Friday, December 30, 2011

Kauai Cops Raid Native American Church

Kauai police raided a Native American Church in Wailua last week.

But you wouldn't know it from the county's press release, which was issued yesterday after I called looking for more information upon interviewing Robert Pa, president of the Kauai branch of the Oklevueha Native American Church. The release, reprinted by The Garden Island passes it off as another drug bust:

Police arrested a Wailua man last week after locating drugs in his home.

Shane Johnson, age 36, was arrested on Dec. 19 for two counts of first degree Promotion a Dangerous drug, second degree Commercial Promotion of Marijuana and three counts of Drug Paraphernalia.

An initial investigation revealed that Johnson was in illegal possession of a significant amount of Peyote, a Schedule I controlled substance,” says Assistant Chief Roy Asher of the Investigative Services Bureau. “The drug was found in various forms, including: active growth, recently harvested and for immediate consumption.”         

Police also seized a large amount of marijuana that far exceeded Johnson’s allowable limit per his medicinal marijuana permit.

Due to the ongoing nature of the case, the specific amount of drugs seized will not be revealed at this time.

Johnson was released pending further investigation.

But Robert, who was present at the raid, offers quite a bit more detail. As he tells it, UPS delivered a box with peyote, which the Church uses as sacrament, that had been sent from Thailand to Shane's house. The cops had already opened the package so they could outfit it with a tracer that alerted them when it was re-opened and also stained the opener's hands, as well as the peyote buttons, with dye. “They're mixing chemicals with our sacrament,” Robert fumed.

As soon as the box was opened in the house, there was a knock on the door, and Shane opened it to find some 12-15 cops outfitted in full SWAT gear standing in the yard. They had a search warrant signed by District Judge Trudy Senda. On the front page was a reference to Shane's house, while on the second it spoke of the Native American Church.

Shane, who is an ordained minister in the Church, and also its vice president, showed police his paperwork, as well as a copy of the Church's charter.

He also pointed out that the package included a declaration stating that the peyote was destined for the Native American Church. “You have to present that paper [to the seller] to get it shipped in legally,” Robert says.“But the cops ignored it and said it doesn't count.”

According to Robert, one of the cops likened Church leaders to David Koresh, the Branch Davidian leader who was killed, along with 75 adults and children, in a federal raid on their Waco, Tex., compound back in 1993. Except, Shane pointed out, in this instance only the cops had guns, and they were using them to rob the Church of its sacrament.

The cops also nabbed two teen boys, one of whom lives in the house, as they walked out the back door, apparently unaware of the police presence in the front. The house is quite large, and sits on many acres of land. The cops reportedly asked the boys why they were trying to leave a crime scene and handcuffed them, which Robert says left them “fully traumatized.”

Meanwhile, the cops proceeded to search the residence. In one cabinet they reportedly found and confiscated both bagged and freshly harvested cannabis, which Robert says was the property of blue card (medical marijuana license) holders living in the house and well within the allowed amount.

They also found some unopened packages addressed to Touch of Aloha and asked Shane for permission to open them. Shane said he couldn't give that permission, because they weren't his. According to Robert, the cops threatened Shane, saying they would pull his family out of the house for two days and tear it apart if he didn't give them permission to open the boxes. They then reportedly told Shane that he wouldn't get in trouble if the boxes contained pot, only if they held cocaine or heroin. He still wouldn't go along.

“The cops took it upon themselves to those boxes without a search warrant,” Robert said. “That's breaking a federal law.”

At any rate, the cops allegedly found marijuana inside the two packages.

Meanwhile, Robert, Shane and the cops were having a debate over the legality of the Church and its sacrament, with the cops reportedly telling them they could only possess peyote if they had 25 percent Native American blood.

I'm not sure where the cops got the blood quantum bit. A 2004 decision by the Utah Supreme Court involving James Flaming Eagle Mooney, a founder of the Oklevueha church, held that a federal regulatory exemption that allows the use of peyote in religious ceremonies does not restrict that use solely to federally recognized tribes:

We therefore rule that the exemption is available to all members of the Native American Church.

Because the Utah Controlled Substances Act does not clearly specify whether it incorporates the Religious Peyote Exemption, a holding that the exemption does not apply would give rise to serious constitutional claims under the due process clauses of the federal and state constitutions. The ambiguity in the statute is such that the scope of its peyote prohibition cannot be decisively interpreted by lawyers, to say nothing of citizens untrained in the law. This weighs strongly against any interpretation that would enable the State to initiate criminal prosecution based on arguably legitimate conduct.

This ruling, apparently, is what the Kauai branch of the Church was going on in carrying out its own activities, which allegedly included using peyote in sacred ceremonies with its members.

The cops also reportedly confiscated peyote that was in pots, awaiting use at the solstice ceremony.

“I don't see the cops raiding the Catholic Church and taking their bread and wine,” Robert said. “They told us we cannot practice our religion until the courts decide. They are stopping all our activities until they decide if we can go forward. Isn't that genocide? It makes me nuts.”

He said the cops tracked mud throughout the house, and it took him some three hours to clean up the mess after they left, with a handcuffed Shane in tow. “They kidnapped our minister from the Church," Robert said. "The cops, they got no leash, no boundaries on them. They just do whatever they want.”

Shane, who was reportedly interrogated for several hours at the police station, without an attorney present, was then released without charge, pending further investigation.

Meanwhile, someone had called the mayor's office to complain about the raid on the Church. According to county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka:

An anonymous caller called our office and spoke with Sean [Texeira, the mayor's special assistant] to report an incident.  Sean offered to look into it but the caller did not want to leave his name and number.  He instead left the names and numbers of a few other individuals - one of whom was Shane.  Sean determined that the appropriate course of action would be for someone to file a complaint with the Police Commission if they feel something improper had occurred.  He then called Shane to relay that information and explain how to file a complaint if he wanted to do so.  A day or so later Shane and another individual came to the Mayor's office to present the complaint forms.  Sean walked them down to the Office of Boards and Commissions so that it could be filed with the Police Commission secretary.

According to Robert, Sean apologized for what happened and asked if Church members felt violated. When they said they did, he suggested they file a complaint with the Police Commission. The hearing is set for 9 a.m. Jan. 27, 2012.

“But our sacrament cannot be kept out [of soil] that long,” he said. “Our peyote is dying and we missed our solstice ceremony, our Christmas ceremony and now our New Year's ceremony coming up. They get our sacrament in prison and we're out here walking around. What's wrong with that picture?”

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Musings: The Bigger Picture

It occurred to me, gazing out on a beach strewn with white coral, white clouds scuttling overhead where albatrosses with their plump white bodies soared, white boobies dive bombing into spraying, bubbling, frothing white and flying the inside lip of a wave like specks of white foam, that Kauai does, indeed, have its own version of a white winter wonderland. It just happens to be a warm one.

Contrast that scene of beauty, harmony and wildlife splendor with the news that yet another monk seal — the third in two weeks — has been found dead on Molokai. Auwe. Something's obviously up. Someone's obviously really, really angry, and my guess is that it's about a lot more than the seal. Some serious outreach needs to be done, and not by NOAA or DLNR, but by residents of that island who do care about the seals. And NOAA needs to stop and think about whether it's really such a good idea to press forward with critical habitat and relocation proposals given the extreme hostility toward seals right now.

Yes, I and others know that a critical habitat designation won't hinder fishermen or people using the beach, that it affects only projects developed with federal funds and it can actually help to preserve shoreline access and protect the nearshore marine environment, which ultimately benefits fishermen and ocean users. But a lot of other people don't know that. Until they do, best to back off. And like I said in Tuesday's post, it's time to return resource management to local communities as opposed to top down directives, especially from the "dreaded feds."

