesting to read how Prime Minister Kan’s government was incredibly weak before disaster struck, and now it’s in charge of managing a major catastrophe. It made me think of how people on Kauai choose a mayor in hopes of jumping on — or staying on — the gravy train, without much thought to how they’d handle a crisis. Would you feel comfortable having Beth and Bernard running the show if Kauai was struck by a major tsunami? Even JoAnn Yukimura, the smartest and most competent mayor Kauai has seen in a long time, was pilloried for her post-Iniki management, which was actually quite sound.

Speaking of leadership, Gary Hooser and Mina Morita have been confirmed as head of the Office of Environmental Quality Control and chair of the Public Utilities Commission, respectively. While it’s a political loss for Kauai, it’s a benefit for the entire state. Congrats Gary and Mina!

But just a quick aside to The Garden Island: I don’t know what rumor mill you’re listening to, but attorney Harold Bronstein is definitely not a contender for Mina’s seat. And Joel Guy most unequivocally is.

And while we’re talking about outstanding attorneys, Dan Hempey is in the running for a judgeship with Kauai Family Court. His appointment would be a blow to the Reinstated Hawaiian Nation, which he has represented so diligently, but a plus for Kauai families, who would benefit from his compassion, kindness, legal acumen, intelligence and heart.

You can support his nomination by writing to Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Mark Recktenwald at 417 S. King St., Honolulu, HI 96813, or sending an email or fax 808-539-4703.

Go Hemp!

Getting back to Japan for a moment, it’s also intriguing to monitor how the devastation there is playing out in the global economy, seeing as how so many companies and industries are dependent upon it for all sorts of critical parts:

"Frankly it's extraordinarily complex," said Andy Palmer, Senior VP at Nissan.

But as my neighbor Andy mentioned when I ran into him while walking, the disaster also represents an opportunity for some. And sure enough, a company selling herbal products sent out an email that proclaimed:


And that got me thinking about all the seaweed and fish products that come from Japan, and all the officials who are saying, oh, no worries, because the radiation cloud is blowing into the Pacific, like it’s not going to have any impact there?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Musings: Life and Death

Venus alone was shining boldly in a pink-tinged sky when Koko and I went out walking this cool, fragrant morning. Rain fell onto Waialeale from a black-fringed cloud that was slowly turning gold around its upper edges as a scarlet orb rose from a fiery flush in the east.

A dead piglet, about the size of Koko, but much heavier, lay alongside the road, victim of a hit and run, which fortunately wasn’t gory, so I moved it off the pavement so it wouldn’t turn gory, and thought of how death is an inextricable part of life.

Yesterday I got a report, sent via Twitter by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worker, about how the tsunami affected Midway. The Laysan albatross are raising their chicks right now, and they got hit hard:

People are OK. No damage to infrastructure. The Short-tailed albatross nest was washed over again and the chick was found unharmed about 35 m away and carried back to its nest cup. Minimum of 1000 adult/subadult and tens of thousands of Laysan Albatross chicks lost. Spit Island completely washed over. Eastern and Sand Island 60% and 20% washed over, respectively.

The report included a link to the "Pete at Midway" blog, which has a more detailed narrative report and a lot of photos depicting how the wildlife were impacted when the wave washed over the low-lying atolls.

Meanwhile, the surge at Wainiha washed out and/or tangled great swaths of the vegetation that was planted by oceanfront landowners seeking to expand their lots onto the public beach.

It also washed in a lot of fresh sand, which is a good thing, because that's how nature replenishes a beach, except that now the beach has been planted as lawns in front of vacation rentals.

At one house, a gardener was trying to clean the sand mixed with debris off the lawn, and when asked what he was going to do with it, said, “I don’t know, I guess take it the dump.”

How sad that a public resource has been turned into garbage because people are building too close to the ocean.

If you’re wondering why the county allows so many off-island landowners to build so close to the water, and so many hapless tourists to stay there, perhaps the mission statement of Kauai Civil Defense offers a clue:

Mission Statement: To protect the lives and property of all the people living in Kauai County during emergencies or disaster events.

