Friday, July 29, 2011

Musings: Stinking Badges Redux

Venturing out in the darkness, into a night that was cool and filled with stars, I encountered brilliant Jupiter, giving off a glow as bright as the moon. When I finally did see the moon, hours later in an orange-gray dotted sky shifting from pale pink to lavender, it was the thinnest sliver of silver-white, perched atop the Norfolk pines. And then the clouds rolled in and took all the brightness and beauty.

As I reported in the Honolulu Weekly and this blog, the cops took badges belonging to two members of the Kingdom of Atooi, and Judge Kathleen Watanabe ordered the cops to give the badges back.

But that, of course, was not the end of the story — a story that is starting to sound like a personal vendetta, an abuse of power, even rampant paranoia.

To bring you up to date on the latest, the county prosecutor’s office this week got a temporary stay on having the badges returned pending a ruling on its motion for reconsideration of that order. Apparently the cops and prosecutors just can’t stomach the thought of giving Dayne Gonsalves and Robert Pa back their badges — badges that clearly state they are Kingdom marshals, not cops.

This action, in turn, caused Dayne's oft-delayed trial, previously set for Aug. 29, to be continued yet again.

Assistant Chief Roy Asher, who has been carrying this torch, was present during the most recent court proceedings. How often, do you suppose, does an assistant chief take time from his presumably busy day to attend a hearing related to misdemeanor charges? Why is it that Asher, shown here in a standoff with Dayne at the Superferry protests, has such an intense personal interest in this case?
Photo by Jonathan Jay for

The answer might be found in a Kauai Police Department document I discovered while researching the Weekly article. It tells of how shortly after Darryl Perry was named Chief, Asher proposed designing a new badge to to reflect a “new beginning” for the department. It goes on to state:

With the use of forfeiture funds, the process from beginning to end took almost 2 years to complete; but it was well worth the effort.

The shield design is a symbol of authority and depicts the official emblem of the United States. The eagle is representative of strength, courage, and freedom, while watching vigilantly; giving protection to the people and their rights as guaranteed under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights of the United States of America, and State of Hawaii

This badge is one of a kind, and in some circles believed to be the most beautiful ever created.

But more importantly, it acts as a means to deter police impersonators who display generic badges closely resembling those of other law enforcement agencies. Our badge is so unique that the public can easily distinguish it from a fraud.

So Asher, apparently, has a fixation with badges, which may not be that unusual for a cop, though one has to wonder at the expenditure of two years’ effort and an undisclosed amount of money (even if it is snagged from druggies) on such an endeavor.

But what I found so ironic is that the badge Asher pushed for is supposed to reflect the “aloha spirit” and KPD’s mission statement, which states in part:

We acknowledge and accept our individual differences and unique cultural diversity, and promise to treat each other and everyone we serve with dignity and respect.

How, exactly, does that mesh with confiscating badges that kanaka are allowed to possess as part of the nation-building efforts afforded them under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Obama signed, though Dubya would not? And what kind of aloha is that?

The prosecutor’s office, meanwhile, continues to show its aloha for the Kingdom of Atooi by securing a Grand Jury indictment against Dayne, its leader, on two counts of theft in the second degree and one count of attempted theft in the second degree. His alleged crime? “Stealing and attempting to steal rocks from the Hawaiian Home Lands.”

While it’s questionable whether a kanaka actually can be guilty of stealing something that rightfully belongs to him or her, what caught my eye was the date of the alleged offenses: October 6, 7, and 8, 2008.

Why, do you suppose, did the prosecutor’s office wait three years to seek an indictment against Dayne on these charges?

Do you think it might be for the same reason that of all the people involved in the Superferry protests of 2007, and all the people arrested, only Dayne and Rob are still facing charges? Do you think it might have anything to do with the fact that they didn’t capitulate to the prosecutor's office, and instead are fighting the charges, and to have their badges returned?

Do you think it might have anything to do with a strategy of relentlessly going after anyone who has the temerity to challenge the existing order by establishing a nation with its own law enforcement?

In other words, do you think it might have anything to do with personal vendettas — vendettas carried out at great expense to the taxpayers, vendettas imposing a burden on the already overburdened courts, vendettas that have no place in a system where justice is supposed to be blind?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Musings: Fueled by Fear

It’s ironic that the county, which feeds people’s fears through press releases like the one published today on the results of “green harvest” — replete with a photo of two rusty pig traps supposedly planted as “booby traps” to protect a cannabis crop — is now having to contend with people’s fears about a youth drug treatment facility in Lihue.

In fact, folks are so fearful about the prospect that young kids would be trying to kick drugs — not use drugs, not sell drugs, not make drugs, but get OFF drugs — in the proximity of their neighborhood that they staged sidewalk protests.

They are so fearful that were willing to reveal their cold, callous ignorance by being photographed with a sign that read “no treatment center here” — so fearful that they were willing to spend hours of their time attending a meeting last night because their fears hadn’t been fully addressed and they wanted to make sure their fears were heard.

For decades they’ve heard the county drug czars, politicians and cops talk about the scourge of illegal drugs, the “ongoing battle,” to use the words of Police Chief Darryl Perry, against drugs. Is it any surprise they don’t want any aspect of “the war” in their neighborhood?

For decades they’ve heard lurid tales about how desperate addicts will go to any lengths to score, seen a procession of people arrested for crimes associated with their drug use, been told over and over again that these folks are the dregs of society, deserving only of harsh punishment and isolation. Is it any surprise that they don’t want addicts living near their homes?

Never mind that they, themselves, might have medicine chests stocked with the valium and vicodin, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs that help them through the day. They don’t see themselves as addicts or users because their addictions are legal, sanctioned by doctors and covered by insurance so they don’t have to forge checks and steal to get their fix.

And besides, they’re the supposedly upstanding members of society — so upstanding, in fact, that they're lobbying to prevent kids, the most vulnerable segment of our society, from getting help because of a selfish, fear-based NIMBY attitude.

What’s so irrational about all this is that they’re willing to have toxic gas stations and emissions-spewing cars traveling on Kuhio Highway in the proximity of their homes, a drug-loaded hospital, a crap-filled big box store. They’re willing to live downwind of the airport and pesticide-drenched GMO crops. But they draw the line at a house full of supervised kids trying to achieve the sobriety that may keep them out of jail, give them a chance to live a full life.

Fear is a very powerful weapon. And as the police chief and county drug czar and mayor strive to overcome public opposition for this long overdue treatment center, they’re looking down the barrel of a gun that they helped load.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Musings: Murder By Any Other Name

The moon, heading into its final quarter this week, was a cup into which Jupiter appeared poised to fall when Koko, Paele and I went out walking. It was chilly enough that I grabbed a sweatshirt, and damp from the night’s passing rains. In the distance, I heard the call of a Newell’s shearwater as clouds tumbled and rolled, turning red and orange and yellow, until finally the sun rose into a pyramid of gold and scarlet that resembled a funeral pyre.