In response to Tuesday's post, which raised the issue of whether monk seals are native to the Main Hawaiian Islands, I got an email with this comment:

[B]asking seals even more than flightless geese are easy prey, and like the moa nalo and so many of the other flightless birds, would have disappeared from the archaeological record very very early. In the case of moa nalo, so early that its name unlike the `ilio holo i ka uaua, [monk seal]was lost and had to be supplanted by "lost fowl." Virtually all the fossil moa nalo have been found in dunes, sandstone layers and sinkholes, not in archaeological sites.

It went on to cite a reference in the Federal Register:

Human settlement appears to have largely excluded monk seals from the MHI, although seal bones have been found at archeological sites dating from 1400 - 1700 (Rosendahl, 1994). In 1900, Hilo residents reported that solitary monk seals were seen in the area about once every 10 years (Bailey, 1952). From 1928 to 1956, seven monk seal sightings were documented in the MHI (Kenyon and Rice, 1959), and Niihau residents reported that seals appeared there in the 1970s.By 1994 there was a small naturally-occurring population of male and female monk seals in the MHI. This population appeared to be growing, and at least six pups had been born (one in 1962, and five between 1988 and 1993). Since the mid-1990s, an increasing number of documented sightings and annual births of monk seal pups have occurred in the MHI. Combined aerial and ground surveys in the MHI counted 45 hauled-out monk seals in 2000, and 52 in 2001 (Baker and Johanos, 2004). Sightings in the MHI tallied 77 individually identifiable monk seals in 2005 (NMFS, 2007b), and 83 in 2006 (NMFS, 2008a). Together, these observations suggest that monk seals are recolonizing the MHI.

So like someone else said, can't we all get along? Rather than slaughter seals because you fear they're taking too much fish, why not restore the fish ponds that Hawaiians built? Rather than impose regulations and restrictions, why not provide local communities with support to meet their subsistence and recreational fishing needs?

In other words, why not look at the big picture, and act accordingly?

Speaking of the bigger picture, I've gotta commend Chad Blair at Civil Beat for keeping the spotlight on the incredible injustice being done to Roger Christie. For those who don't know the name, Roger is the guy who has been in the face of local, state and federal officials for a couple of decades now, pressing the envelope — and law enforcement buttons — by challenging marijuana laws, most recently by operating the THC Ministry in Hilo.

Now they're getting their revenge by locking his ass in federal prison without bail for 17 months because he's a supposed “danger to the community.”

Come on, let's get real. Roger, one of the kindest, most sincere guys I've ever met, is not a danger to the community. But they're keeping him in lock down to make an example of him because Roger most definitely is a danger to the mind-set that wants to perpetuate the fiction that marijuana is a societal scourge that should be strictly outlawed.

Or at least until the feds can make money off it by granting an exclusive cannabinoid license to a pharmaceutical firm:

"We find it hypocritical and incredible that on the one hand, the U.S. Department of Justice is persecuting cannabis patient associations, asserting that the federal government regards marijuana as having absolutely no medical value, despite overwhelming clinical evidence," said Union of Medical Marijuana Patients director James Shaw. "On the other hand, the Department of Health and Human Services is planning to grant patent rights with possible worldwide application to develop medicine based on cannabis."

But hypocrisy is rampant in federal government, which is why, as Chad also reported, a Honolulu police captain accused of selling meth, as well as extortion, tampering with a witness, making false statements and taking payments for giving illegal game room operators tips before raids, remains free on bail while Roger languishes in jail. Heck, they won't even let him have a prayer blanket made of hemp!

Now which do you, as an intelligent, reasonable person, think is a bigger threat to society: a guy openly distributing weed as part of a ministry, or a really dirty cop peddling ice?

The difference, however, is clear: Roger is trying to tear down the wall. The cop, on the other hand, is part of the wall. And that's why Roger's still in jail, but the cop isn't.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Musings: Puzzling

I recently met a charming couple from Southern California. She's an architect and former planning commissioner for her city; he is an editor and journalism professor. They read my blog, and so had some questions about our puzzling land use planning process that they hoped I could answer.

They arrived for lunch carrying a copy of The Garden Island that featured a front page photo of Councilman Tim Bynum seated outside the railing that separates the Council from the hoi polloi. “Why is he sitting out there?” they wanted to know. “Is he dangerous?”

Ummm, only if it's possible to inflict death by whining.

That wasn't their only question, and most of them weren't easy to answer, except with a shrug and one word: “cronyism.”

I know some people would've responded with a couple of other “isms,” like racism and sexism. Yes, I've heard the stories of Michele Hughes, and others, shaking their booty at the planning counter, and of the haole developers and vacation rental owners languishing in limbo because they didn't have enough dough or smarts to hire to hire an insider to shepherd their projects through.

Anyone who follows planning issues has seen it: the former county planners and attorneys who now shill for developers; the mayoral buddies named to the planning commission, despite (or perhaps because of) their inexperience and apparent lack of conscience and/or will; the political appointees within the planning department allowed to stay far too long — and then replaced by a fresh batch of mayoral boosters.

It's been going on for an awfully long time, as I came to understand while researching and writing the Kauai chapter of a book that chronicles Hawaii's land use struggles. So my ears pricked when Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura spoke at a community meeting on Grove Farm's plan to evict people from their lifelong homes at Koloa Camp:

”I feel I'm back in the '60s when the Niumalu tenants and Kilauea farmers were being evicted,” she said.

Yes, here we are, some 40 years later, and not much has changed, except some of the folks who were fighting for the people and the `aina in those early land use struggles have since crossed over to the other side to play a very different role in the battles waged today.

Consider the resort at Nukolii, now the Hilton. Citizens objected intensely, but still the county approved the rezoning. This was followed by lawsuits and finally a referendum in which voters rejected the zoning by a margin of 2-1. The developer, meanwhile, had continued to build, in the belief that his rights had been vested. Citizens demanded that the permits be revoked; the county refused. Kauai Circuit Court Judge Kei Hirano sided with the county and opponents appealed all the way to the Hawaii Supreme Court, which overturned Hirano's decision.

The high court found that the government had not taken final discretionary action — issuing a Special Management Area permit — prior to the referendum, so the developer had no guarantee the resort could be completed. It ordered all permits revoked and construction halted. A second vote came out differently, and that's why the resort remains.

Fast forward to this century, and the development debacle involving Joe Brescia. The county and state allowed him to construct a house atop 31 known burials at Naue, thus setting a precedent that a Burial Council's decision to “preserve in place” means a structure could be built atop iwi that have been capped in concrete. The Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. fought the project in court, and though Judge Kathleen Watanabe found that the state had acted improperly, she refused to halt construction, saying substantial work had already been done on the project.

Of course, that work — including capping the burials with concrete against the wishes of the Burial Council — was sped up precisely so Brescia could claim at the hearing that he'd already invested too much to stop.

But the interesting point in all this is that when attorneys petitioned the Planning Commission to revoke the building permit, which had been issued based on the state's faulty actions, Commission Chairman Jimmy Nishida — the same guy who had been on the frontlines, risking arrest in the Nukolii fight — said no. He was worried about Brescia's private property rights, about the county being sued, about doing a “taking.”

I didn't know then about the Hawaii Supreme Court ruling in the Nukolii case, although Jimmy surely did, and the county attorney's office. While the circumstances weren't exactly the same, the state's high court had already said, decades earlier, that a project far more valuable than Brescia's house could indeed be stopped if the process was flawed. The court had already approved a "taking," much to the shock of government and the business sector. The county didn't need to be afraid of losing a lawsuit. Commissioners could've voted their conscience. As I reported then:

Only Commissioner Herman Texeira said no, he wouldn’t go along with the planning director’s recommendation [to deny the petition]:

“It seems the developer knew what the situation was. He went into this with his eyes wide open and then seemed to deliberately circumvent what was on the land.”

All this ran through my mind as I sat in the meeting room, listening to JoAnn speak and residents object, as I've heard them object so many times before to what is happening to this place we call home.