Guess the transients and their accommodations just get screwed.

Hopefully all of us downwinders won’t be screwed as Japan “faces its biggest catastrophe since the dawn of the nuclear age,” to borrow the headline from a disturbing Democracy Now! report that included an interview with nuclear waste specialist Kevin Kamps:

[I]f the U.S. Navy, which is a hundred miles away, has to move an aircraft carrier away from the shore because the radioactivity levels are of concern, then all of these assurances by Tokyo Electric Power Company and the Japanese government that everything’s really OK—I mean, a statement made two days ago by the chief spokesman for the government, the secretary of the cabinet, was that the evacuation is underway, and the wind is blowing out to sea, so everything is really going to be OK. Well, we have indications that the wind direction may change towards the mainland of Japan. So, those false assurances are not helping the situation.

And another question that needs to be asked is, well, if the wind is blowing out to sea, what’s in that direction? Well, the United States is in that direction. And we see, again, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission saying no harmful level of radioactivity could reach the United States. While we’re in the middle of this crisis, a new reactor is now melting down. How did they determine that the containments are going to hold? How did they determine that the radioactivity will not blow in large quantities to the United States?

If you want to keep an eye on things yourself, here’s a link to a handy site that monitors environmental radiation levels in the USA — but not Hawaii, apparently because we aren't really part of the U.S. It was sent by a friend who reports on nuclear issues and noted in an email:

Hmm, you guys kinda get zapped first on the way around the Globe.

Meanwhile, the birds are singing and the flowers are in bloom.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Musings: Signs

The signs of spring are everywhere: gardenia perfuming my house, the honohono orchid hanging outside the front door in sweet profuse bloom, limu hugging the rocks at my favorite beach, plumeria flowers popping out on the trees, luscious cainito waiting on the table to be eaten.

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, there are other signs, signs we really don’t want to see, signs of the fate that inevitably and inexorably awaits us on the day, or night, when a major tsunami actually does arrive; signs that nuclear power clearly is not the way to go.

That knowing was there, in the back, if not front, of our minds once the mayor gave the “all clear” yesterday and it contributed, along with the bleariness of disrupted or minimal sleep, to the blank numbness that seemed to permeate the day.

We couldn’t slip back into total denial, not after seeing the video footage of the tsunami coming ashore in Japan — footage that made it clear all our coastal development is rooted in the fantasy that we who live on these tiny dots in the Pacific are somehow immune, even safe, from the forces of nature.

We’d seen it before, in the Indonesian tsunami, but it was easier to distance ourselves from that disaster, in a place that we consider “third world,” and so prone to shoddy construction and inadequate evacuation procedures that heightened the death toll and destruction.

It was somehow different, more sobering, to see photos of intense devastation and videos of the lingering damage in neat, orderly, modern Japan.

Or maybe it hit harder because it hadn’t been all that long since the Indonesia tsunami, and the Japan quake came on the heels of other temblors in the Ring of Fire, which fed the nagging unease that perhaps more might be on their way.

“It’s been another drill for Kauai, and each time we improve,” said KONG DJ Ron Wiley, and perhaps that’s true.

Perhaps now the county and Civil Defense know they need to have places where people can go as soon as an evacuation warning is issued so folks don’t have to sit in their cars on Kawaihau Road getting eaten by mosquitoes in the dark.

Perhaps now the county and Kauai Visitors Bureau are more aware of the vulnerability of tourists staying in all those vacation rentals, where they have no hotel staff to tell them what to do, where to go.

Perhaps county planners and elected officials have a deeper understanding of just how foolhardy it is to permit all those “sleeps 12” mini resorts a few dozen feet from the shoreline — especially the ones with illegal, enclosed downstairs units.

Perhaps we all will heed this wake up call and take steps to be better prepared for the likelihood that fuel, food and water — in short, life as we know it — could be disrupted for an indefinite amount of time.