The news was filled over the weekend with stories of death in Norway — death dealt to innocents by a gunman and bomber described as “an anti-Islamist, right wing extremist” whose attack was apparently ideologically motivated — and initially blamed, by the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, on “jihadists.”

I read some of the comments following one AP story:

How can anyone justify killing innocent people just to put forth a political doctrine.

Yes, I wondered that myself when we bombed civilians in Afghanistan after 9-11, when we conducted “shock and awe” in the cities of Iraq.

this guy is not dumb and he is not crazy. He is a cold blooded murderer, who had an agenda. He was smart enough to make a bomb and plan all this. No punishment is enough for a heinous crime like this.

And it struck me, how, really, is this any different than what we’re doing in Pakistan, where civilians — innocents — are killed almost daily by American drones? How are the people operating those drones — people driven perhaps by their own anti-Islamist ideology, or even worse, by their desire for a paycheck, because let’s not forget that today’s soldiers choose their “professional specialties” — any different than a lone gunman carrying out his own murderous political plans?

Except, of course, that the gunman is arrested and sent to jail, and the news media make great hay out of the killings in Norway while sparing Americans the bloody details of our own government’s daily death-dealing in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, as the Republicans and Democrats haggle over how much to slash Medicare, day care, Social Security, social programs, to keep the nation from defaulting, Reuters is reporting that America has wasted — not spent, but wasted — $34 billion on contracts with private service providers in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

We need, as a nation, to get honest about our endless wars and the toll they are taking on us economically and morally. As Americans wring their hands and express pity and sympathy for the poor victims of the Norway massacre, we need also to be aware of the tragedies we inflict daily on families who are unlucky enough to live in nations that we’re trying, for reasons that are increasingly unclear, to control.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Musings: Rule of Law

The moon snuggled up to Jupiter, directly overhead, and then the rain came, softly at first, then steadily, and it stayed long enough to give all the plants a good drink. Afterward, the dogs and I went down to watch a blood red disk rise from a wind-dappled sea. It hovered for a short time on the edge of the sky before it disappeared into pearly, flat-bottomed clouds, sending silver-gold shafts up into the heavens and down into the water, illuminating boobies fishing on the horizon.

Henry Noa, Prime Minister of the Reinstated Hawaiian Government, tried to illuminate the Kauai Police Commission yesterday about some of the new laws affecting indigenous peoples, as well as concerns that the cops are acting improperly when they do stuff like confiscate ID cards issued by the RHG. Or to use Noa’s own words:

After all, your nation holds itself out as a nation based on the rule of law.

And that law now specifically directs all State and County departments, including the police department, to assist us in making Native Hawaiian sovereignty a reality. When rank and file police officers take actions that have the opposite effect, they violate the law. When the law directs you to assist us in achieving self-determination, but the police confiscate our government property and accuse our citizens of committing crimes, whenever we even attempt to exercise self determination, there can be but one conclusion. ……….. that…

Certain police are violating the very laws that they are sworn to uphold.

But commissioners, looking blank, didn’t want to hear it. In fact, as Noa was reading his well-crafted, and not especially lengthy, statement to the panel, Chairman Charles Iona interrupted and told Noa to cut it short, summarize. Cause ya know, they’ve all got more important things to do.

Noa did manage to share a few things, like how politically aware Hawaiians feel about the Apology Bill, signed 12 years ago by President Clinton:

Of all people, you as police commissioners can understand our frustration at being denied any sort of restitution even after the thief had admitted and apologized for stealing everything we had, even our nation. We find ourselves in the strange position of being perhaps the only victim of a crime in the United States, who has been told that the transgressor has pled guilty and admitted to theft, but that it gets to keep the spoils.

He also got into the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Obama signed last December, and how it guarantees certain rights that KPD is supposed to be protecting.

One especially interesting point, included in the written statement I received, dealt with Senate Bill 1520, which the guv signed into law just two weeks ago. Now, the bill was clearly intended to implement a sham “nation-building” process led by a state agency, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, but the RHG offered an intriguing interpretation of its own (emphasis in original):

That law recognizes the Native Hawaiian people as the aboriginal and indigenous people of these islands. In other words, we are the same people that the UN Declaration protects. It again, promises us sovereignty – but it goes further. It promises that our government is to have equality with your government. Indeed, Senator Solomon has stated that “This new law recognizes Hawaiians as equal partners”.

So all of these laws recognize our indigenous institutions to be equals with your institutions.

These are the laws. But what is happening on the ground, when we try to avail ourselves of these promises of self-determination tells a very different story.

When we attempt to have fundraisers for our nation building, we are met with aggressive officers and issued tickets for minor permitting violations.

When our citizens present their identification cards to the police, the cards are often confiscated.

When our government attempts to register its citizen’s motor vehicles, the registration papers are confiscated, the license plates are confiscated and our people are charged with crimes.

We cannot implement our nation building, and exercise the rights to self-determination that have been promised to us, if we are met with police resistance at every turn.

We are supposed to be treated as partners and not as a subjugated people. We are here to respectfully ask that your police department be instructed to consider whether they themselves might be violating the law when they confiscate our government property and arrest our citizens for asserting self-determination – when they are supposed to be acting as our partner in returning what was stolen.

Only Commissioner Thomas Ianucchi, who was pitching God on the radio the other day, had any questions. Actually, it was more like an explanation for why the RHG shouldn’t expect much from the Commission or KPD. And that’s because they all take their marching orders from the county attorneys and prosecutors, and so far, they haven’t said nuttin’ about any indigenous rights. As Ianucchi continued:

By all means, we can ask the chief to be more sensitive, we can ask him to educate the guys in how their dealings and what not like that, [sic] but by our charter we’re not allowed to…tell them what to do.

As far as complaints…I’ve seen only one come through. If you feel your property’s been stolen, we can review that, take a look, ask the chief to look into it. That’s the authority we have.

Actually, asking the chief to be more sensitive and educate the guys is part of what Noa wanted. As he noted:

It’s frustrating, because you’re trying to conduct yourself in an honorable manner and you’re not respected for it. I’m here today trying to see how the relationship can be improved.

But the Commission, well, it didn’t want to go there, which is why they hurried the RHG guys along.

Before they were shown the door, however, Kane Pa, speaker of our house of nobles for RHG, made an astute comment:

Everything we’re doing is based on law. Whether they want to respect that law is where there’s conflict.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Musings: Been Wondering

It was all about color when I went walking with Koko and Paele this morning; indeed, the rosy glow soaking the world and seeping through the window was what spurred me to get up so quickly. Outside, the sky was streaked with great swaths of pearlescent clouds and awash in scarlet, which bled onto the jagged green ridges of Makaleha and turned it into an ethereal Maxwell Parrish landscape.