And I thought, if we don't learn from history, or choose to ignore it, if we lose our moral compass, or choose to ignore it, how many more bitter land use battles will have to be fought? How many more lawsuits will be filed, protests staged?

How can we correct the flawed process that allows bad developments to move forward, at great social, environmental and cultural cost?

Our visitors, it seems, aren't the only ones puzzled by a process that tenaciously endures, even though it is so obviously faulty and flawed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Musings: Seals in the Scheme of Things

It's not yet getting light earlier in the mornings, but when it's clear, as it was today, it seems as though it is. The first crescent of waxing moon that I spotted last evening had long since set, but faint stars still dappled the brightening sky when the dogs and I went out walking. In the absence of people noise, animal sounds grow more distinct, a pleasant phenomenon I reflected upon as we passed one section of pasture where the cricket song was almost deafening, and another where I could hear a horse's teeth grinding grass. And we turned toward home, the human-shaped clouds that lounged in the east, limbs akimbo, began to turn peachy.

Things are reportedly not so peachy for monk seals on Molokai, where state and federal wildlife officials are investigating two recent seal deaths. Necropsies done on a male found dead in mid-November and a female found dead last week indicate that both appear to have died under suspicious circumstances.

This prompted Molokai activist Walter Ritte to release the following statement:

“Our elders are saying that these seals are not Hawaiian. Our young people are calling these seals an invasive species brought in by government. The seals are now the easy targets of blame for the many ills of our depleting fisheries. We need to stand up for the truth: These seals are not only Hawaiian, but have been here longer than the Hawaiians. These seals are not invasive; they are like the Hawaiian people who are struggling to survive in their own lands. Hawaiians need to see themselves when they see a Hawaiian Monk Seal. How we treat the seals, is how we can be expected to be treated as Hawaiians in Hawaii.”

It's good Walter finally said something, because I've been hearing those same disturbing assertions for a while now. It started with murmurings that seals aren't really “native,” or at least not to the Main Hawaiian Islands, and expanded in more recent years to claims that they were introduced by the government. Both contentions picked up steam in the recent round of meetings over NOAA's plans to relocate juveniles from the Northwestern to the Main Hawaiian Islands. As I reported in the Honolulu Weekly:

“The idea that it’s a native is based on a lie perpetuated by certain environmental groups,” said Kawika Cutcher, a Native Hawaiian resident of Kauai, noting that the seals are not mentioned in the chant of creation or named as aumakua or ancestral spirits; nor are there any wood carvings, petroglyphs, oli, mele, medicinal uses or other traditional cultural references to the seals.

He also cited a lack of any monk seal bones in archeological digs, which would have indicated they were used for food by the earliest inhabitants of the Main Islands.

As a result of the article, a Hawaiian woman sent me a link to a website that she described as having “extensive information on cultural documentation related to the monk seal.” It includes some of the findings of a NOAA-financed project whose goal “was to conduct an objective assessment on the historical and modern cultural significance of the Hawaiian Monk Seal. Archival research was conducted, including searches of Hawaiian language newspapers and other resources. Several interviews were also conducted throughout the state with individuals from the Hawaiian community with a wide range of views on the monk seal.”

The site has some interesting material (use the pull down menu on the top of the page, as the one on the left side doesn't link), including possible references in the Kumulipo, or Hawaiian creation chant. In looking at the materials then, and reviewing them again today, I didn't feel they definitively proved that monk seals were historically abundant in the Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI). But that doesn't mean it makes sense to view animals found in the Main and Northwestern Islands differently, in terms of endemism. They're all part of the same archipelago.

Still, I found this paragraph in the “interviews” section especially intriguing:

In a few unique places in the archipelago monk seals are regarded as a natural part of the ecosystem and human-monk seal conflicts appear to be minimal. These areas tend to be rural and fairly isolated communities that are characterized by a higher degree of self-sufficiency, and where familial traditions and local decision-making processes are preserved. On Ni‘ihau Island, for example, monk seals became established nearly three decades ago. Community members discussed the social impacts associated with monk seal colonization (e.g, increased presence of sharks), and ultimately decided to act as stewards of the animals (Robinson, 2008). As a result, a sub-population has become established and residents have developed a stewardship ethic towards the species. A similar situation is occurring in the isolated Kalaupapa community on Moloka‘i Island, where another sub-population is thriving in the MHI, and where community residents largely leave seals alone. In these communities, fishers and other ocean users will move away from areas where seals are visible in order to minimize interactions.

The key here is “local decision-making processes,” something that is glaringly absent in resource conservation in Hawaii. It's always the state or the feds calling the shots, often far from the scene. I think what's really behind the animosity toward the seals and NOAA's relocation plan is the sense that once again, those who use the resources are being told what to do by bureaucrats and scientists who regulate and study the resources, and so have a very different perspective.

That's why Walter's statement is so powerful. It provides a framework for understanding the seals' plight in both a cultural and political context. Because the fact is, the state and feds do attempt to “manage” the kanaka maoli in much the same way that they try to manage other native species, from on-high and far-away, through laws, lawsuits, policies and regulations. And unfortunately, all too often through a divide and conquer strategy.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Musings: Varying Versions

Clouds drifted overhead like gray ghosts in a somber pre-dawn sky, but all that changed when the sun began to rise, infusing the world with yellow, and then rose, until the trees shone red with alpenglow and then a shower blasted through, leaving sparkling diamonds on the ironwood needles and an iridescent shimmer on the mist-shrouded face of Makaleha.

Now that's the Kauai version of a winter wonderland!

I noticed the Associated Press/Star-Advertiser today finally released its version — though it lacks all the juicy backstory — of the Superferries-to-Navy story that I had on Tuesday.

Which leads me to Linda Lingle's quote in a New York Times article on the “unease” of Democrats in Hawaii that attempts to portray her as a more viable Senate candidate than I (and many of those leaving comments on the story) believe she is:

“Anyone who tries to tar me with what’s happening at the national level will run up against the reality of my own record in Hawaii,” she said.

Yes, Linda, and that's precisely why you won't be elected. We all remember the reality of your record in Hawaii, as so perfectly personified by the Superferry shibai.

I also saw that KITV yesterday had its version of the tsunami debris story I reported on Dec. 14 for Honolulu Weekly. Not to get all cocky, but I love it when I beat the MSM!

Everybody's downplaying the threat of radioactivity in the debris, just as they are with the continued fallout from Fukushima. Yet I recently read an article published in the International Journal of Health Services that estimates “14,000 excess U.S. deaths in the 14 weeks after the Fukushima meltdowns.”

But a reporter friend who specializes in nuclear issues said that version's not legit:

"The "14,000" figure is getting very wide publicity in America - without any explanation.

It has the effect of "re-setting" the later 35,000 excess deaths and even later 100,000 excess deaths figures to the minimized number 14,000 number from 7 months ago.

It is a complicated scam worthy of the devious nuclear industry in America.

It is the last thing Americans will remember before the holiday forgetful period.

A bad hand [Fukushima] very well played by the pro-nukers fighting for their jobs. Now the dead and maimed count can soar and couch potato Americans will not have a clue.

It seems the study was based on very early findings, and subsequent data shows a much higher mortality rate, like into the 100,000 range. He said it's all based on a simple tactic: Denying doesn't work. You have to minimize.

Meanwhile, I'm amused to hear the cheery radio ads — funded by the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) campaign portion of the Federal American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, through the Center for Disease Control — urging folks to exercise, get healthy and eat right. That's great, but what about the pesticide-laden, genetically engineered foods that the government not only allows, but refuses to label?

And finally, if you've got a few minutes to spare, this video serves as a solid reminder that even small acts can make a big difference. Or as the friend who sent it noted:

Remember, the real St. Nick does not wear a Red Suit, just red blood. The Lord puts us in different circumstances in our life. In some situations, we can do something better for others and in most situations just being thankful for what we do have and can share. Please do not deny yourself your makana [gift] of being blessed right at this very moment.