Or perhaps we’ll allow ourselves to drift into the pleasantness of spring and fall back asleep....

In closing, I have to share something I heard that really annoyed me while listening to the radio yesterday morning after the tsunami warning was lifted. The DJs were talking about what was opening and what would remain closed when Tom Clements, the public information officer for PMRF, called in.

Since county water safety officers had advised people to stay out of the ocean for the remainder of the day, he said, “we won’t be allowing anyone access to our beach today.”

“Our” beach? As in PMRF’s beach?

No, Tom, that’s OUR beach, the public’s beach, one part of which just happens, unfortunately, to be accessible to us only through a military base that is sitting on land that actually belongs to the Hawaiian Nation.

It’s not in any way, shape or form the navy’s beach.

But how interesting, and disturbing, that PRMF believes, and acts, otherwise.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Musings: Getting Creative

A high school student recently emailed to ask if I would be her mentor on a senior project about creative writing. In contemplating her request, I began thinking of all the many ways, far more lucrative than fiction, that creative writing is employed when I happened upon a wondrous example of the craft at work.

It’s the draft Environmental Assessment prepared to help Secret Beach Properties — developed by Michele and Justin Hughes — get several after-the-fact permits. It seems the Hugheses got busted for building some two miles of lateral trails and two mauka-makai trails in the conservation district and Special Management Area at Kauapea Beach without state and county approval. And now, four years later, they’re having to set things right.

The document maintains the fiction first contrived by the Hugheses and repeated by attorney Lorna Nishimitsu — the Hugheses hadn’t cut the trees that launched the investigation that led to the discovery of the illegal trails; they’d only “fixed up” old hippie trails to remove the trees they hadn’t cut, and the trails are used for maintenance purposes.

Of course, one look at the photos – scroll to page 92 of the draft EA — makes it quite clear that these trails are elaborate structures created not for maintenance or vegetation removal, but to give tourists renting the pricey vacation rentals the Hugheses built on ag land their own private access to what is marketed as a “very private Secret Beach.”

The author of the draft EA then embellishes the tale quite a bit, and introduces some humor, by writing:

To assist in the agricultural operations, several mauka-makai trails were established for the planting, maintenance, and harvesting of tropical flowers and other ornamental plants.

Now, if you’ve ever been to Kauapea Beach, you’d know that flowers and ornamental foliage would never survive on that steep, salt-drenched bluff, and not even fake farmers like the Hugheses would be foolish enough to try.

There’s more creativity to be found when the draft EA gets to the part where the trails will benefit the public by allowing emergency responders to more quickly access the beach. Never mind that there’s actually a vehicular access not far away, and I imagine it would be favored over steep stairs by fire trucks and ambulances.

My favorite part, however, is to be found near the end, where the document’s author gives corporations a degree of personhood that even the U.S. Supreme Court might not have envisioned:

Existing and proposed improvements will allow Secret Beach Properties, LLC to walk, police, and maintain the Property.

And there you have it.

Those are the “people” who now own so much of our coastline and benefit from the mini resorts built upon it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Musings: At the Core

The rain came in the night and then departed, leaving droplets that shimmered and sparkled on barbed wire fences, ironwood needles, lauae fern, when Koko and I went out walking. It was a mauve morning; or rather, it started out gray, with piles of dark clouds in the east and streaks of pink above an enshrouded Waialeale, but then dawn came and turned the black into purple, which soon became gold and before long these pearlescent puffballs appeared, headed south, and I was left marveling, as I often am, at how rapidly things change.

And don’t.

I get a lot of email from various people involved in various causes, concerned about various things — land use, water, GMOs, Hawaiian independence, burials, pesticides, pollution, war, sustainability, economics, government corruption.