And then, in the course of just a few minutes, the color shifted to burnt orange, then pink, and on to pale lavender, mustard yellow, a faint robin’s egg blue and finally, the washed out grey of a cloudy pre-dawn waiting for the sun.

Right about that time the bamboo thicket came alive with the twittering of hundreds of birds, which come from all around to roost there, and they flitted and chirped and darted from branch to branch and I wondered, as I always do when I watch them each morning and night, why they chose that particular patch of bamboo and how they decide who should sleep where.

I’ve been wondering a few things lately, like exactly when the Planning Commission will choose a planning director to replace Michael Dahilig, who was put into the post when the mayor moved Ian Costa into a lesser position in another department. Or as was noted in the comments section of my last post:

I don't even see "interim" on his nametag, like we'll all just forget the charter and instead allow the Mayor to appoint the director.

I asked a commissioner if the panel had any intention of recruiting a director and was told yes, but an evaluation process had to be developed first, and commissioners, meanwhile, had gotten sidetracked with other things. And so the mayor’s choice keeps on serving…

I’ve been wondering why coverage of the Fukushima catastrophe has pretty much come to a standstill, even though occasional stories leak out — like this piece on radiation tainted beef — that make it clear we have yet to see the full ramifications of the crisis.

I’ve been wondering about the future of our food, and the ethics of our eating choices, after reading a New Yorker article on research into meat cultivated in a laboratory.

I’ve been wondering, where are the lychee, the mango? It’s late July, and I haven’t eaten even one of either fruit.

I’ve been wondering how Kauai Police Commissioners will respond to Henry Noa, prime minister of the Reinstated Hawaiian Nation, when he talks to them on Thursday about how nationals are establishing their authority on Maui.

I’ve been wondering why the new “official” telephone book is so thin. Has Kauai lost a substantial number of residents, or are more people dropping their land lines?

And I’ve been wondering about the strange stuff that happens off the coast of Anahola, where the Graces recently saw bright lights and I myself, when I lived there for six years, encountered silent black helicopters, loud booms, weird rumblings and unexplained lights.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Musings: Doling Out Rewards Redux

The sky was just starting to stain burnt orange around the edges when Koko, Paele and I went out walking, two hours after we’d first gotten up to see a waning white moon huddled beneath fast-moving clouds driven by big wind that shook the trees and later brought rain. All that remained of that earlier wild scene was a thin wisp clinging to the makai side of the Giant, a fragment of rainbow overhead, a steely gray pile up atop Waialeale and the moon, still a long ways from setting.

The county planning commission still has a long ways to go in processing the 65 applications for vacation rental on ag land that have been submitted thus far — the deadline for applying is Aug. 16 — so it seems like a good time to revisit some of the core issues in hopes — yes, I'm ever hopeful — of addressing them before we sink any deeper into this quagmire.

After watching parts of last week’s commission meeting on the decidedly user-unfriendly county webcast, I became aware of a few things that I thought folks might like to know.

Like county planner Mike Laureta prepared Bruce Fehring’s TVR application. This came up quite by accident, when Commissioner Caven Raco was asking Bruce about his unsubstantiated assertion that getting approval for his Hale Kai Kalani TVR, which rents for an average of $1,300 per week, would not significantly increase his property values. Bruce was clueless, prompting Caven to ask, “Did you write this application?”

Uh, no. Bruce then outed Mike, who was stumbling through an explanation — “certain sections have to be refined to meet your certain situations” and “there are custom sections here that he wrote” — when planning director Michael Dahilig smoothly intervened: “The department assisted Mr. Fehring in writing this application.”

And next time, one assumes, it will more thoroughly coach the applicant on what he/she is signing.

The staff report, meanwhile, stated that no other TVR applications had been submitted for the Wailapa “ag” subdivision. I found that strange, since Bruce has another TVR, Twin Hearts, on the parcel, and the website shows it’s rented through October. Will it remain unpermitted? Or will he submit an application after Kai Kalani is approved? And if so, how, then, is the Commission supposed to consider cumulative impacts, as required under the law?

Which leads to another issue, which was raised by Commissioner Wayne Katayama, and that’s about parcels that have been divided through the CPR process. The county is allowed to approve special use permits on ag parcels of 15 acres or less, with the state Land Use Commission having authority over larger parcels.

So if, according to the planning director, the county has no jurisdiction over CPR units, only the entire parcel, and CPR lines don’t exist, only lot lines, how is the county able to claim it has authority to issue a special use permit for the 1.455-acre unit with the TVR, when it’s part of a parcel that is 22.10 acres in size? This permit application should properly be sent to the LUC.

This argument becomes even more critical because Bruce/Mike are claiming the TVR is needed to help support farming on one of the other units that Bruce owns within the larger parcel.

Wayne brought up another key point when he heard planners explain that CPR landowners typically put TVRS on an edge lots, which often offer ocean views, and conduct the requisite ag operations on the interior parcels within the CPR.

“The solution to that,” Wayne said, “would be a rezoning of that lot to bring it into compliance. The purpose of the special use permit is to help ag land, provide additional value for the ag land.”

Yes, rezoning would be the solution for so many of these thorny issues. But rezoning takes time and money, and landowners presumably wouldn’t have the benefit of county staff to prepare their applications and certain applicant-friendly (or unfriendly, as the case may be) inspectors to check their parcels.

But what really bothered me, aside from Bruce’s combative, “I’m entitled” attitude, was the way Commission Chair Herman Texeira cut off Caven when he was questioning Bruce. “I just want to minimize confrontation,” he said, effectively ending the discussion, since none of the other commissioners were asking any questions.

Caven had some legitimate questions for both Bruce and the staff, including why Bruce’s application was so “thin” compared to others and lacking such key data as the tax forms that supposedly prove Bruce is farming elsewhere on the parcel. His questions should have been answered, and Caven should be praised and encouraged for his diligence, not cut off and made to look like a troublemaker.

Besides anger at this dysfunctional process, and a sick feeling in my stomach, I was left with this: If Tex doesn’t want any “confrontation” and the planning department, which issues recommendations — in this case, it was for approval — is writing the applications, who is questioning the applicant about a special use that will give him the ability to generate thousands of dollars with a non-conforming use?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Musings: Stinking Badges

Walking with the dogs after a rain so big it muffled the clank, whine and grind of the garbage truck, skirting a just-made stream racing down the road toward the real stream, looking up to see steel gray over Waialeale, white tendrils atop Makaleha, the sky a mosaic of blue, charcoal, pink and ivory, and in the west, pearlescent clouds edged with rainbows.

