Friday, May 30, 2014

Musings: Gone Crazy

As someone noted in comments yesterday: The entire [Kauai county] council seems to have gone crazy.

To which I might add, it's not just the Council. Got lots of unelected nuts out there, too.

Like Lepeuli Beach regular Richard Spacer, who has asked the state Attorney General to launch a criminal investigation into former Planning Commissioner Caven Raco. Seems Richard, who is displeased with the Waipake Beach access planned through the Kahu Aina Plantation project, takes issue with Caven's testimony to the County Council last October supporting the access:

I would like all the council members to be made aware that I was a voting committee member on the Subdivision committee during the public testimony stages of this particular applicant when the original path was decided. During public testimony and deliberation it was the community that showed interest in having a foot path and not the planning dept. It is my recollection that over 100 signatures and testimonies were provided for the path. I hope that this may help clarify any confusion.

But because the planning department was unable to provide Richard with the signatures, which apparently were provided to Caven outside of a meeting, and thus not part of the department's records, Richard is convinced Caven has engaged in “public fraud.” In his letter to the AG he writes:

I would like your office to investigate what motivated Mr. Raco to make that testimony when Mr. [Dale] Cua says no such documents exist. Is there a past, present, or future benefit to Mr. Raco for making that apparently fraudulent testimony? Did the owner of the Kahu Aina subdivision Falko Partners, a company owned by Mr. Larry Bowman, or the property manager Mr. Shawn Smith offer inducements to Mr. Raco for favorable testimony?

I will also be asking the FBI Public Fraud Unit to investigate.

Oh, and I'm sure they'll get right on it. I wonder why Richard, who has told some whoppers, doesn't believe he also should be held to truthfulness. Should we ask the FBI and AG to investigate?

And then there's rabid “redshirt” Katie Horgan, who threatened to write a letter to the editor if I didn't let her comment on my blog. Truly. I'd never even heard of the wahine until she started attacking me in cyberspace, as the reds are wont to do, because I dared to question them, their “facts” and their despicable tactics.

So I checked her out. Turns out she's another one of those "redshirts" with ties to the construction industry, though she is now working for Manu Kai, a private defense contractor that helps PMRF with its electronic warfare systems. She's so freaked out by the seed companies that she drives from Kapahi to Mana every day — what do you suppose the carbon footprint of that is? — rather than live near her job. But she's apparently untroubled by the environmental damage or human health problems caused by war, so long as she's getting a paycheck. Yet she's one of those who has accused me of being a sell out because I  refused to slurp the 2491 Kool-Aid.

Then there's Kauai Rising, which doesn't know whether it has a charter amendment or an ordinance, but it wants the County Clerk to start counting the signatures anyway. Actually, they do know it's an initiative, but they're trying to pass it off as a charter amendment because fewer signatures are required to get an amendment on the ballot.

In a guest commentary today, Allan Parachini does an excellent job of outlining the insanity of this amendment, as well as the deceptive process used to collect signatures. As Allan notes:

This initiative is one of the most dangerous manifestations of the drive by the extreme political right and left to usurp the right to decisions over our basic nutrition that are really the province of individuals and families. The County Council has the authority to hold this process up until a thorough review of what the initiative actually says and means and who and what are really behind it. It must do so.

Yet even though the Council, as Chair Jay Furfaro astutely observed, isn't sure whether they've got a cat or a dog — it's a dog, Jay, take my word for it — he and all his colleagues, except for Ross Kagawa, voted to move this legal loser along. They couldn't even wait a week for a legal opinion. Cause ya know, the county clerk got nothing better to do — except repeatedly advise Kauai Rising they really should consult with an attorney to sort this shit out.

Problem is, the Kauai Rising folks don't want to pay. Instead, they're looking for freebie legal services — gee, where's Teri Tico. Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety now? You'd think Joan Porter, whose husband, Bill, has like a gazillion bucks, could kick down some kala for a legal review. If she wants this thing, why doesn't she put her money where her mouth is and hire an attorney to make it legit, instead of casting the burden on Kauai taxpayers?

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, meanwhile, joined a majority in properly slapping down the no-confidence resolution for County Attorney Al Castillo while uttering this gem:

I’m hoping this experience, as uncomfortable and awkward as it has been, has maybe been helpful to all of us to think about leadership and how each of us exercises it in the public trust.