Lately I’ve been receiving extensive missives about the burials at Kawaiahao Church and two Senate bills — SB1, co-sponsored by our own Ron Kouchi, and Senate Bill 1520 — that seek to create a governor-appointed commission charged with deciding who is a Native Hawaiian for the purpose of organizing a Native Hawaiian governing entity. The bills totally ignore the fundamental principle that kanaka maoli have a right to self-determination, and should not be subjected to a process created and controlled by the state.

The issues are related because both speak to the lingering distrust that Hawaiians feel about the government, and both have worked to pit Hawaiians against one another in that old imperialistic strategy of “divide and conquer.”

As one woman wrote about the Kawaiahao burials controversy:

this project is NOT about the church`s multi purpose bldg anymore if it ever was, it is about sanctioning the removal of iwi kupuna to pave the way by state government for future development. keep that in mind and spread the word.

It’s not a far-fetched assertion, when you consider that the State of Hawaii, even in its impoverished condition and under the reign of a Republican governor, gave the project $1 million, as did OHA, and that if it proceeds, it will allow developers and elected officials to point to the building and say, see, even the Hawaiians don’t care if you dig up their dead.

Another woman, responding to a Ku`e action at the state Capitol this morning to protest the Senate’s passage of the Hawaiian roll bills, circulated this article, which reportedly was published in the February 1, 1893 edition of the Advertiser:

You can click to make it larger. It’s definitely worth a read.

If you’ve ever wondered why so many kanaka maoli reject the state government, just read this account, which is steeped in the religiosity and racism of those who perpetuated the overthrow. The final paragraph speaks volumes:

It is doubtless premature to forecast confidently what shape the opinions of native Hawaiians will take, as to the political change now in progress. No doubt the majority of them are now governed by their long existing jealousy of white ascendancy, and are dissatisfied and sullen. We have, however, personal knowledge of some of the best and wisest among them who rejoice in the removal of the terrible incubus of Palace influence, with its debauching and heathenizing effect. These men also enthusiastically welcome the prospect of union with America. We are reliably informed that this feeling is growing and extending among the native people. After the final arrangements have been concluded, and the new form of government has been definitely settled, we anticipate satisfaction among the natives, and their cordial cooperation with the whites in public affairs.

Here we are, 118 years later, and those same sentiments live on, from the dissatisfaction and sullenness of the overthrown (though I don't believe it's rooted in jealousy), to the cocky confidence of the occupiers who remain wholly convinced of their virtue and superiority in all things.

This is what lies at the core of the pejorative "fucking haole."

Monday, March 7, 2011

Musings: Dirty Business

It started out gray, though the kind of gray that offers the promise of light, when Koko and I went walking this quiet Monday morning. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the dark clouds blowing south fast were edged in pink, stained apricot, the green ridges of Makaleha assumed that unearthly golden glow and Venus, perched in the east, looked down on it all and twinkled. And then, as is so often the case, it all went gray again.

As is so often the case after a big rain, some of Kauai’s coastal waters are polluted with dangerously high levels of enterococcus, an indicator of feces contamination. While the state Department of Health issued a brown water report on Feb. 24 for the eastern coastline extending from Nawiliwili to Hanalei Bay, the regular testing done by the Surfrider Foundation gets a lot more specific. In short, Niumalu Beach Park, Nawiliwili Stream, Hanamaulu Beach and the end of Weke Road in Hanalei are places where you don’t ever want to get in the water.

While Surfrider reports some Kauai beaches are getting cleaner, new research and computer models are offering a look at how climate change may contribute to increases in waterborne toxins and microbes harmful to human health, according to scientists at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

One of the things researchers expect to see within the next 30 years are prolonged episodes of toxic algal blooms, which would adversely impact shellfish fisheries. Then there’s the problem of desertification, which increases atmospheric dust. When mixed with seawater, the iron-rich dust “significantly stimulates growth and persistence of Vibrios, a group of ocean bacteria that occur worldwide and can cause gastroenteritis and infectious diseases in humans,” according to a report on the AAAS meeting on the NOAA website.