Ain't that the truth!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Musings: In the Zone

I happened to be in town yesterday afternoon, so I stopped by Judge Trudy Senda's District Courtroom for round one in the criminal proceedings against Councilman Tim Bynum over his alleged zoning violations.

The county code says the county attorney and prosecutor must enforce such violations together. On the criminal side, he's now facing four misdemeanor counts of violating the comprehensive zoning ordinance (CZO) for allegedly converting his single family home into a multi-family dwelling unit without the proper permits. He faces a maximum $2,000 fine and one-year jail term for each count. On the civil side, Tim was ordered to cease and desist and bring his home into compliance, which he reportedly has done.

Tim's attorney, Dan Hempey, was in court yesterday trying to get the misdemeanor changed to a violation, but Judge Trudy — I love watching her in action because she's so akamai — wasn't going along. She set Feb. 28, 2012 as the day Tim has to enter a plea. He is entitled to a jury trial, if he wants and can afford one.

For a bit of background, county planning inspectors reportedly observed the violations on April 14, 2010, and they were first made public in my blog on Oct. 27, 2010. I then provided more details, using planning department documents, in a Nov. 9, 2010 post that refuted Tim's account of the incident as reported in another blog.

Specifically, Tim was busted for having installed a door between the rest of his house and a “family room,” where planning inspectors Patrick Henriques and Sheila Miyake reportedly spotted a refrigerator and rice cooker during a site visit. The room also contains a wet bar sink. Together, they gave the appearance that the room was being used as a dwelling unit, prompting the April 15, 2010, notice of violation and cease and desist order.

The CZO defines a kitchen as any room used, intended or designed to be used for preparing food. According to planning inspectors, intent can be determined by such things as installed appliances or a space in a countertop where a stove might go. Under the CZO, a dwelling unit is described as a unit used for cooking, eating, sleeping.

The case is intriguing because it involves a county councilman and the possibility of political dirty tricks. Tim previously claimed the complaint was politically motivated by his enemies, Councilman Mel Rapozo and County Prosecutor and former Councilwoman Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, but both deny that contention.

Interestingly, Tim was not in the courtroom yesterday — The Garden Island reported his wife was in surgery — but his arch enemy, former Council Chair Kaipo Asing, was.

All that aside, the case raises a number of thorny questions: What exactly constitutes a kitchen? Is it discriminatory for such zoning violations to be pursued primarily on a complaint basis? Are inspectors trespassing and violating civil rights if they look into a window when the occupant is not at home? Can administrative searches, such as those undertaken by planning inspectors, be used to prosecute criminal cases? And what will it take for the county to bring all the many violators into compliance?

Because as Deputy Prosector Jake Delaplane noted after the hearing, “On this island, the CZO violations are out of control.”

Jake said the Councilman was not singled out for prosecution, noting that some 40 persons accused of CZO violations were arraigned the same day as Tim. “Overall, we're taking a stronger stance with these violations because they haven't been enforced in the past.”

The prosecutor's office regularly gets notices of violations from the planning department, he said, “but historically there was very little follow up.”

Now, however, they're getting more attention. The county prosecutor's office is currently going through a “big stack” of zoning violations to determine whether they are chargeable offenses, he said, and it just filed “a bunch of TVR violations.” However, it's proving a bit difficult to serve summons in some of those cases because the owners live off-island.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Musings: Why?

Hard to look at, but even harder not to wonder, why, why, why? Why do we keep doing this?

Iraqi War Photographers: Their War at Home

Musings: Winter Solstice

I happened to open my eyes at a fortuitous moment and look out the window to see the golden glow of the rising moon and so I had to go out and look at that bright crescent bravely holding up and illuminating the dark whole, and from there it was down to the beach for a shimmering sunrise and shivery swim on this blustery Winter Solstice morning.

I was reading the “weekly weather report” on the The Cosmic Path website and found this most interesting description of the day's significance:

In a nutshell, on the Winter Solstice the Sun at its max reaches its lowest point on the horizon in the northern hemisphere. It appears to “stop” for three days and on the 3rd day (Dec 25th or so) begins to slowly rise day by day until it reaches its highest point on the horizon on the Summer Solstice. This event is the description of the Christ, only here we are not talking about a person, we are talking about light and consciousness rising.

Sorry to have to break the news to anyone who thought Jesus was actually born on Christmas Day. But now you know the allegorical roots of that enduring story. And it does make sense, considering that plants and animals, including people, were tuned into the return of the light long before Christianity was ever invented. And it's always easier to get people to buy into something new when it's rooted in something familiar, old.

So what stories have you been telling yourself lately, about who you are and what you can and cannot do and why the world is the way it is and your particular personal role in the overall scheme of things? Are they true? Do they serve you well? And if not, can you let them go?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Musings: Payoffs and Promises

The moon, a thinner sliver today than yesterday, and in the company of a few stars, shone down intermittently, obscured at times by drifting wisps, when the dogs and I went walking this morning, skirting puddles left by showers that fell frequently in the night. At the end of the street, clouds massed, a dull mustard-yellow, promising more rain, but also some sun.

What sort of promises, or payoffs, or both, do you suppose were made to those who paved the way for the Hawaii Superferry, from inception through delivery to the Navy at rock bottom prices? 'Cause yup, it's official, that's where the two big boats are headed.

It seems the National Defense Authorization Act, which I've written about recently, contains more than just alarming language that allows the military to lock up folks indefinitely — apparently even Americans in America — on the mere suspicion of terrorist activity. It also includes this provision:

(a) TRANSFER FROM MARAD AUTHORIZED.—The Secretary of the Navy may, subject to appropriations, from funds available for the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2012, provide to the Maritime Administration of the Department of Transportation an amount not to exceed $35,000,000 for the transfer by the Maritime Administration to the Department of the Navy of jurisdiction and control over… M/V HUAKAI… [and]... M/V ALAKAI… [to be] administered as a Department of Defense sealift vessel….”

A link to the story, which was reported by Defense Industry Daily under the headline “Hawaii Superferry’s Bankruptcy = US Navy Opportunity” was sent to me by a journalist friend in California, along with the message:

Here's something in an obscure military newsletter I get on the Super Ripoff.
we all called this fucking thing for exactly what it is.
I figure these MFs had help from inside the agencies, too. Well paid with "fees," too.
During our time together we have seen this whole conspiracy unfold. Wonder who all got paid off in Hawai'i.....

Yeah, I wonder.

I'm sure it's all just a coincidence, but I did spot an announcement a few weeks back that Admiral Thomas B. Fargo, (Ret.) — remember him? President and CEO of HSF Holdings/Hawaii Superferry and Managing Director of J.F. Lehman and Co., the firm founded by former Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman that was the controlling private investor in the HSF project, putting up $85.2 million of the $92.9 million issued in preferred stock? — had been appointed to the Board of Directors of Alexander & Baldwin, one of Hawaii's largest landowners. The release press release said he was picked for his “extensive maritime and leadership expertise...and his deep commitment to the Hawaii community.”

Umm, I suppose that's one way to spin the background of a guy who tried to shove an enterprise that ultimately went bankrupt down the throats of folks who didn't want it, spawning virulent protests, lawsuits and a state Supreme Court decision that found Gov. Lingle had erred, even though she still claims she didn't.

And interesting how Colleen Hanabusa, head of the state Senate when they passed the sham law allowing HSF to run while it completed an EIS it should've done from the get-go, is now in Congress.

Getting back to the Defense Industry Daily article, it reports:

In his April 6/09 discussion of the FY 2010 budget Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said that the US military wanted to charter another 2 “JHSV-like” fast catamaran ships from 2009-2011, until the JHSV ships begin arriving.