Gee, wouldn't that be a switch.

Then we've got Matthew Lolena Samson — charged with 13 counts of continuous felony sexual assault against a girl while she was 6 to 9 years old — pleading no contest to just two counts.

I just want to accept responsibility and get this over with already,” Samson said in his statement.

Yeah, no doubt. But no contest is not accepting responsibility. It's called copping a plea. And what about the poor girl he victimized and violated? Not so easy for her to “get this over with already.” His maximum 15 years in jail will do nothing to heal her wounds, and then he'll be out on the streets, doing it again.

And finally, the The Garden Island's comment section lit up on the story about the Kilauea man who got probation, a fine and an order to attend parenting classes for making his son walk a mile as "old school" discipline. Oh, the outcry against Judge Kathleen Watanabe, the Office of Prosecuting Attorney and the nanny state.

Too bad the reporter didn't provide the full story: A lady found the 8-year-old boy screaming and hysterical in the bushes, with no idea where he was or how to get home, so she called police.

Discipline is fine. Seriously traumatizing your kid is, fortunately, against the law.

Me, I'll take Prince's version of crazy, thank you very much. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Musings: Stops and Starts

The day started with stars, Venus, two adorable piglets running across our path as the dogs and I walked in first light, and a thought that's been recurring in this long spate of muggy weather: Did I somehow get transported to Guam?

I learned something rather disturbing yesterday. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued its findings of retaliatory behavior against Police Chief Darryl Perry without ever questioning him, or taking his statement. Nor was he ever given a copy of the EEOC's report. How is that a person can be accused and found guilty while never being allowed to speak in their own defense, or see the findings against them?

Glancing at Civil Beat, I notice it has a new look. I also noticed a commentary by Ashley Lukens, director of the Center for Food Safety, demanding more transparency from the seed/chem companies. Awesome. And while you are it, could you please tell us more about the Rockefeller sisters who are the primary benefactors of your work, and what their agenda is in Hawaii?

Ashley's not the only talking out of both sides of her mouth. There's uber hypocrite Councilman Tim Bynum trying to take away ag tax rates from the seed companies because they aren't growing something that goes right into the mouth of the consumer. But he had no problem falsely signing a document that claimed his own house — with rental — was a farm dwelling and his land agricultural, though he produced absolutely nothing at all.

Speaking of hypocrites, I found it so fascinating that Surfrider wants to hold the seed companies to the highest possible standards, as in not even the faintest trace of pesticides leaving their land. Which is fine, the very best management practices should be required. But when I asked Dr. Carl Berg if they also intended to hold the state and taro farmers to the same standards, regarding their use of glyphosate (Roundup), which was also detected in waterways, I got this:

RUP [restricted use pesticides] and experimental pesticides are more dangerous than general use pesticides. Why not target those that use the most and the most toxic pesticides? While not ignoring everyone else?

Except, as I pointed out, they are ignoring everyone else, including the termite treatment companies, which actually use more RUPs than the seed companies, with no buffers, no disclosure, no nothing. What do they think happens to the poison gas when the tent is removed?

And when I asked why they weren't saying anything about the RUPs leaching off the golf courses — an issue that used to be an environmental concern, before Surfrider allied itself with the pro-tourism contingent — I got no response at all.

A friend who attended the recent state Democratic Convention was bummed that “the progressives still get suppressed.” Which, sadly, is exactly what I predicted would be the effect of allowing regressives like the “lil fisties” — and what woman so aptly termed “the pole dancers” — to dominate the supposedly progressive political arena, setting it back decades.

But do they learn? No, they run doomed-to-lose candidates like Dylan Hooser, Felicia Cowden and Dustin Barca. I loved Felicia's comment in The Garden Island about how KKCR listeners encouraged her to run. And soon she will discover just how small and empty the KKCR echo chamber really is.

Finally, the county has again posted the list of approved transient vacation rentals on its website. But the TVRs are listed by tax map key, rather than their advertised property name. So it is still virtually impossible for consumers to determine whether they are renting a legal or illegal property, or for neighbors to participate in the county's policy of enforcement by complaint. What's up with that, guys? 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Musings: Round and Round

The political season is in full swing, with signs and banners popping up like mushrooms in cow pies after a warm spring rain.