The long-running — as in all the way back to the Superferry protests of Aug. 26, 2007 — case of Dayne Gonsalves, Alii Nui of the Kingdom of Atooi, edged forward in a similarly dramatic way yesterday when Judge Kathleen Watanabe directed Kauai police to return Dayne’s badge.

Corrected The badge, which bears his family’s coat of arms and reads “Hawaii Federal Marshall – Kingdom of Atooi,” wasn't used that night at the harbor when Dayne and Robert Pa allegedly tried to prevent the vessel from unloading. But it reportedly was displayed, to the great annoyance of Assistant Chief Roy Asher, when they were arrested on Oct. 23, 2007 for obstructing, trespassing and obstructing government operations, resulting in an additional charge of impersonating a law enforcement officer. A second impersonation charge was added when the cops arrested Dayne on an outstanding warrant in a heavy-handed, SWAT-style manner on April 30, 2008, and found the badge in a pouch in his truck. He never flashed it, but made a reference to the cops having to answer to the Kingdom if they took him in, which they didn’t like.

Deputy prosecutor Melinda Mendes didn’t like Watanabe’s order to return the badge, either. In fact, she reacted so strongly that Watanabe had to issue a reminder about the rules of the court: she is the judge and Mendes is the attorney. It seems Mendes couldn’t figure out how she could prosecute Dayne for impersonation without the badge, which she claims is being held as “evidence.”

His trial — estimated to perhaps cost as much as $100,000 and last two weeks, with the prosecution calling some 25 officers — is set for Aug. 29.

But Watanabe had determined, after reviewing a motion filed by Dan Hempey, Dayne’s court-appointed attorney, that the police and prosecutors essentially were acting illegally by withholding his badge.

The motion came before the court after Dayne agreed to a plea bargain in which he would pay a $250 fine for obstructing, with the other charges dropped. But then the prosecutor added a condition that Dayne also had to surrender his badge. Hempey responded that such a condition was not only a deal-killer, but a violation of Dayne’s human rights under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Obama signed in December 2010.

In his motion to strike the condition from the plea agreement, Hempey argued:

Various articles to this U.N. declaration to which the United State’s is now a signatory and party are directly relevant to whether defendant and the other citizens of Atooi have the right to their nation, the right to identification cards, and the right to form their own legal and political institutions including but not limited to a group of federal marshals who use badges for their internal government purposes.

Defendant contends that this United Nations declaration clearly obliges the United States and its political subdivisions to recognize, at a minimum: 1) Defendant’s right to a position in government in his Atooi nation; 2) Defendant’s right to possess an identification card identifying hi as a citizen of his Atooi nation; and 3) Defendant’s right to possess a badge, identifying him as a Federal Marshall in the Kingdom of Atooi.

Defendant contends that the Kauai Office of the Prosecuting Attorney violates his human rights by demanding, as a condition of a plea bargain in a criminal case involving misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors, that he surrender any of his human rights to self-determination as an indigenous person of these islands – including his right to be identified within his Kingdom by his title and badge.

Defendant was not pretending to be a State of Hawaii law enforcement officer; rather he is a law enforcement officer in the Kingdom of Attooi, as he is legally entitled to be.

It’s still unclear whether the cops are actually going to return Dayne’s badge. The judge ordered Hempey to prepare an order to that effect, but Mendes was saying the prosecutor’s office might appeal the ruling, which would be an unusual step before the trial, and further delay that proceeding. It was also unclear whether the prosecutor’s office would agree to the plea bargain if it didn’t include the condition that he surrender the badge.

Mendes told the court she wasn’t in a position to make such decisions. However, Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, who is running for re-election, is. The question now is whether she will push on with this case, potentially alienating the Native Hawaiian vote and Watanabe, who has been pushing both sides to spare the court the time and expense of a lengthy trial.

Another question is whether KPD, or more specifically, Roy Asher, can put aside its pride and let this four-year-old matter be resolved.

Or as one court observer noted: what, really, is the big deal about returning a badge that the cops don’t even recognize?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Musings: Doling Out Rewards

The first applications for vacation rentals (TVRs) on agricultural land are now starting to trickle in for Planning Commission approval, with the panel considering three at its meeting yesterday.

The applications are raising a number of thorny questions, including how such approvals would affect the value of the property, how it’s going to work on property that has been divided through the CPR process — this affects 37 of the 65 applicants — and most important, just how these commercial uses of agricultural land can be justified under state law as “unusual and reasonable uses.”

One of the first up to bat was Bruce Fehring, who wants approval for a TVR in the Wailapa ag subdivision, just south of Kilauea town. He told commissioners that he’s been doing a vacation rental since 1995-96. But when I checked out the Internet, which is a good place to find out what people are actually doing with their TVRs, as opposed to what they tell the county, I saw that he has two: Hale Kai Kalani and Twin Hearts, which is advertised as (emphasis added) “a wonderful private new one bedroom, one bath handcrafted rental honeymoon cottage on our organic 7.5 acre Kauai North Shore estate/gardens parcel.”

You notice there’s no mention of the word “farm,” even though that is supposed to be a requirement for an ag TVR.

The ad goes on to note (emphasis added) that Twin Hearts is located “about 100 yards (and lots of hedges and trees) from our house, and 250 similar yards from Hale Kai Kalani, our larger vacation rental home."

Yet Fehring told commissioners that he lives in his TVR about 60 percent of the time and rents it out for the remainder. How can that be, when he clearly has a primary residence on the land?

Though Commissioner Caven Raco asked — twice — how much the property would increase in value if the TVR use was approved, Fehring ducked the question, replying instead that the TVR revenue “offsets the dollars to run the property.”

Indeed. But should other property tax payers, legit farmers and people who chose to follow the law by not doing illegal TVRs on ag land, be asked to subsidize Fehring’s lifestyle and real estate investments? Surely the big settlement from Jimmy Pflueger has helped to cover some of his bills.

Another person who can’t actually need the money is Falko Partners owner Larry Bowman, who wants approval for a TVR at Valley House. But though the company has already created a web page for the property, which is described as “a secluded luxury estate on lush acreage in Kealia, Kauai” — again, no mention of a “farm” — access to the site was blocked. Perhaps it will be lifted when approval is granted and no one cares whether the application reflects reality.

Another sticky bit of reality comes into play regarding properties divided through a CPR. Commissioner Wayne Katayama was curious about a few things, including how TVR approval would affect the value of the entire TMK. Other questions: can someone get approval for a TVR on a CPR if it’s another landowner in the CPR who actually has the "farm?” Who in the CPR signed the farm dwelling agreement? And is anyone else in the CPR coming in for a TVR?