One obvious stopgap option is the Hawaiian Superferry catamarans, a larger pair of Austal-built ships that resemble the Westpac Express. They were even pressed into service when Haiti’s disaster struck, but the actual sale of the ships by US MARAD has been a much slower process…

Dec 19/11: The Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which will soon become law, looks set to settle this issue, and send both Superferries to US MSC alongside the future JHSV vessels:

Queries to MSCFE reveal that the larger Huakai ferry will replace the HSV Westpac Express, supporting CG III Marine Expeditionary Force between Okinawa, mainland Japan and Korea, with occasional runs to the Philippines and Thailand. That won’t happen immediately, however, because MV Huakai “will need significant mods before she can support III MEF mission.” The Huakai is expected to have longer range than Westpac Express’ 1,200nm maximum, and they expect her to be ready before October 2012.

The mission for the smaller ship, MV Alakai, is said to still be under review. Both the Caribbean/Latin America (SOUTHCOM) and AFRICOM are seen as strong possibilities.

It all kinda makes me think of a comment that former Sen. Gary Hooser (one of those who didn't vote for the sham law) left on Andy Parx's blog last week:

We need good people on the inside willing to work with the system and people on the outside banging on the walls and doors, reminding all about what democracy is all about.

Oh, we be banging, Gary. But we just can't seem to dislodge those bad people on the inside.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Musings: Ticky-Tacky

After a night of frequent heavy showers, the dogs and I took advantage of a lull in the rain this morning to go out walking beneath a fat wedge of golden moon floating in a wisp of cloud. It's headed toward new on Saturday, and we've got the winter solstice — the true start of the new year — on Wednesday, so it's a big week of transitions and fresh starts ahead.

Let's hope that's true for North Korea, now that its “leader” — if one can even use that word for a person who has devastated his own nation — is dead.

Unfortunately, some of the more troublesome provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act are not. The $662 billlion spending bill, which got an aye vote from Reps. Colleen Hanabusa and Mazie Hirono, is now on its way to be signed by Obama. The U.S., which has always prided itself on being a nation that promotes the rule of law, is about to enact a bill that allows the military to indefinitely jail anyone it considers a terrorism suspect anywhere in the world — without charge or trial.

While it's still unclear whether the provision applies to American citizens on U.S. soil — a question that may ultimately need to be resolved by the courts, and hopefully not while a suspect is languishing in jail — how can anyone who believes in due process support detaining anyone indefinitely on mere suspicion alone? What kind of example are we setting for the rest of the world?

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta weighed in on whether the long, expensive, bloody Iraq war was worth it with a comment that shows the Administration is deeply mired in wishful thinking:

“As difficult as [the Iraq war] was,” and the cost in both American and Iraqi lives, “I think the price has been worth it, to establish a stable government in a very important region of the world,” he added.

"There is no question that the United States was divided going into that war," he said. "But I think the United States is united coming out of that war. We all recognize the tremendous price that has been paid in lives, in blood. And yet I think we also recognize that those lives were not lost in vain."

Mmmm, I guess he didn't see the opinion polls that showed 67 % of Americans say the Iraq war was not worth the loss of American blood and treasure. But then, it wouldn't be the first time a government official was out of touch with the people.

Speaking of out of touch, if you've been wondering what Grove Farm plans to build after it evicts 13 families and destroys a charmingly distinctive century-old plantation camp, take a look at this. Tip: to avoid gagging, turn down your volume first.

Reminds me of the song: “and they're all made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same....”

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Musings: Worth It?

Pink clouds were closing in on the waterfall that streaked down the face of Makaleha and a rainbow shaft had just touched the top of Waialeale when the dogs and I headed to the beach this morning.

Strolling on coarse sand washed clean by the receding tide, I made the unusual find of two golf balls and thought of a golf bag I'd spotted just 10 minutes earlier sitting, oddly enough, in the tiny outdoor foyer of the post office at Anahola. It seems, sometimes, like the universe is trying to tell me something, though I'm not always sure exactly what it is.

To my right — or starboard, as I recently learned — big waves rolled in, frosted with glossy bright-white icing. The ascending sun cast a long silver shimmer across the water, where Paele and I swam, and onto the rocks, where I sat and watched turtles graze on the reef and recalled an article I'd read on my iPhone when I found myself awake at 2 a.m.

It was about the wind-down — it's hard to say "end" when the last troops that left this morning are still massed across the border in Kuwait, just in case, and 16,000 Americans will remain in our fortress-like embassies — of this nation's nine-year war on Iraq. One paragraph in particular caught my attention:

The mission cost nearly 4,500 American and well more than 100,000 Iraqi lives and $800 billion from the U.S. Treasury. The question of whether it was worth it all is yet unanswered.

I'm not sure that's true.

I imagine you'd get an enthusiastically affirmative reply if you asked the folks who grabbed some of the $12 billion in American cash that disappeared, or the war profiteers like Halliburton, Blackwater and KBR, among others, that made out like bandits, or the art collectors who nabbed some of the priceless stolen antiquities, or repugnant media cheerleaders, like the late Christopher Hitchens or that creepy cabal in the Bush-Cheney administration that deliberately and deviously sold us a bill of goods about weapons of mass destruction and exporting democracy.

The American public, on the other hand, has already been polled, and two-thirds of us say no.

It's likely you'd get a similar response from the 30,000 Americans who were wounded, or the families of the thousands more who committed suicide or suffer from PTSD, or the Iraqis who are still enduring the death, destruction and disarray of an American occupation, not to mention the lingering effects of depleted uranium contamination.

Or as Warrant Officer John Jewell put it: "The innocent always pay the bill."

Can we remember that, and stop ourselves, the next time we're tempted to go in?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Musings: Many Questions, Few Answers

Mist clung to the summit of Makaleha, softening the jagged edges of the range, while white clouds raced across a pale blue sky when the dogs and I went out walking on the first sunny morning in quite some time. As if to express their appreciation, the birds filled the air with loud, melodic song.

Residents from around the island attended a community meeting in Koloa last night to sing out against Grove Farm's plan to evict the tenants of Koloa Camp. You can read my account of the meeting here.

I was glad to see Councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura and KipuKai Kualii in attendance, but Grove Farm VP Mike Tresler, who ordered the evictions, was a no-show. Apparently he had a flight to Oahu that just couldn't be changed. Mmmhmm.

Still, Kepa Kruse, a really outstanding young man that I wrote about here, said it was actually a good thing that Tresler didn't come. Otherwise, the meeting might have been so confrontational as to foreclose any chance of working out an alternative. He's still hoping to convince the company to move the project across the bypass road.

Instead, Grove Farm sent VP David Hinazumi, a Koloa boy who came home to work for Grove Farm. David started the meeting by saying that he, his wife and their two kids had to live with their parents for a time because they could only recently afford to buy a home. Another young VP was in the same boat, he said, which underscored the need for this "affordable" housing.

This prompted Koloa resident Dan O'Flaherty to note, “Doesn't that tell you something, that even top executives from Grove Farm can't afford to buy a home on this island?”

I found it surprising that plans to use 8,000 cubic yards of fill to raise part of the land above the flood plain on a parcel bordering a stream doesn't trigger any sort of environmental assessment. In fact, the only approval needed is a Class 3 zoning permit issued by the county planning department. And you know what a cozy relationship it has with Grove Farm.

The general consensus seemed to be that the only ones who could afford to buy the homes are mainlanders, which prompted David Denson, himself a mainland haole who married into a Hawaiian family in Wainiha, to say, “When you get all these haoles with water in their houses, they're gonna sue your ass.”

Another interesting tidbit surfaced about Waita reservoir, which reportedly holds 1.3 billion gallons of water. Koloa resident Sonny Cayetano, the county's former Civil Defense administrator, asked if Grove Farm had a contingency plan in the event that the dam broke. “All of Koloa town would be inundated,” he said.