And sometimes, they prompt similar mind-altering reactions. Like the surrealistic use of this slogan, “Aloha in Action,” by Steve Yoder, the caustic, sovereignty-dissing 15th House District GOP hopeful. Sure, Steve. If you say so.

Meanwhile, his Democratic challenger, Dylan Hooser, has picked a design that plays up the family name, apparently banking on papa's perceived popularity, though it still remains to be seen whether that ultimately turns out to be a benefit, or a liability. In any case, it doesn't carry the same clout as, say, a Kawakami or a Kaneshiro.

Dylan is facing off against Rep. Jimmy Tokioka, who I ran into yesterday while having lunch at Rob's. He was with Sen. Ron Kouchi, who told me the state had in fact ended up funding eight new pesticide inspector positions. Jimmy said he'd never opposed the funding, it had merely been his stance that if the counties wanted to pass laws they should be prepared to cover the costs themselves, rather than looking to the Lege for funding.

Seems Sen. David Ige was the one who found the dough for the positions. Good thing he's running for governor, and thus interested in currying the favor of neighbor islanders who are convinced they're living in a toxic soup, though one created solely by the chemical/seed companies. Because nobody else uses any poisons on these islands. Right?

Heard Sen. Clayton Hee ran a poll to see if he had a shot at guv. The pollsters floated various scenarios: Ige vs Abercrombie, Hee vs Ige, Hee vs Abercrombie, and a three-way of Hee, Abercrombie and Ige. And Ige kept coming up the winner. Though one politico compared Ige's personality to three-day-old tako poke, bland may prove to be the tonic for voters weary of Abercrombie's abrasive, antagonistic, Washington-style politics.

Locally, we've got Councilmen Mel Rapozo and Gary Hooser teaming up on Wednesday to convince their colleagues to call for County Attorney Al Castillo's resignation by adopting a resolution proclaiming the Council has “no-confidence” in him. Mmm, yeah, so who does? But then we quickly get to the next question: Who else would even want that crappy job?

The resolution, which is totally non-binding, and thus legally meaningless, nonetheless serves a powerful political purpose, providing convenient cover for a “bash Al day” in Council chambers. Gary can rag on Al for not giving him the opinion he wanted re: Bill 2491, and Mel can get in a few swipes about the Tim Bynum case.

Others with a wicked grudge against Al will also crawl out of the woodwork to avail themselves of this opportunity to cast aspersions unchallenged on public access TV. It's kind of like giving the mayor dirty lickin's by proxy. No doubt former Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri and her loyal henchmen, Glenn Mickens and Ken Taylor, will each deliver their six minutes of froth and fury.

Speaking of Shay, a very good source says she is absolutely determined to run for Council, though she has not yet pulled papers. And neither, interestingly, has Mason Chock, who was appointed to the Council last fall to cast a vote overriding the mayor's veto of 2491. Oh, yeah, and also to fill the vacancy let by Nadine Nakamura.

But guess who did pull papers? That's right: former Council Chair Kaipo Asing. To which I can only say, OMG. I knew there was an anti-”red shirt” backlash brewing, but I wasn't expecting it to take quite that turn.

Nor was I expecting Sheilah Miyake, whose disgraceful performance as planning inspection supervisor fueled Bynum's expensive civil rights lawsuit, to turn around and make her own claim against the county. Yup, she's trying to recover legal fees incurred while defending herself in her personal capacity. Taxpayers already paid to represent her in her “professional” capacity, if we can call it that, considering she has absolutely no qualifications for her job and got it solely for political reasons.

Ah, the cheekiness knows no bounds. If only we sue her to recover all the salary and benefits she never was entitled to receive all these years.

Tim, meanwhile, is trying to beef up his creds with the anti-GMO crowd by introducing a bill that would create a new real property tax classification that he has dubbed “agronomics.” It will “include properties that use their land primarily for science, research and development of crops that do not directly gain monetary profit from the ultimate consumer.”

This is in keeping with an urban myth that Tim and the red-shirts actively perpetuate: the seed companies are using Kauai solely to test experimental pesticides and crops, while producing nothing of agricultural value. Which is partly true, and makes for great propaganda. 