Those are only a few of the unanswered questions arising as the county wades into the ag TVR quagmire. PONO — Protect Our Neighborhood Ohana — raised others in its testimony, which is essentially an evaluation of the process, using state law (Chapter 205) as the guide.

As the group’s cover letter to Commissioners noted:

This testimony is being submitted on behalf of Protect Our Neighborhood Ohana as we believe the cumulative and secondary impacts of the nonstop expansion of these transient vacation rental commercial resort uses outside the Visitor Destination Area, into residential areas, and now on to agricultural lands in the North Shore Special Planning Area, will continue to increase the negative impacts in our residential neighborhoods and undermine good planning.

Our testimony today is not specific to any of the above applications, but makes suggestions about evaluating these and other future applications. The paper provides material about the standards and criteria we believe you need to consider prior to making a decision on each of the above, and any future applications for commercial uses on Ag lands.

The evaluation raises a number of good questions:

Is this agricultural tourism? Will the County require an environmental assessment
under Chapter 343? Does the application meet the “farm dwelling” definition? Is there a signed farm dwelling agreement? Does “bona fide” farming exist on the parcel? Is the TVR use “ancillary” to the farming operation? How does this transient vacation rental comply with the farm dwelling agreement? Will people and/or corporations who violated the farm dwelling agreement be rewarded?

One can only hope that Commissioners and planners take those questions into consideration as they decide whether to dole out lucrative rewards at the expense of our agricultural land.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Musings: Everybody Knows

There’s a certain color that comes before dawn, a pale shade of lavender that edges on pink, and it affixes itself to the sky above the mountains. Then it all goes a grayish-white, and stays like that for some minutes, though I don’t know how many, because when the dogs and I are out walking, time is measured by distance, and not by the clock. Then the colors appear, if the conditions are right, as they were today, and so I was treated to an apricot halo atop Waialeale and rosy puff balls hurrying mauka.

New Defense Secretary and former CIA chief Leon Panetta is hurrying to ensure that America keeps pouring blood and money into the Middle East as he blames Iran for arming the “militias” there and threatens to take “unilateral action” to stop them, whatever that means. Meanwhile, he’s also claiming the defeat of Al Qaeda is in reach if we can only kill or capture its leaders — among them, Anwar al-Awlaki, the first American to be openly targeted for assassination by his own government — who are supposedly, and so conveniently, in Yemen and Pakistan, two places where we’re already diddling and would just love to ramp up the action.

Meanwhile, the Department of Defense is hurrying to deny that soldiers face any harm from the toxic dust generated by our military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, even as scientists are calling bullshit. As USA Today reports:

The Pentagon is falsely claiming its research shows that airborne dust in Iraq and Afghanistan poses no health risk to U.S. troops, say three scientists whose review of that research found it riddled with mistakes.

The scientists, who issued their report last year for the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences, were part of a team that reviewed a 2008 study at the request of the Pentagon.

Both studies were conducted to better understand risks as the number of U.S. troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and developed mysterious and severe respiratory conditions skyrocketed after their service. Since the start of the wars in 2003 and 2001, neurological disorders per 10,000 active-duty service members have risen by 251%, while respiratory issues jumped by 47%, according to a USA TODAY analysis of military morbidity records from 2001 to 2010.

[S]cientists Philip Hopke, Mark Utell and Anthony Wexlern say the Army's research was so "ill-founded" that it couldn't be used to determine anything other than that the fine particulate matter levels in the Middle East far exceeded recommended World Health Organization levels.

I found it interesting that Craig Postlewaite, head of the Pentagon Force Protection and Readiness Office, claimed dust from those two countries “is not noticeably different from samples collected in the Sahara Desert and desert regions in the U.S. and China."

So in other words, the whole planet is already contaminated. Which isn’t a surprise, given that dust, and the depleted uranium and other toxic substances it contains, is carried by the winds that circle the globe.

But don’t worry, it’s all good. At least, that’s what those of us who are concerned about DU in Hawaii and the radioactive fallout from Fukushima are repeatedly told. Is that the truth, or more shibai?

Larry Geller delves into that topic in a post on Disappeared News that includes both his own assessment of the Department of Health’s radioactivity reports and a link to a Forbes article that takes a closer look at government reassurances in the wake of Fukushima.

As the Forbes piece by Jeff McMahon notes:

[T]he government … framed the data with reassurances like this oft-repeated sentence from the EPA: “The level detected is far below a level of public health concern.” The question, of course, is whose concern.

Of note locally, he makes an example of the comment made by Hawaii DOH spokeswoman Lynn Nakasone after radioactive cesium-137 was found in milk in Hilo: ”There’s no question the milk is safe.”

That kind of statement failed to reassure the public in part because of the issue of informed consent—Americans never consented to swallowing any radiation from Fukushima—and in part because the statement is obviously false.

There is a question whether the milk was safe.

In spite of the relative level of Fukushima radiation, which many minimized through comparison to radiation from x-rays and airplane flights—medical experts agree that any increased exposure to radiation increases risk of cancer, and so, no increase in radiation is unquestionably safe.

Despite what the government tells you to the contrary.

Which leads me, in closing, to this song, which Dr. Basko played on his radio show this past Saturday. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since because, well, “everybody knows.” Don't they?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Musings: Something to Think About

This morning’s arrival was marked by rain that shifted from misty to faint to steady, a gentle wind that caused the ironwoods to sigh and, looking up, smoky gray upon ash gray upon charcoal gray, which combined to create a leaden sky.

We went out nonetheless, my yellow umbrella and the dogs’ joy and eagerness adding brightness to a day where the dawn was slow to dispel the darkness.

Another bright spot was provided by news that the U.S. has finally dropped its opposition to labeling foods that contain genetically modified ingredients. The reversal came Tuesday at the annual summit of the Codex Alimentarius Commissionii, comprising the world's food safety regulatory agencies, which has been working for two decades to reach consensus on this issue. As GM watch reports:

The new Codex agreement means that any country wishing to adopt GM food labelling will no longer face the threat of a legal challenge from the World Trade Organization (WTO). This is because national measures based on Codex guidance or standards cannot be challenged as a barrier to trade.

Besides fears that sales of GM foods could drop if they’re plainly labeled, you can see from this comment why the U.S. and GM crop pushers, who repeatedly claim that their products are safe, don’t want labeling:

Consumers International's lead delegate at Codex, and a senior scientist at Consumers Union of the United States, Dr Michael Hansen, stated: "This is one of the key reasons we want all GM foods to be required to be labeled - so that if consumers eat modified foods, they will be able to know and report to regulators if they have an allergic or other adverse reaction."