Though many questions and concerns were raised, few answers were given. It seemed from David Hinazumi's comments that Grove Farm hasn't yet explored a lot of the issues raised by residents. Yet it's still planning to push ahead with a mid-March start date.

But the most ludicrous comment of all came from Keith Yap, Grove Farm's director of finance, in his apparent attempt to ease community fears that Koloa Camp tenants would be evicted and their home destroyed, only to have the project stall, as has happened with other proposed developments in the town.

“Grove Farm is committed, even though things are bad [economically] now,” he said. “We feel the timing is right. We could end up where you guys can't buy it, where no one could buy it, but we're committed to building housing.”

So let me get this straight. You're gonna make people homeless so you can build housing that no one may buy.

Sounds like a plan.

Or as KipuKai noted afterward, if Grove Farm is truly committed to building housing that is indeed affordable, why doesn't it form a nonprofit and do it?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Musings: Steamroller

I came home yesterday to find Jeremy, the yard guy provided by my landlords, preparing to do some weedeating. I apologized for creating extra work for him by putting in garden beds where he used to mow, but he waved it off. “No problem,” he said cheerfully. “I am totally committed to supporting you in your gardening efforts.”

I wanted to give him a holiday tip, but had just $3 in my wallet, so I left a bag of longan and a piece of homemade chocolate cake on his truck instead. And I thought, yup, he's another one of those people working their asses off in the sun all day, sucking down dust and dirt, for not that much dough, just so he can live on Kauai.

And it brought to mind an observation that a Portland visitor recently shared: “It seems you can live rich on Kauai, or you can live poor, but there really isn't a place for the middle class.”

No shit. That's why we've got Grove Farm trying to pass off as "affordable" modular homes from China with price tags ranging from $260,000 to $485,000. According to The Garden Island's coverage of the Koloa Camp eviction story I broke yesterday, Grove Farm VP Mike Tresler is basing that on “a local median household income of $76,300.”

Except if you look at the U.S. Census data, the median income for Kauai County is $55,723. And the way it works is, if you can't move the so-called affordable houses within a certain amount of time, you can sell them at market rates. So tell me, how many folks do you know who could qualify for a $485,000 mortgage, much less come up with a down payment, on the wages paid on this island? Maybe if you're pulling down a hundred grand working for your buddy the mayor, but otherwise, no way.

But what really jumped out at me was the heartless, screw you attitude evident in this comment:

When asked whether Grove Farm would consider allowing the tenants to remain longer, Tresler said, “That’s a tenant-landlord issue. That’s a private issue … They’re trying to make it a public issue and we’ll push back and just say it’s nobody’s business.

Tell me, Mike, why shouldn't they make your dirty deeds public when they feel like they're getting the royal shaft? Why shouldn't they have the right to publicly question your development plans? And why isn't it the community's business what you're doing to our friends and neighbors and the character of Koloa town? You've got 40,000 acres of land on this island, yet you've got to kick out longtime families so you can make a quick buck on some cheaply constructed housing.

But that's exactly what's wrong with Grove Farm and so many other developers on this island. They know they can steamroll right over the people because our elected officials and the yes-men on the planning commission let them do pretty much whatever they want.

While we're on the topic of steamrolling, let's look at the debacle known as the Hawaiian Roll Commission, which I wrote about here. You've got a law passed by the state that allows the governor to appoint a panel of people who will decide who is Hawaiian for the purpose of creating a self-governing body.

The process is being financed by Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a state agency, and it's headed by former Gov. John Waihee III, who is in so deep with OHA that he delivered its State of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs address yesterday.

Come on! This process has been so thoroughly co-opted by the state as to be meaningless in terms of representing a broad spectrum of kanaka maoli. And yet it's chugging along, despite cries of foul by independence groups, Hawaiian nationals and patriots who are likening it to the second overthrow because they're gonna be excluded.

Of course, you wouldn't know there was any dispute at all over this process from the Star-Advertiser's "everything's groovy" coverage, which left me wishing I hadn't wasted my 99 cents for a day pass to read it.

The article included this bit:

Entertainer Henry Kapono performed "Kalama Ku O Kamehameha" during the event. The deep, resonating voices of Palani Vaughan and Kanohowailuku Helm filled the church during their performances.

The reporter apparently didn't know any of the backstory about these musical performances, which were arranged by state Sen. Brickwood Galuteria. I was privy to an email exchange in which Palani Vaughn was getting a little flack from some for agreeing to perform.

His response:

I felt it would be important to contribute, at least, one mele, a song, that is inclusive of our brothers & sisters who continue to, persistently and intelligently, call for the restoration of our true Hawaiian Kingdom Sovereignty...a song that refers to our people as "Hawaiian Nationals", citizens of the true Hawaiian Kingdom Government...a song, that urges our "Na Poki'i" to "Reclaim Our Hawaiian Kingdom Nation"....a song, that speaks "Hawaiian Kingdom Sovereignty" for us the "Ka Lahui Hawai'i.”

If there are those of you who doubt my sentiments and motivation, I ask you to look at my life's record. I have willingly and openly, without fanfare, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with you to "Protest The illegal Annexation Of Our Hawai'i"; to "Protest The Fake State", etc.

We have to try to awaken the "others" to "see the light of truth and join with us in seeking justice" for our Queen Lili'uokalani.

This prompted longtime activist Skippy Ioane to reply:

lucky you go be there, bum bye only puka shell, dig up the bones kanaka. when you sing i can hear the pain, the rage, and the hope.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Musings: Losing Lifelong Homes

Another piece of Kauai's history is on the chopping block. Grove Farm has issued eviction notices to 13 families living in Koloa Camp — the oldest remaining plantation camp on the southside.

Ironically, Grove Farm wants to demolish the low-rent homes so it can build, mmm, affordable housing. Except the new units would be the China-made modular kine.

The residents, including multi-generational families and seniors who have lived their entire lives in the homes, must be out by March 8. They got notice just two weeks before Thanksgiving, casting a pall over the holiday season.

“The biggest thing that really breaks my heart is a local company like Grove Farm would do that to senior citizens. It's almost shameful,” says Kepa Kruse, a Na Hoku Hanohano award-winning musician who grew up in the camp. His father, John Kruse, who sailed on Hokulea and formerly chaired the Kauai-Niihau Island Burial Council, still lives there.

“A lot of these people have nowhere to go, so I think they're just gonna stay here,” Kepa says. “It's hard to relocate your lifestyle. This is real local style. People raise chickens and have gardens. We're gonna lose the old style Kauai charm.”

The 24 acres scheduled for redevelopment lie behind Koloa Post Office. The land borders the parcel where monkeypod trees were cut down three years ago, despite intense community opposition, to make way for the Shops at Koloa. The mall stalled when major tenants sued to break lease, leaving the developer, Eric A. Knudsen Trust and David Nelson of Detroit, unable to get financing.

“The developer had big dreams and cut down all the trees and the land is just sitting there, infested with rats,” Kepa says. “We fear the same thing will happen here.”

He says 30 families living in another camp near Waikomo Stream and Hapa Road were previously evicted and their homes destroyed to make way for an affordable housing project that still hasn't broken ground.

“Developers see these old plantation homes and think, that would be a nice development,” Kepa says. “But for local people, that's their childhood, the buildings they grew up in. Even though it's old, it still has value. It's meaningful.”

Residents are wondering why Grove Farm is pushing for the evictions when it apparently hasn't yet submitted plans its plans for the project to the county. Kepa says the land is in a flood zone and borders streams inhabited by the endangered Koloa duck, factors that could delay or prevent development. The community is also concerned about how the proposed 50-unit project would affect traffic on narrow Wailana Street.