Except they also produce seed that is shipped to the mainland and planted there to produce more seed, which is sold to the farmers who cultivate commodity crops that are fed to livestock and also turned into Cheetos and baby formula and the corn syrup ubiquitous in so many processed foods.

Gee, I wonder how that bill would impact  acreage where Grove Farm is testing biofuel crops? Or the land owned by College of Tropical Ag up at the experimental station, the research plots at KCC? Does the state even pay property taxes?

Oh, and Tim wants to have it in effect for the 2014 election 2015-16 FY budget, which means they have to adopt it by July 1. Right. Can you spell political posturing? Yes, Tim, let's rush through another bill affecting only the seed companies. Because, ya know, we didn't learn from 2491, so let's adopt another industry-specific bill that has lawsuit written all over it.

And then we can blame Al for burning through special counsel money like gasoline-soaked guinea grass.

Round and round and round it goes, and where it will stop, nobody knows.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Musings: Odd, Even Fishy

There was irony in the state Land Board's decision to levy a $31,000 fine against PUC Chair Mina Morita and her husband, Lance Laney, and order them to stop operating two vacation rentals in Hanalei Valley.

It's this: If they were under county jurisdiction, they'd still be operating with impunity. Even if they had lied on a sworn affidavit, falsified documents or never bothered to apply for a county permit at all, they'd still be open, just like all the other illegal TVRs.

If their vacation rental had been on state conservation land in Haena, they'd still be operating with impunity, like all the other illegal TVRs the state has failed to shut down there. More on that in a minute.

And most importantly, if Mina hadn't pissed off Hanalei boatyard owner Mike Sheehan and Gov. Neil Abercrombie's wealthy contributors, they'd still be operating with impunity.

Because it strikes me as rather odd, even fishy, that twice the state contacted Lance about the structures on their property — in 1996 and again in 2008 — and twice Lance responded. Both times, he heard nothing back. But now, 18 years after the first contact, and six years after the second, they're dinged. 

Just when the guv wants to dump Mina for someone more business-friendly and Sheehan is badgering Office of Coastal and Conservation Lands (OCCL) for enforcement action.

Action that was intentionally “leaked” to The Garden Island before Mina and Lance had even received notification, and while she was in the midst of a political drama over her reappointment to the PUC.

Yeah, it's all fishy enough to smell pretty stink.

Getting back to those illegal TVRs on state conservation land at Wainiha-Haena. Last Friday, in making his case to the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, OCCL director Sam Lemmo claimed that his division was actively enforcing against TVRs on lands under state authority, hence the need to make an example of Mina.

And I immediately flashed back to how former Deputy Prosecutor Jake Delaplane and his boss, defeated Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri, claimed they were enforcing against numerous zoning violators. But somehow, only Councilman Tim Bynum got hit with criminal charges.

So where is the evidence of all that supposed state enforcement? There is none, because it's still business as usual — even though those property owners built their homes under a conservation district use permit that specifically prohibited commercial uses.

As proof, one need only consult county real property tax records. In 2013, the county employed a “use”-based approach to real property taxation, based on a questionnaire sent to property owners.

In 2014, eight Conservation District parcels again admitted to illegal and unpermitted TVR use. The county classified them as vacation rentals for tax purposes, even though none have the county certificates required to operate a TVR on Kauai and none are allowed such a use on conservation land.

One $3.9 million property belongs to Joe Paskal, who isn't on Sheehan's shit list because he backed commercial tour boats in Hanalei. Then there's David Kuraoka's “Makana Lani.” He did get fined, but is fighting it and apparently still operating in the meantime. Next is Edward Hayes with his “Uncle Ed’s Cottage.”

Then there's the $2.99 million Moore property and the $5.53 million “Waipuna” TVR owned by the Honolulu-based KTK Family Limited Partnership. Though the state did levy a $15,000 fine against the Stice property, which was then sold and the house demolished, the TVR classification remains.

Oh, and let's not forget the $5.2 million house owned by the Guslander Trust, or the $4.2 million “Rice Haena Point House” owned by the Honolulu-based Haena Trust. No political connections there.

So even as the other illegal uses continue, Mina and Lance got a hefty fine, and were the only ones ordered to remove two structures, only one of which was being used as a TVR. And this is happening even though their use agreement with the state did not expressly prohibit commercial uses, as is the case on conservation lands.