And as we’re already seeing here in the Islands, more intense and prolonged rainfall increases the likelihood that outdated sewage systems will overflow, releasing disease-causing bacteria, viruses and protozoa into drinking water and onto beaches.

As the reader who sent me the link noted:

….the younger generation and their kids might have to wear HAZMAT suits do go surfing.

Even now our local areas are becoming sources of ear and lung infections…….surfing Kalapaki and Hanalei Bay.

We are wasting money and blood on wars……..we have bigger “wars” to combat …. the continuing degradation of our environment.

I couldn’t agree more. But after reading an article about how there are now far more men than women on the planet — an ominous trend if I ever saw one —a move away from the typical blood and guts warfare doesn’t appear likely:

The question left open by economists is what the consequences will be of such a large surplus of young men. History offers a disquieting answer. According to the German scholar Gunnar Heinsohn, European imperial expansion after 1500 was the result of a male “youth bulge.” Japan’s imperial expansion after 1914 was the result of a similar youth bulge, Heinsohn argues. During the Cold War, it was youth-bulge countries—Algeria, El Salvador, and Lebanon—that saw the worst civil wars and revolutions. Heinsohn has also linked the recent rise of Islamist extremism in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan to an Islamic youth bulge. Political scientists Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer warn that China and India could be the next countries to overdose on testosterone.

Meanwhile, NATO forces in Afghanistan are doing their best to cull the male population, killing nine boys under the age of 12 in an airstrike last week. Oops. Sorry.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Musings: Hoping

Driving home in the waning light of Friday, past Wailua Bay all muddy with the waters of swollen Wailua River and Opaekaa Falls a tumbling torrent, skirting deep ponds, overflowing ditches, and still the rain came down, replenishing everything, filling me with a giddy joy at witnessing all that wet beauty, and just as I was thinking, I hope this continues, I heard the DJ on the radio say that drier conditions were in the forecast and all this should be behind us by tomorrow, he hoped.

It wasn’t, and I happily greeted a dawn muted by the heavy gray of clouds, dashed out with Koko in a raincoat I too seldom have the need to wear, listened to a delightful symphony of patters and drips, sighs, swooshes, splatters as every now and then the trees shook their leaves.

Mid-morning I headed down the hill to collect my mail and I came prepared, just in case it was dry along the coastline, as it so often is, and it was, so I jumped in the water in a place where it stays clean, even after big rain, and a tourist lady who was watching me approached and asked, do you live here? And when I said I do, she said she’d thought so, as it seemed that people who live here have a special light in their eyes, sparkle to their lips.

I told her it came from getting in the water and she asked if it was safe for her to swim; she’d been told two people drowned there. I said I would keep an eye on her if she wanted to go out and when she emerged from the water, beaming, I asked where she was from. Sweden, she replied, and when I made some murmuring small talk about how she must be glad for the warmth of Kauai she said no, she didn’t mind the cold, but she didn’t like the rain. She was hoping for some sun, and did I think we’d get some?

I didn’t want to tell her my own hope was for more rain, so I just smiled and shrugged and headed back up the hill, where a little Niagra had formed on a section of stream exposed by clearing last year and I had to turn on my windshield wipers well before I reached home.

Later, I called a friend who lives in Wainiha and she was saying she had never seen her yard quite so flooded, and her driveway for a time had been impassable, but still, she was hoping for more rain, because she loves it, and it helped to solve so many problems, by which she meant the entrenchment of vacation rentals owned by people hoping for a large return on their investments if the houses are regularly inhabited by tourists hoping for sun.

And as I reflected on these encounters, while listening to the rain that continues today, it struck me that the world is disharmonious because we have such different hopes. Or perhaps it's simply because we have our hopes, and that puts us in a state of wanting to cling to what is, of wanting something different than what is.