Labeling is only one issue. Most genetically modified crops are designed to tolerate applications of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, which boosters also claim is safe. But a June 2011 report by international scientists collaborating with Earth Open Source tells a different story about the world’s best-selling herbicide, which is used with abandon here on Kauai:

Scientific research published in 2010 showed that Roundup and the chemical on which it is based, glyphosate, cause birth defects in frog and chicken embryos at dilutions much lower than those used in agricultural and garden spraying.

The [EU] Commission has previously ignored or dismissed many other findings from the independent scientific literature showing that Roundup and glyphosate cause endocrine disruption, damage to DNA, reproductive and developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, and cancer, as well as birth defects. Many of these effects are found at very low doses, comparable to levels of pesticide residues found in food and the environment.

The report goes on to tell about how industry and government have known about — and ignored — these effects for years, as the Commission meanwhile quietly delayed a scientific review of glyphosate and 38 other dangerous pesticides until 2015.

Very little about this is reported by mainstream media. Indeed, critics are often dismissed as flakes. But it’s not so easy to blow off the concerns of Don Huber, a plant pathologist of 50 years standing, now Emeritus Professor at Purdue University. Earlier this year he wrote a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warning him of a “microscopic pathogen that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings. Based on a review of the data, it is widespread, very serious, and is in much higher concentrations in Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans and corn—suggesting a link with the RR gene or more likely the presence of Roundup. This organism appears NEW to science!"

Huber talks more about glyphosate, GM crops and the new pathogen in a lengthy, though fascinating, article in ACRES U.S.A. He mentions that glyphosate can survive for a number of years in high-clay soils (like the kind found here on Kauai), and greatly impact a plant’s ability to uptake nutrients. As for the newly found pathogen, it's even more alarming:

ACRES U.S.A. Could your theory be summarized thusly — this is not the result of a mutation in an existing pathogen, rather, a change in the conditions has caused an existing pathogen to multiply and become a problem, with pathways being created that were not common in the past?

HUBER. Right. The organism appears to be prominent in the environment but new to science.

ACRES U.S.A. What other results do you anticipate?

HUBER. High infertility and abortions in animals fed with corn and soybean feeds containing high populations of this organism.

We’re finding fairly significant levels of glyphosate in manure. You have to ask how the chicken got it or how the hog or cattle got it, and of course, that’s through their feed. Is it all moving through the animal or is it also into their meat and other tissues? We really don’t have a lot of that data. Some of the other countries are collecting it and doing the analysis, and we’re just starting to do some in this country. But for the most part it’s just been considered so safe that we closed our eyes and said there’s no need to do any of that work.

Just something to think about when you see state workers, wearing no safety gear, hosing down our roadsides with this toxic stuff or drive past the glyphosate-drenched GM crop fields that now stretch from Lihue to Mana.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Musings: Squeaking

Showers continue to provide welcome bookends to each day, keeping everything fresh and green and delighting my senses as I watch, feel and listen from the screened lanai that makes my house a treasure. A large flock of tiny nutmeg mannikins has taken to roosting in the bamboo, creating a flurry of sound each morning and night, and the shama thrush regale me with song and sometimes land on the sill, looking in through the screen and squeaking.

I went to the KIUC website last night and cast my ballot, which was not a swift process and left me wondering about the secrecy, not that I care if anyone knows I voted no, and not because I’m opposed to hydro, but because I think “smarmy” is spelled FFP-FERC. And seeing as how it was all orchestrated by investment banker Bill Collett, who helped us pay way too much for Kauai Electric, isn’t reassuring.

Mostly, I wondered how many ballots ended up in the trash, and about the political backstory and arm-twisting that resulted in DLNR releasing its 11th-hour statement in support of the preliminary permits. As if DLNR has any credibility as a vigilant steward of Hawaii’s natural resources.

Speaking of which, I got a survey in the mail from a graduate student at UH who is trying to determine “how many wild animals would you like to see or hear in your neighborhood?” Glancing through, I saw it was entirely about the kind of wild animals you don’t want in your neighborhood, like cats, pigs, mouflon sheep, black rats, coqui frogs and zebra doves.

It says the results likely will influence future management plans “so that wild animals are managed in a more socially acceptable and efficient manner.” It doesn’t mention anything about politics, which pretty drives wildlife management in this state.

Meanwhile, Councilman Mel Rapozo has been conducting his own informal Facebook survey about a proposal to allow camping at Lydgate Park. The bill, which Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura amended to include a $5 per day fee for Hawaii residents ($75 for group camping), goes back to the Finance/Parks & Recreation/Public Works Program Committee on July 13.

When I first saw it, I thought, wow, how great that the Council is providing more accommodations for the homeless. But while that’s the likely result — just look at Hanamaulu, Salt Pond and Anini — I don’t think that’s the intent. Mostly, I thought of what it would be like to pack a couple hundred more people into the area by the bridge, which is now the only relatively peaceful place in that crowded, heavily used park.

I don’t often go to Lydgate, because who wants to swim in sewage effluent or those suntan oil-slicked ponds? But I have been known to enjoy a picnic at one of the proposed campsites, and I see a lot of families hosting cookouts and parties there during the day, a use that would be eliminated if camping is allowed.

And who is going to make sure it doesn’t deteriorate like the other sleep-over parks? The cops have their own priorities, like handing out tickets for using a cell phone while driving. Does anyone else see the irony in a law intended to reduce driving distractions that has resulted, according to KPD Lt. Mark Scribner, in “people being more distracted because they’re trying to hide their cell phones and their texting devices?” Frankly, I'd feel a lot safer if they focused on bringing the island's women-killers to justice.

But I imagine the tourists, at least the unsuspecting ones, will enjoy the prospect of camping at Lydgate. That makes me think of an email I got from a friend who lived for many years on Kauai before moving to the Midwest:

Oh yeah, had dentist appt. and the hygenist was telling me they went to Kauai - not sure when - had Kona winds. She said overall they were disappointed, because it cost so much to get there, traffic was bad, and said all the development wasn't pretty. I asked if she got to the North Shore and she said they tried, but didn't want to sit in traffic and other tourists told them it was too congested at the end of the road. Wow. She said it was weird to see the big houses and then all the poorer people and thought it would be more 'Hawaiian'. She said people don't seem to want tourists there. I asked if she would go back and she said, no, they could go somewhere else closer cheaper. My dentist on the other hand, likes Kauai, but he is rich and stays at the resorts or someone's ritzy house..... interesting the perspectives.

As for different perspectives, and the loss of the "Hawaiian" element that makes Hawaii distinct, I got this email report from Hawaiian National Pilipo Souza, who yesterday protested the signing of SB 1520, which I addressed in Tuesday’s post:

We had about 50 people show at the signing of the SB1520, "Surrender of the Hawaiian Nation." We were there at 1:30 to 3:30. And they know we Hawaiian Nationals have not surrendered!