I'm not trying to drum up sympathy for Mina and Lance. 

It's the unequal treatment that grates.

Because once again, we see the county and state taking one of two approaches to enforcement: blind eye, or retaliation.

Instead of treating everyone equally, both the state and county cherry pick their cases, targeting those who fall into political disfavor, or fail to secure the services of an attorney previously employed by the county. The county has allowed many others to simply come into compliance, though their permits should've been revoked because the renewals were so delinquent or they failed to submit the proper documents.

In short, some TVR owners are getting creamed, while others are allowed to keeping skimming off the cream.

Is it any wonder that people have so little faith in “the system?”

Friday, May 23, 2014

Musings: Ah, The Money

Changes are afoot on the westside of Kauai, but they have nothing to do with the seed fields that have gotten all the attention lately — at least, not directly.

Along with pesticides and their “bubble gum” masking agents, the scent of development is now in the air, with Gay & Robinson's Kapalawai resort project moving forward again, Kikiaola Holdings installing a developer as chairman of its board and PMRF ramping up.

But before I delve into that, let's get back to these seeds for a moment. A ballot initiative seeking to ban all GMO agriculture on Maui, Lanai and Molokai has been rejected because more than half the signatures are invalid. This, despite — or perhaps because of — an anonymous donor paying $5 per name for signatures. The payments were being made through SHAKA, a nonprofit headed by high-end Realtor Mark Sheehan.

Kinda makes you wonder about the fate of the Kauai Rising charter amendment, and who is really behind the anti-GMO movement with its pro-upscale development connections.

Now back to our own west side. Kikiaola Holdings, which has extensive land in the Waimea area, recently installed George Christensen, an Oahu real estate developer and building contractor, as its board chairman. Previously, the Board had been chaired by descendants of H.P. Faye, who incorporated the land when the Kingdom of Hawaii was still recognized. But with Mike Faye stepping down and an outsider — and developer — coming in, it seems to signal a shift.

Meanwhile, the Kapalawai resort project, which was ready to roll when the economic downturn derailed it, has been resurrected under the auspices of Canadian developer Derek Trethewey. He stirred up a controversy in his homeland over his plans to clearcut and develop Salt Spring Island, where he promised residents: “We are being as careful as we can. We want to do the right thing.” The struggle resulted in a documentary originally titled, “Ah... The Money, The Money, The Money.”

As president and CEO of Okanagan Land Development Corp., Trethewey oversaw development of numerous projects in British Columbia, including The Cove Lakeside Resort, The Outback Vernon, The Lakes, Bowen Island Lodge. His LinkedIn profile claims:

His philanthropy and commitment to community service is renowned.

Tretheway also has a litigious history, including suing protestors who chained themselves to logging trucks and trees. In other legal action, Caesar's Palace casino won a judgment and garnishing order against him over $71,005 in unpaid gambling debts, and a California couple won a judgment of $101,754 against him in a case involving loans and gambling debts owed Harrah's Casino.

And now he's here, gambling he rake in a pile at Kapalawai. The County Council already approved zoning for a 250-unit resort with restaurants, a pavilion, lu'au grounds, a museum, bar, swimming pools, spa, sport courts and a club house, and the state Land Use Commission allowed the 160-ace parcel to be reclassified from agriculture to urban.

In other words, the “entitlements” are in place, which means Trethewey can move forward, though he's apparently come up with a different model than the 500-square-foot stand-alone cottages that were previously planned. The new proposal has been likened to Pierre Omidyar's Hanalei Ridge development, with upscale vacation homes along the coast and clustered multi-family visitor accommodations behind it. The property includes about 4,400 feet of shoreline between Makaweli Landing and Po'o Point.

As part of the original proposal, which had strong westside support, the developer was supposed to include shoreline access and a 70-stall lot that would allow surfers to park closer to the break at Pakala.

And finally, as The Garden Island reports, the future is all gangbusters for PMRF, which wil play a larger role in the annual Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) multinational war games and future trainings:

For the last 20 years or so, the Navy has resorted to the desert for a lot of its training and testing, according to [base commander Capt. Bruce] Hay.