I’ve heard it said that deep down, we all hope for the same things: a roof over our head, enough to eat, a better life for our children, love. Yet I’ve seen people with a perfectly good roof hoping for a larger one, or two, and folks who once hoped only for a healthy child hoping the estranged spouse would take it for the entire weekend or that it would, having grown to adulthood, move out of the house, and people with plenty to eat hoping they wouldn't be tempted because they already felt themselves too fat, and people with someone to love hoping to be free.

And surely, those who make weapons, and those who hold stock in the defense industry, aren’t hoping, in their heart of hearts, for peace.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Musings: Changing Times

Koko and I went out in a murky night that was a mere hair away from a Pisces new moon — a night made darker still by the arrival of thick clouds holding rain that arrived, heavy and hard, about 10 p.m. and lingered, drumming relentlessly on the roof for hours, until it finally just stopped and deep, solid sleep returned until the downpour resumed, in earnest, just about the time I heard the sound of the car that delivers my neighbors' newspapers, wrapped in plastic.

A Honolulu friend came over recently, bearing his lunch in a plastic bag, the kind with handles that you can’t get on Kauai anymore.

“Are those still legal over there?” I asked and he affirmed they were.

“Can you bring a few next time you come?” I asked. “They really come in handy for the homeless people who visit the food pantry.”

“I don’t know,” he replied, squirming visibly in his seat. “I don’t want to get caught at the airport smuggling in plastic bags.”

It used to be that folks only worried about the illegality of a plastic bag’s contents. Now, as the stuff that is typically transported in a plastic bag eases toward freedom, plastic bags are moving into the realm of prohibition. And folks who otherwise would never come to a Council meeting showed up to vigorously debate a proposed change in the new bag-banning ordinance.

Yes, the times they are a-changin.

Like the “personal message,” in the form of a mass email, I got from Sen. Akaka, announcing he won’t run for re-election in 2012, thus opening a seat that’s been locked up since 1990. Wow. That's a long time for one man to reign, and Inouye's been in there even longer. Of course, Linda Lingle is eyeing the Senate seat. But don’t you think Mazie Hirono could beat her?

A Hawaiian national circulated the email with his own take on the announcement:

The U.S. S. Akaka is sinking or is this just ole school, sit down, keep still and shut-up while I lomi-lomi you? The hewa created by these types continues even when they are in the ground. I for one don't believe a word of it. What was the first order of business by the Provisional Interim Government (PIG)? Take down the Ka Hae and raise their Flag. What was their Flag? What was the first thing Christobo Colon (Columbus) did when he allowed three very special passengers of his three ships to go ashore "officially" before him, plant their homeland flag, the Flag of Greed? Did British Supreme General Cromwell leave after the America's Revolutionary War? No, he stay around to make sure the Constitution of the United States of America was in favor of the Crown of England by selling franchise corporations And what is England's favor? As Braddah Ken says, when the US Armed Forces are disarmed and the U. S. flags and corporate State of Hawaii Flags are down, and all Finances are transferred to Hawaiian Kingdom Postal Savings Bank, then there is some indication of good faith.

Or as Dr. Keanu Sai, who has sued the U.S. government over its theft of Hawaiian land, sees it:

“We haven’t lost our land. We’ve just lost control over it.”

But it's going to take a lot more than the departure of Akaka to change that.

Other signs of the changing times: for the first time in its 102-year history, GM sold more vehicles in China than the U.S. Meanwhile, I paid $4.12 a gallon for super unleaded at the Kapahi station — up a dime since my last fill up ten days ago. Sure makes me glad I get 38 mpg from my Korean-made car.

And tape recordings made in the Oval Office have gone from secret to searchable over at White House Tapes, where the University of Virginia has released more than 5,000 hours of White House audiotapes spanning the presidencies of FDR to Nixon.

Politicos and history buffs will find plenty of interest, like Maxwell Taylor playing the consummate “yes man” as Johnson coaches him on how to sell Eugene McCarthy on the continued bombing of Hanoi using folksy, yet still articulate, phrases that put Sarah Palin to shame:

He says there's no case and nobody's every given him any reasons for it, and he doesn't understand it, and he doesn't know why, and so on and so forth. And I think that you can show him that if the boys just hunker up in these enclaves like a jackass in a hailstorm and let them shoot at them, why they're going to be a helluva shape.