Most of the Invitation only participants were of course the Legislators, appointed/elected officials, The Royals, Kamehameha/ Ka'ahumanu, Hawaiian Civic Clubs (no Kalei Ma'ile /Queen Emma)

As the guest dispersed at 3:15, I noticed the solemn faces of the attendees. They looked more shamed than cheerful. Very similar to the Japanese Diplomats who signed the "Terms of Surrender" on the U.S.S. Missouri (Mighty Mo) in 1945.

Yeah, selling out is always a dirty, shameful business.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Musings: Shafted

A big rain fell shortly before I crawled out of bed, and so the land was thoroughly drenched when the dogs and I went out walking. The sky had patches of blue, streaks of gray and snakeskin patterns of white, which led me to think that a colorful sunrise was in my future.

But just as the sun was rising, another big squall blew in, giving the earth a second wet blessing and leaving me to gaze upon the splendor of a thick-banded double rainbow, its shafts piercing the foggy clouds that nestled atop the verdant peaks and ridges of Makaleha.

Come tomorrow, the kanaka maoli will be getting a different kind of shaft as Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who campaigned as a supposed champion of Hawaiians, signs Senate Bill 1520 into law. It sounds innocuous enough, even noble, the way it recognizes Native Hawaiians as the only indigenous, aboriginal people of the Islands, which bill co-sponsor Sen. Malama Solomon likes to claim finally puts kanaka on equal footing with their occupiers.

But what the bill in its final incarnation is really all about is giving the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a state agency that many kanaka revile, the power to create a Hawaiian governing entity. Adding insult to injury, this state-orchestrated usurpation of native rights and privilege is being formalized at Washington Place, the former home of the illegally deposed Queen Liliuokalani.

The bill aims to do what Sen. Daniel Akaka could not: turn kanaka maoli into a tribe that forever relinquishes all claim to sovereignty while keeping those pesky upstart Hawaiians firmly under the state’s thumb. Worse, it does so by using a divide and conquer strategy that will serve only to tear the Hawaiians apart, which is quite an effective way to delay justice for another century or so.

Specifically, the bill calls for the Guv to appoint a five-member Native Hawaiian commission — and who do you suppose might get those plum positions? — to determine just who is a kanaka and who is not for the purpose of creating a “roll.” Consider one criterion (emphasis added):

Has maintained a significant cultural, social, or civic connection to the Native Hawaiian community and wishes to participate in the organization of the Native Hawaiian governing entity.

In other words, if you’re already working toward sovereignty through Reinstated Hawaiian Nation or Kingdom of Atooi, you’re out, because that’s not the Native Hawaiian governing entity. So right off the bat, totally legitimate independence efforts are aced out.

And really, can you think of anything more insulting than publishing a list of those who are deemed by the governor’s appointees to be “qualified Native Hawaiians?”

Here’s the big kicker:

Consistent with the policies of the State of Hawaii, the members of the qualified Native Hawaiian roll, and their descendants, shall be acknowledged by the State of Hawaii as the indigenous, aboriginal, maoli population of Hawaii.

While those who choose not to participate in this state-sanctioned charade, and those who are not added to the roll, for whatever reasons — say, petty political retribution — become what, exactly? Non-indigenous, non-aboriginal, non-recognized, non-members of the population? Or in other words, persons whom the state can ignore?

Once you get on the roll, then you can help organize the governing entity by participating in a convention that is bound to create exactly the sort of compliant, powerless, puppet government that the state wants.

Here's another insult upon injury: All of this will be funded by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which gets its money from the so-called "ceded lands" revenues that are supposed to benefit ALL Hawaiians. In other words, kanaka will be charged for creating the government the state wants them to have.

And if you have any doubts about OHA's impartiality and fairness, consider this. When I attended a workshop on preparing a grant application to OHA, the representative told applicants they had to submit a list of their Board members so trustees could ensure that they “played well in the sandbox.”

In other words, OHA will give you money so long as you’re willing to carry out its agenda, which is in large part directed by the state that gives it money and the many OHA trustees in the state Legislature.

And they’re the ones who are going to be determining the roll of qualified kanaka, shepherding the creation of a Native Hawaiian governing entity? What a farce. What a travesty.

Or as Hawaiian National Pilipo Souza wrote in an email:

July 4th is the real day of infamy of the Hawaiian Nation for on July 4th, 1894, The Republic of Hawaii was created by the very thieves that stole the Hawaiian Nation. Less than 3,000 foreigners and Hawaiian Citizens in convention created a new government by burying alive 98 % of the Hawaiian Nationals. Fortunately, the graves were shallow but full with deceit and fraud. More than 90% of those Hawaiian Nationals never left their homeland and have remained in protest for 118 years. But the signing of SB1520, "First Nation Government" will pile on new dirt on the burial sites of those 40,000 plus Hawaiian Nationals. We must not let the dirt stand and be compacted as the final resting place of the Hawaiian Nation. We have a duty and responsibility just as good Americans believe they have on their July 4th.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Musings: "Costs of War"

Lying in bed, listening to the Newell’s shearwaters, which I now hear every morning, their calls more frequent, more numerous, indicating that parents are flying to and from their burrows, feeding their chicks. And that’s a good thing.

Up and out with the dogs, walking toward cloud-draped Makaleha in a mist-like rain that makes the gray of pre-dawn more pronounced, leaves the world, the dogs’ fur, me, covered in fine drops that seem pure, but who knows, given reports of radiation spikes on Kauai. And that's not such a good thing.

The sun peeks out, an orange ball trying to burn through a charcoal-colored curtain. It’s quiet now, but this is a day that will be dominated by the pop, sizzle and flash of burning firecrackers, serving as raucous reminders that the Fourth of July is not so much a celebration of America’s independence but of the dominant, and flawed, belief system that only death and destruction — war — can bring freedom and peace.

War-mongering — or to use the Orwellian term, “peacemaking” — comes at a very high price, one that we never consider in whole. Now, thanks to the work of the Eisenhower Research Project at Brown University, an attempt has been to painstakingly document the social, economic and political costs of waging just two misnamed wars, “Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)” in Afghanistan and and Pakistan and “Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).” The results are presented in sobering detail on the Costs of War website.

A few key findings, aside from the estimated $3.2 to $4 trillion price tab:

Just over 6,000 American soldiers have died; what remains unknown are the levels of injury and illness in those who have returned from the wars. New disability claims continue to pour into the VA, with 550,000 just through last fall. Many deaths and injuries among US contractors have not been identified.

At least 137,000 civilians have died and more will die, with as many dying in Pakistan as in Afghanistan.

Some 7.8 million people have been displaced indefinitely and are living in grossly inadequate conditions.

The wars have been accompanied by erosions in civil liberties at home and human rights violations abroad.