“Well, we’re coming back,” he said. “The band’s coming back to the Pacific and our Marines and our Air Force and our Army need places to train.”

In addition to RIMPAC, Hay said there will be a lot of activity out at PMRF this summer — from rocket launches and Boeing V-22 Ospreys flying around to NASA’s test flight in early June of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator, a saucer-shaped rocket designed for future missions to Mars.

“In between all the other cool stuff, like rockets and balloons and all the other stuff, you’re going to see a steady drum beat of our brothers and sisters in arms coming here to Kauai,” he said. “It’s a good thing for Kauai and it’s a good thing for PMRF, or IPRF (Inouye Pacific Range Facility).”

Perhaps, if you're thinking only in terms of “Ah... The Money, The Money, The Money.” But let's not get so caught up in the rah-rah that we forget all that way cool stuff is ultimately intended to main, kill and destroy. 

And let's not forget all the money generated by that groovy training comes with a price: adverse impacts on marine mammals, marine ecosystems and our own peaceful way of life.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Musings: Fact and Fancy

So now that we actually, finally, have some real data on pesticide prevalence in Hawaii — data that show “None of these levels present a risk to human health or the environment,” according to Department of Health toxicologist Fenix Grange — will any of the hysteria diminish?

Don't count on it. There's power and money to be found in fear-mongering, so you can be assured it will continue unabated, especially in an election year, when several candidates have nothing to offer voters but a shared affinity for red shirts and fist-waving.

Though downplayed by The Garden Island (which posted a wrong link to the study), Civil Beat's coverage tells the real story:

The study, which analyzed water from 24 streams, found that the areas with the greatest number of pesticides were not near large farms but rather in urban Oahu.

Streams in urban Oahu had the highest number of pesticides present, including one site where 20 types were detected. In total, the study found 41 pesticide compounds.

The study also analyzed seven sites for the presence of glyphosate, an herbicide that is more commonly known by its trade name, Roundup. The state doesn't generally test for glyphosate because of the high cost, but members of the Environmental Council advocated for more testing last fall.

Three of the seven sites had glyphosate, but at extremely low levels — the highest concentration was 60,000 times lower than the lowest benchmark available.

Marjorie Ziegler, a member of the Environmental Council [and director of Conservation Council for Hawaii], said that the main takeaway for her were the higher levels in urban areas, rather than near large farms growing genetically engineered crops.

"The myth in my head says that GMO is increasing all those pesticides but maybe that isn't the case," Ziegler said, using the popular term for genetically modified organisms.

Which is exactly what some of us have been saying all along. If Councilman Gary Hooser really was concerned about pesticides, he would have introduced a bill that also dealt with urban uses, as some of us had requested. Instead, he focused narrowly on the five major ag operators — a move that ensured national publicity for him, and funding support from mainland groups like Center for Food Safety, but placed the bill in legal jeopardy because it's discriminatory.

Meanwhile, those in the anti-GMO movement, like the new OEQC director Jessica Wooley, responded to the study not with relief, but a new mantra: “This is a great first step.”

Except as Fenix told The Garden Island, there is no planned second step, cause they no more money for follow-up studies. Seems the Lege dumped a proposal that would have increased funding and allowed for additional work.

So we don't have the money to keep monitoring for pesticides, even though it's supposedly a grave concern on this island, but we do have money to fight the legal battle to defend that crappy law. And Council Chair Jay Furfaro managed to find $12,000 for bee pollen studies solely to paint himself as eco-friendly, never mind all those years he ran Princeville Corp. with its gnarly poison closet.

And somehow our legislators scrounged up serious dough to fund the many pork barrel projects in their districts that will help them curry favor with voters.

The most curious of these was $270,000 for the Hawaii Island Land Trust to “conduct a long-range development plan for the former Coco Palms site.”

Why is that plan continuing when the Council endorsed the rebuild of Coco Palms and just today it was announced that Hyatt will manage the iconic 363-room resort?

Why are we still putting public money into that property, especially when there are other pressing needs? Like, say, environmental pesticide sampling, or public health studies that might put some minds at ease.

But from the get-go, folks have never clamored for studies, tests or even more money for state enforcement. So it's not surprising that none has been allocated, and we're right back in that place of don't look, don't know.