“These are valid questions we're bringing up and it's like they're trying to keep it hush-hush,” he says. Residents have been trying to get answers from Grove Farm, to no avail. So they went to the Koloa Community Association for help, and a meeting is now scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Koloa Neighborhood Center to discuss the issue. Grove Farm Vice President Mike Tresler has been invited, although Kepa is uncertain whether Tresler will show. “He doesn't want to meet with us.”

Koloa Early School also has received an eviction notice, and the Koloa Canoe Club would be similarly displaced.

“We as a community feel it's a very reasonable thing for Grove Farm to address these concerns and also delay the evictions until these concerns are addressed,” Kepa says.

In the meantime, residents have been meeting each Sunday afternoon to discuss strategy.

“It's really amazing to see the community coming together to fight this,” Kepa says. “I know with some of the developers their intentions are good, but I wish they would open their heart to the community before they press on the gas pedal. Kauai is pretty special, and if we lose the things that make it that way, you might as well move to Oahu.”

The residents have organized under the name Save Koloa Camp, and you can check out their website here. I hope to attend the Thursday meeting and hear what the developer and some of the other residents have to say.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering whether all those folks who were upset about the monkeypods being cut will be similarly motivated to support the families who are on the verge of losing their lifelong homes.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Musings: Somebody's Watching You

As some Kauai folks worry about KIUC's foray into “smart meters” and an 88-year-old lodges a complaint after being forced to show her colostomy bag to TSA agents, a far greater threat to the privacy and security of American citizens is unfolding: the growing use of Predator drones by U.S. law enforcement agencies.

A report in the Los Angeles Times details a case in which North Dakota cops called on a Predator owned by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to determine the location of three men on their 3,000-acre farm. Though it marked the first time that military spy planes were used in the arrest of American citizens, the article revealed that law enforcement is starting to use them for basic police work.

And once you start down that slippery slope of militarizing the police, well, no telling where we'll end up. Except it's certainly nowhere good.

Or as former Rep. Jane Harman, who helped beat back efforts by Homeland Security officials to use imagery from military satellites to help domestic terrorism investigations, noted:

Using Predators for routine law enforcement without public debate or clear legal authority is a mistake, Harman said.

"There is no question that this could become something that people will regret."

Interestingly enough, though the men (after being Tasered by cops earlier in the day), were arrested over some disputed cows, they are reportedly members of the Sovereign Citizen Movement, an antigovernment group that the FBI considers extremist and violent. In other words, they are just the kind of people who could be labeled “terrorism subjects” under the pending National Defense Authorization Act, which would allow the military to arrest and detain them indefinitely.

As Michael Edwards observes on

This incident too comfortably fits the new narrative which seeks to justify an expansion of the War on Terror by including America as the new war zone, thus enabling all military hardware to be used, and eradicating the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. These Sovereign Citizens, as “extremist and violent” by decree, have received the very same treatment as those in the Middle East and North Africa who are suspected insurgents or enemy combatants.

Well, not exactly the same, because they weren't blown to bits. But you know how one thing leads to another....

Salon's Glenn Greenwald, who wrote extensively about the “growing menace of domestic drones” in posts last Tuesday and again today, puts it quite clearly:

A prime aim of the sprawling Surveillance State — justified in the name of Terrorism — is to empower the government domestically.

It’s beyond obvious that policy planners and law enforcement officials expect serious social unrest. Why wouldn’t they: when has sustained, severe economic suffering and anxiety of the sort we are now seeing — along with pervasive, deep anger at the political class and its institutions — not produced that type of unrest? Drones are the ultimate tool for invasive, sustained surveillance and control, and one would have to be historically ignorant and pathologically naive not to understand its capacity for abuse.

It takes little imagination to see the dangers of this militarization of domestic police powers; in fact, it takes extreme denseness and authoritarian trust to dismiss it as “paranoia” or “hysteria.”

Just a little something for folks to think about here in "paradise," an occupied nation that is also the most heavily militarized (fake) state in America and the only place where martial law was imposed.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Musings: Eclipsed

I wasn't sure what I'd have to do to see yesterday's lunar eclipse, given that rain had fallen repeatedly in the night and clouds were stacked up over the mountains where the moon was bound to set.

I figured I could always head west, if need be, though the prospect of a wee hours sojourn to the other side, where the weather service was also predicting showers and clouds, wasn't especially appealing.

But as is so often the case, I didn't need to go anywhere looking for anything: it was all right here, just out my back door, when I went to check at about 3:15 a.m. The unplanned timing was perfect — again, as is so often the case — because right after I spotted her — big, bold, beautiful; brilliance dimmed by a mask of soft gold sliding slowly across her face — she disappeared behind the clouds. A minute more, and I would have missed her, would not have known I had a perfect view of the course she would take on her descent behind Makaleha.

So began my grateful witnessing of dance between moon and clouds as I started out standing, head back, then moved to sitting in a lawn chair, then finally stretched out on a towel laid atop the wet grass, a dog on either side, a blanket pulled over the three of us, and still Paele shivered. The wind sighed through the ironwoods, rustled palm fronds, and every now and then, the moon would suddenly appear in all her eclipsing glory, which was golden, and not the red I'd seen in previous obscurations. More often, she was a glowing apparition behind scurrying clouds, slipping in and out of view, adding magic, mystery, to the ethereal scene.

We laid there for a couple of hours, past the time when she was fully darkened, though never black, until the brightness began to glimmer around the edges, expand into a crescent, and then we went back into the warmth of indoors and after breakfast, to the beach, where I discovered that the watching mode still lingered, prompting me to stop and look at a flock of ruddy turnstones feeding in the grass, an egret collecting nesting materials.

And I marveled at how my senses had opened, in that short span of being transfixed by an eclipse, and I thought, how would I change if I began to spend more time lying out there, watching, in the cool, quiet darkness, before the cars and people start to stir? But gusting winds, and the three-quarters of an inch of rain that fell heavily in the night, kept me snug in bed, and glad for it, this morning.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Musings: All Over the Map

The thermometer read just 68 degrees and I could hear a lot of dripping from rain showers that passed in the night when the dogs and I went out walking this morning. A few stars were spattered across a sky shared with shapes I knew to be clouds, though it wasn't yet light enough to discern texture and color, and so a sense of the weather the day might bring.

Paele, always slow to wake, balked at the wet grass, but Koko charged on, leading us both, as she did when we took the eastern ascent, from the Houselots, up onto the belly of the Giant as the sun rose yesterday. And as always happens when I'm out around tourists with my poi dog pair, I was asked repeatedly, “what kind of dogs are those?” One man even took a picture.

I was more struck by how much open land — agricultural land — remains between Lihue and Kapaa, and as I gazed out on it, I thought, that's our “bread basket,” right there. Close to markets and labor, plenty of water and sun.
Yet the stuff on the makai side of Kalepa Ridge is under the jurisdiction of Hawaiian Homes, which at one point planned massive residential development there, financed by another resort near the Wailua River mouth. We know that ain't gonna happen, at least not any time soon. So couldn't it be farmed in the interim?

And though the acreage on the mauka side of the ridge is “state” land that has actually been designated for “we the regular people” kine ag, it's languishing in governmental bureaucracy. Meanwhile, pieces are being poached here and there for projects like the mayor's new dump and that albezia-to-energy debacle.

Oh yeah, we're all committed to agriculture — so long as it's GMO seed crops and “solar farms.” Our addiction to profit and energy has turned us into those little cocaine-addled lab rats that choose blow over food. Speaking of which, did you know there are some 200 million animals (dogs, cats, rats, mice, guinea pigs, monkeys, chimps, apes, cows, pigs, sheep, and more) trapped in cages and used for experimentation? Pretty sick. We've got some evolving to do, folks.

Which means as well that we do not allow our cops to repeatedly dose people with 50,000 volts of electricity — “don't tense up now, or it'll only make it worse” — even criminals. Yes, I'm talking about the lawsuit brought by LeBeau Lagmay, and the Council's vote to approve $40k to hire outside lawyers to fight it. This is in addition to three deputy county attorneys also on the case. Mmmm, can you spell overkill? And wouldn't it be cheaper to just give that money to Lagmay?