Or Chicago Mayor Richard Daly calling to ask Johnson to send federal troops to that city in 1968.

The site is quite the treasure trove of source documents, and there’s something compelling about actually hearing the voices of the men —invariably, it is men — who were running the nation all those years.

But don’t be thinking this means a sea change in political transparency. With the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, CIA and other lettered agencies working overtime, the government’s got more secrets now than ever before. But this time they’re about you, me and the rest of the citizenry.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Musings: Regrets

Skinny scarlet streaks lined the eastern horizon, staining black clouds pink, when Koko and I went out walking this morning. Though the mornings are still cool, it’s feeling a bit more like spring, with the sky brightening early as the days grow steadily by a minute on either end. Yes!

One has to wonder when the bomb threats that keep closing Kauai schools will end now that the kids have gotten a taste of the power they can wield. First it was Kauai High, then Chiefess Kamakahelei Intermediate and today its King Kaumualii Elementary — the third threat in three days and the fifth in the past two weeks. The threats are obviously perpetrated by kids who have figured out a way to ditch class, but it not only ties up a lot of police time — The Garden Island reports 15-20 officers are required to secure each campus — it creates a major problem for working parents who suddenly find themselves with their kids on their hands.

While we’re on the topic of kids and school, a woman I know recently had to pick up her five-year-old nephew in mid-morning — the mom couldn’t leave work — because he’d been suspended from kindergarten for fighting, an offense that had also prompted a police response. Doesn’t that seem just a little bit extreme?

Since we’re talking about extreme, I was discussing the salaries of Kauai County workers with a Honolulu executive the other day. He was absolutely stunned to learn that department heads are making 100 grand a year, and that Mayor Bernard Carvalho had hired Tommy Contrades for the plum position of managing the county’s Capital Improvement Projects — one of many newly created, highly paid and highly questionable posts.

“And that comes at a time when public workers across the nation are being asked to take, on average, a five percent pay cut,” the executive said. “Doesn’t anyone on Kauai complain?”

Ummm, yes, but they don’t vote the bums out.

Speaking of which, the mayor should be returning tomorrow from his two-week trip to the Philippines. He was accompanied by Kaui Tanaka, yet another of his many aides, economic development director George Costa and two of the county’s electrical inspectors, which put a small crimp in the workings of that division, or rather, the schedules of electrical contractors who depend on timely inspections.

And the purpose of this lengthy, taxpayer supported jaunt? Well, Bernard and George passed out brochures at a travel conference and they distributed some medical stuffs from the Poipu Rotary Club. Oh, and Bernard is quoted in a county press release as saying:

“It’s also a great opportunity for us to explore economic development opportunities for Kauai.”

Like what, exactly? Of all the places in the world, Bernard is looking to the Philippines for economic development opportunities?

In other parts of the world, U.S. warships are edging toward Libya, with American officials making their usual claims about supporting democracy:

"We are going to keep the pressure on Gaddafi until he steps down and allows the people of Libya to express themselves freely and determine their own future," Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, told ABC's "Good Morning America".

Yet as Democracy Now! reports,, the U.S. has remained silent while the supposed democracy we fought to create in Iraq cracks down on dissidents, arresting at least 300 and killing an estimated 29 persons who engaged in recent protests.

As Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi American blogger and political analyst reported from Iraq:

Now everyone is talking about two demonstrations that will take place, one next Friday and then one next Monday. Monday will be the first anniversary of the Iraqi election. So they’re calling that day the "Day of National Regret." They’re regretting that they actually gave their votes to these parties that have failed to provide to the Iraqi people.

Hmmm. Do you suppose we could organize a similar demonstration for those who regret voting for Obama and Bernard?

And finally, WikiLeaks, but not its founder, Julian Assange, has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.