Because maybe all the players have something to gain by keeping facts out of what is now solely an emotional and political issue.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Musings: Dinosaurs

When I was a little girl my mother used to play Neil Diamond records, and one song that has remained stuck in my head all these years is "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show.”

It came to mind when I received an email about anti-GMO crusader Jeffrey Smith's Hawaii tour later this week, which comes on the heels of a similar circuit taken by anti-atrazine researcher Tyrone Hayes, who is speaking tomorrow night on Kauai.

On the poster, Smith is described as “one of the most saught [sic] after, internationally recognized voices of GMO Truth.” One of his Maui talks is pitched as “an event of truth and facts,” while the other is described as “A Day of GMO Truth.” Curiously, no such claim is made for his Kauai appearance, which is listed simply as a “GMO community talk.”

And I thought, how can you possibly pretend you are serving up truth when you are presenting just one point of view? Which is when I was again reminded of how the anti-GMO movement has assumed all the self-righteous, one-way, one-truth fervor of the evangelicals — replete with swooning. I'll never forget the 2491 testimony of the lady who said she ate a GMO papaya “and fainted dead away.”

So it is clear now that in Hawaii, we will not be able to have a reasonable public discussion on this issue. We will not be able to publicly debate different sets of facts, varying versions of the truth. 

In the current socio-political milieu, you're either a true believer, or a heretic, with absolutely no middle ground allowed.

Meanwhile, real life continues in its many, often contradictory, shades of gray. Parking for Hayes' UH-Hilo talk was disrupted due to construction of a chemical storage building on campus. Dow, denounced as a demonic defiler, made the pesticide Vikane that was used this past week to treat a Singapore ant infestation on the Hokulea.

Billionaire Pierre Omidyar is blasted for bankrolling a dairy on Kauai, a project deemed unsustainable because the cows won't eat organic feed and the milk will be shipped to Oahu for processing. Billionaire Larry Ellis is lauded for using Lanai's scarce water to grow organic veggies that will be shipped to China and Japan.

Always, we are grouping into good-bad, right-wrong, us-them.

Which brings me to a blog post well-written by Luke Evslin, who has one of the more interesting minds on this island, largely because he actually uses it to think, instead of parrot or echo or regurgitate or deny. He wrote:

Since we can witness and measure an obvious environmental decline, then it only makes sense that the culprit is the way we currently run society.  That's our enemy.

There's only one problem; that's us. We embody the status-quo everytime we get into our car.  Everytime we ingest food that comes from a grocery store.  Everytime we put on a t-shirt.  Everytime we cast a vote for either a democrat or a republican.  But what else can we do?

We all can see it.  We all complain about it.  We all want to do something about it.  But that's as far as we can go.  We've failed at even approaching a solution because we are the problem.  We can't look to the Civil Rights movement and sit at a lunch counter in Birmingham or look to the Indian Nationalist movement and go on a hunger strike in a British prison.  The two most successful social movements of the last century had tangible enemies.  And non-violent resistance worked because of that.  As we perpetuate the greatest environmental crime (climate change) in history, we are our own enemy.  And there's nothing that we can do to divest ourselves.

So, back to my struggling question of last week, what now? How do we envision a different future? How do we change the system?

I certainly don't have all the answers, or maybe even any, but I think one place to start is to stop taking refuge in the “me good, you bad" bang-and blame duality mindset. All of us are the problem, and all of us can play a role in the solution.

Luke writes, correctly and coherently:

Our failure isn't caused by incessant growth or a reliance on technology. We are failing because capitalism can not adequately value the environment. There is an intrinsic worth to nature which can not be quantified.

Luisa Kolker, a shamanic healer I interviewed yesterday, added another piece:

We need to find ways to re-attune with our own inner wilderness.We've lost the empathic connection with ourselves, and with the Earth. Until we are in good relationship with ourselves, we will defile and violate nature.

Meanwhile, as astrologer Stephanie Azaria points out, there is a powerful metaphor currently at work as scientists uncover the ancient remains of the largest known animal to walk on Earth, a creature that was 65 feet high — equal to a seven-story building — and 130 feet long:

We all know what a dinosaur is, in esoteric talk. For those of you who don’t know, a dinosaur is a consciousness that is infused with the old, outdated way of being. The dictionary describes it this way: a person or thing that is outdated or has become obsolete because of failure to adapt to changing circumstances.