Still, I can see why they're scared, because Lagmay is being represented by Dan Hempey, Greg Meyers and Myles Breiner – attorneys known for being passionate and pono, who don't file bogus claims.

I'm thinking the county's taking a strong stand for the same reason the cops and the prosecutor's office have been so vigorously fighting the right of Hawaiian nationals to carry a badge: they don't anyone challenging the absolute authority of the state. Never mind that there have been 513 Taser-related deaths involving a disproportionate number of persons of color in the U.S. since 2001.

What I'm wondering is what will happen to Eric Caspillo, the cop who wielded the Taser, if Lagmay prevails. If a citizen can get 20 months for assaulting a cop, shouldn't a cop go to jail for assaulting a citizen, and not just have the county pick up the bill for a civil payout?

The rain and sun are taking turns reigning over the day as I write this, and weather forecasters are predicting cloudy skies on the east side tonight. That means those of us who really want to see the
Gemini full moon total lunar eclipse — you can watch the process on this nifty video link sent by a reader — may have to head for the westside to catch the maximum coverage at 4:32 a.m. Who needs sleep when there's something way cool like this to observe?

Then tomorrow from 9 a.m. to noon there's the Surfrider Foundation's Tsunami Debris Mini-Conference at KCC, which you can also catch on live video stream. Thanks to Dr. Carl Berg for getting this together and to Dr. Robert Zelkovsky for the video stream.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Reporting on Hawaiian Issues

I recently complained that media coverage of the proposed settlement between OHA and the state over the so-called “ceded lands” revenue claim failed to include any voices of opposition. So I wrote a cover piece for Honolulu Weekly that does, while also providing quite a bit more information about the agreement and how it fits into the guv's grand schemes for Kaka`ako.

It's related to another issue — the work of the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission to identify Hawaiians for the purpose of forming a government, a politically hot process I write about here.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a state agency, is a key player in both initiatives, which is precisely what has some kanaka concerned. This is a key time for Hawaiian issues. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Musings: Go Look

I knew the moon was out there, because I'd seen it, hovering over the part of Nounou that is closest to the Wailua River, already risen, and white, in the late afternoon when a pig came sauntering out of the valley below a friend's house, so casually I thought it was a pet, and it came very near before it spotted me, started and did a little bucking, zigzagging run across the lawn to a thicket that offered safety.

So later, as I stood in my kitchen putting the finishing touches on dinner and debating whether I could be bothered to walk 200 feet to a garden bed to pick some fresh greens, I thought, you've got to be kidding, don't be ridiculous, and besides, the moon is out there.

She was, right above me, egg-shaped, still white, but gleaming now, almost too bright to look at it, but not quite, and so I did, as the finest, laciest clouds drifted over her face and across the narrow band of black blue that separated her from beaming Jupiter. Eventually I tore myself away and picked greens still quenched with raindrops, wondering that I ever could have hesitated to go out and get them, and returned to the house and made them into a salad.

I decided to eat on the screen porch and began turning off lights in the house one by one until I was sitting only in the glow of moonlight so silvery brilliant that it illuminated the dark clouds hanging over the mountains and the only sounds were crickets and the rushing of the stream, the occasional rooster crow or dog yelp.

Though not a person who typically says prayers before meals, the gratitude was so overwhelming that the blessings happened spontaneously and I stayed in that place for a little while, feeling fullness of a different sort, and then I ate, watching, listening, basking, really tasting.

When I had finished, and sat there for a while longer, hearing the rain approach and then arrive, and then depart, seeing the moonlight peek out, then re-fill the sky, it occurred to me that I had planned to write about radioactivity, the whole mess at Fukushima, and I thought, time enough for that. Right now I want only to write about the moonlight, about remembering to look, to go out there.

Thanks to Anonymous who left a comment about Saturday's total lunar eclipse — check it out at A Darker View — and got me thinking about the moon today!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Musings: On FEAR

So much of what's being fed to us these days is Fear, with a capital F.

But what is fear all about, anyway?

In the absence of wild animals preparing to devour us, or a crazed ideologue hunting us down with a Predator drone, it seems so many of our fears are based not in any real danger or threat, but in our thinking, which is lost in those places that don't actually exist: past and future.

So I liked the way author Susyn Reeves, who was recently interviewed on New Dimensions, developed some reverse acronyms intended to “reframe fear so we don't have to be afraid.”

Here are four that she created:

Forgetting Everything's All Right

Failure Expected And Received

Finding Excuses And Reasons

False Evidence Appearing Real.

I'm sure the many clever readers of this blog can come up with a few more. Have at it!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Musings: An Observation

Not to focus on the negative
....or anything
but it seems like every year the surf
delivers up
more plastic
than shells.
Do you think there's a connection?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Musings: North Shore Madness

It seems a cat is trying to adopt me, in the way that the wild kitties do on Kauai. First I saw it hanging in all four corners of my yard. Then I spotted it walking the perimeter in daylight. Next came the dead bird offering on the stairs leading up to my porch. And then this morning, it was sleeping on the front door mat, a cozy retreat in a night of heavy rain.

So far it hasn't let me get close, but slowly and surely it's building up its courage.

I was thinking about courage when I read a Democracy Now! report from a correspondent who has been covering the revolutions in Egypt and Libya:

”One of the things that was really remarkable over the past year that I saw in both Egypt and Libya is the fearlessness of people," [Anjali] Kamat says. "I was really taken aback by the scenes of crowds of people running into armed tanks, running into vehicles that [opened] opening fire — people just without any fear."

And I wondered, what would be the equivalent in America? Braving the “midnight madness” of a Black Friday sale at Wal-Mart? Or simply daring to open your mouth about the madness at all?

Speaking of madness, two story assignments took me to the North Shore recently, where I was stunned to see what's happening to the road at the Lumahai overlook. It's like they're taking down an entire mountain there, and all I could think was, whoa, that's an awful lot of soil to have exposed on the rainiest part of the island in winter.... Crazy.

I couldn't get a picture, because the traffic was backed up and there was nowhere to pull over. But on the way up, I did stop at Kalihiwai Road, as I'd heard that two fishing accesses there had been closed.

Sure enough, I found this:
Though the gate, which was installed some time back to keep dogs out of a shearwater colony there, wasn't locked, the message — beat it! — was quite clear, at least to those who don't know this is a public access.

To put the location in context, this access runs between property owned by oil heiress Anne Getty Earhart on one side:
And on the other side is land owned by actor Ben Stiller:
For a bit of background, this traditional fishing access used to run through the land on Stiller's side, but when he bought the property, he didn't want people going there anymore. So he worked with some of the local fishermen to realign the access off to the side of his lot.

I'm not sure who put up the Posted Keep Out No Trespassing sign on the gate. It could've been Anne's staff, seeing as how they already installed irrigation heads in the access, which makes it often muddy and creates a tripping hazard, and planted palms right along the fence, so that fallen fronds block the way at times.

Or it could've been Ben's people.

I know it wasn't the KISC guys, who are treating a serious infestation of fire ants introduced a decade ago by Anne's landscape contractor, Dan Shook, because I asked their leader, Keren Gundersen, and she said, “We can't close that off because it's a public access.”

But the KISC crew did recycle an old David Henkin for Lt. Gov. sign, which they posted at the head of another long-used fishing trail on the west side of Ben's property warning folks about the fire ants there.
Keren said that trail apparently does run through private property, and when I stopped by it was informally closed off with hazard tape:
So in the madness that has become the lives of the rich and famous on the North Shore, you introduce a nasty pest and two coastal accesses get closed off. But you don't care, because you're hardly here, anyway, and besides, you already made your own — private, of course — trail down to the beach.