The human and economic costs of these wars will continue for decades, some costs not peaking until mid-century; the costs of paying for veterans’ care into the future will be a sizable portion of the full costs of the war.

The ripple effects on the U.S. economy have also been significant, including job loss and interest rate increases, and those effects have been underappreciated.

I was also intrigued by reports on where the money has gone: private contractors — primarily Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics — got some $400 billion in military contracts, the highest levels since World War II.

Then there’s the under-reported environmental toll, including the long-lasting health risks associated with toxic dust and depleted uranium:

The wars have also damaged forests, wetlands and marshlands in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. Bombing in Afghanistan and deforestation have threatened an important migratory thoroughfare for birds leading through this area. The number of birds now flying this route has dropped by 85 percent. U.S. bases became a lucrative market for the skins of the endangered Snow Leopard.

While destruction of military base garbage in burn pits and toxic dust from military operations have added to air pollution, heavy military vehicles have also disturbed the earth, particularly in Iraq and Kuwait. Combined with drought as a result of deforestation and global climate change, dust has become a major problem exacerbated by the major new movements of military vehicles across the landscape. U.S. Geologic Survey microbiologists have found heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cobalt, barium, and aluminum, which can cause respiratory distress, and other health problems. Since 2001, there has been a 251 percent rise in the rate of neurological disorders, a 47 percent increase in the rate of respiratory problems, and a 34 percent rise in rates of cardio-vascular disease in military service members that is likely related to this problem.

And let’s not forget the contribution to global warming:

The Department of Defense has been the country’s single largest consumer of fuel, using about 4.6 billion gallons of fuel each year. Military vehicles consume petroleum-based fuels at an extremely high rate: an M-1 Abrams tank can get just over a half mile on a gallon of fuel per mile or use about 300 gallons during eight hours of operation. Bradley Fighting Vehicles consume about 1 gallon per mile driven.

In other words, at a minimum, these wars have harmed millions, racked up debt we’ll never be able to pay, tanked the economy, intensified anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, trashed the environment and eroded the values upon which America supposedly was founded — and they’ve failed to bring either freedom or true democracy:

[O]n a widely used evaluation and ranking of the quality of democracy across the world’s states, the “Democracy Index,” Iraq ranks poorly. Of the 167 countries ranked for 2010, Iraq is classified as a “hybrid regime” (between a “flawed democracy” and an “authoritarian regime”) and comes in at #111. According to Transparency International, on a corruption scale from 0 to 10, Iraq ranks 1.5 — the worst in the Middle East — in corruption (defined as “abuse of entrusted power for private gain”) in 2010.

On the Democracy Index, Afghanistan is categorized as an authoritarian regime and ranks at 150 out of 167. Afghanistan ranks 1.4 on the Transparency International corruption scale – the worst in South Asia. Of the 178 countries assessed, the only countries lower ranked than Afghanistan or Iraq are Myanmar and Somalia.

Despite the oft-repeated mantra of “freedom isn’t free,” war is not only extremely costly in so many ways, it’s apparently the least effective method for dealing with terror tactics:

A Rand report made systematic examination and comparison of 268 groups using terror tactics in the period from 1968 to 2006. It showed that several approaches have been much more effective than military responses at eliminating future attacks. They include criminal justice responses and attempts to address the well-being concerns of both combatants and the broader populace that might support them.

The study found that 40 percent of the 268 groups were eliminated through intelligence and policing methods; 43 percent ended their violence as a result of peaceful political accommodation; 10 percent ceased their violent activity because they had achieved their objectives (“victory”) by violence; and only 7 percent were defeated militarily.

So why does this insanity continue? Why are we so quick to shock and awe, rather than try a different — less deadly, less costly, less destructive — approach?

Well, there’s the obvious: a few companies with tremendous political influence make absolutely obscene amounts of money on the war trade. (Perhaps you're aiding them, by holding stock in their companies?) And then there’s the not so obvious: most Americans are pretty much clueless. As long as they believe that war is happening somewhere else, to someone else, they don't much seem to care.

Or as Adolph Hitler put it: “How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think.”

Friday, July 1, 2011

Musings: "Promises and Promises"

As we head into the Fourth of July weekend, with America noisily celebrating itself as the supposed “land of the free and home of the brave,” it’s easy to forget about the indigenous people who were deprived of their land so the U.S could make a nation.

But yesterday, that issue came again to the forefront when several members of the Reinstated Government of Hawaii were sentenced for “camping without a permit” for sleeping overnight on so-called "ceded lands" at Salt Pond Beach Park while holding their national elections. They pled no contest, and Judge Trudy Senda required them to pay $10 fines after listening intently, and apparently with interest, to their statement (emphasis in the original):

Your Honor,
I stand before this Court as an indigenous person in Hawai`i, found guilty of sleeping on my ancestral land without getting a permit from the government that occupies us. By now it is well known, even to this prosecutor, that the land and the very sovereignty of the Kingdom of Hawai`i was stolen from my ancestors a little over one hundred years ago. Normally after such a crime we would expect an apology and restitution. But those normal expectations have only been half met. The United States has apologized for stealing our land, and they have promised to return both land and sovereignty.

But I stand before you today not having land returned to me, but being fined for simply sleeping on our land that has not been returned yet. How can this be consistent with that apology? How can the prosecutor actually ask you to make me pay the State of Hawai`i, when even the State has apologized for taking our land and has promised to return the same? I’m sure the State feels generous in asking that we only pay $10 fines. I want to say on record that there is nothing generous about fining indigenous peoples for sleeping in occupied territory without asking permission of the occupying forces.

Also, Your Honor, I want you to know that we were not just fooling around at Salt Pond that day. We were engaged in organizing our Nation, conducting citizenship drives and voting for our elected officials in our indigenous Nation, the Reinstated Hawaiian Kingdom. In December of last year, President Obama signed a Declaration of the United Nations, further promising rights to indigenous peoples such as myself. This United Nations Declaration is now the law of the international community and the United States. The Declaration says, and I quote,

Article 3
Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

Article 4
Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.

Article 5
Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.

Article 20
Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and develop their political, economic and social systems or institutions, to be secure in the enjoyment of their own means of subsistence and development, and to engage freely in all their traditional and other economic activities."

Article 26
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.
2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.
3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.

Article 33
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own identity or membership in accordance with their customs and traditions. This does not impair the right of indigenous individuals to obtain citizenship of the States in which they live.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine the structures and to select the membership of their institutions in accordance with their own procedures.

In closing, I have pled no contest to these charges because I cannot afford to contest them, and for no other reason. This prosecution, however small, is just one more violation of our rights as indigenous people, and one more example of law enforcement’s reluctance to give real meaning to what your government promises and promises, but never delivers. Thank you.