Dinosaurs, like the ruined remnants of fallen civilizations, remind us anew that we aren't too big to fail.

The choice is ours: work together to figure out how we can adapt ourselves and our civilization to fit the natural ecological constraints of this planet, or continue to pursue the dinosaur mindset of separation and polarization, cloaked in the false belief that some one of has a lock on “The Truth.”

Monday, May 19, 2014

Musings: New Beginnings

The chill of early dawn woke me with a shiver, sent me out into a night moving toward day, Venus rising like a smoldering ember in the haze, fog swirling in the pastures beneath the brilliant white light of a fatter-than-half moon, mowed grass sticking wetly to rubber slippered feet as the dogs and I walked east, toward that new beginning.

It's so exciting to see Hokulea and Hikianalia beginning their three-year, 47,000-mile, open-ocean, around-the-world journey, which you can follow on the Polynesian Voyaging Society's website. Few sights are more thrilling than Hokulea at sea, its sails bold red against blue sky and sea.

I once had the honor of spending the night aboard the Hokulea at Nawiliwili, cocooned in a tiny bunk where many had slept before me, lulled by the gentle rocking, awed by the bravery of those who set sail centuries ago, and those who venture out today.

Back on terra firma, Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry is seeking a brave new beginning, filing papers to run for the County County. The Chief, of course, is no stranger to politics, having already tasted its bitter medicine during his seven years at the helm of KPD — a position that isn't supposed to be politicized, but on Kauai, invariably is.

But if the Chief is elected, which seems quite likely, given his general popularity, he'll be able to engage his longtime political foe — the soon-to-be-re-elected Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., — on more equal footing. As it is, under the ruling handed down by former Councilman and now Circuit Court Judge Randal Valenciano, the mayor has authority over the chief — a decision still under appeal.

You may recall that issue went to court after the mayor, in a heavy-handed move, suspended the chief without pay for seven days in 2012, citing insubordination. Perry was then placed on paid leave, along with Assistant Chiefs Roy Asher and Ale Quibilan, pending an investigation of a complaint by Officer Darla Abbatiello-Higa.

At the time, Deputy Chief Mike Contrades was in training off-island, so Assistant Chief Mark Begley was put in charge, assisted by his captain, Hank Barriga.

And then, in classic Kauai fashion, things really fell apart. While the department was essentially leaderless, Officer Chris Calio shot and killed Richard “Dickie” Louis, who was unarmed and standing on his rooftop, while a team of some 50 to 60 cops were trying to arrest him. This resulted in Louis' family filing a wrongful death suit against the county.

When the Police Commission ordered the Chief back to work, Begley refused to give him his gun, badge and other gear, reportedly under orders from the county attorney's office. Begley, facing an administrative review for insubordination, took a paid medical leave, along with Barriga. The two haven't worked for some 18 months now.

Meanwhile, Begley, Barriga and Abbatiello-Higa filed complaints, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently found cause that all three had experienced illegal retaliation by KPD.

The dispute is now in its reconciliation phase, with the county, the EEOC and the complainants' attorneys trying to determine what sort of financial settlement should be given to the victims and whether any additional action should be taken against KPD.

If no settlement is reached, EEOC could refer the case to the feds, which is the only entity eligible to sue for a Title 7 violation.

In this situation, like so many others on Kauai, we see a rather insignificant event that could have — and should have — been resolved through mediation mushroom into a big, expensive, destructive, demoralizing mess that ain't over yet.

And why? Politics.

So heck, since he's embroiled already the Chief may as well ditch KPD and sit on the Council. Compared to some of the other candidates — both incumbents and hopefuls — we can at least be assured that he a) understands county government; b) knows the budget process; c) has a record of solid public service; d) isn't prone to long-winded, grandstanding speeches; e) isn't in either the pro- or anti-GMO camp; f) isn't driven by an inflated ego; g) isn't in anybody's pocket; h) does his homework; i) has a high level of intelligence; j) understands the island; and k) knows what's really going down in this community.

Speaking of going down, I just can't see Councilman Tim Bynum winning another term. Heck, he barely squeaked in last time, when he had a bit of sympathy going for him because he was being picked on by then-Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri, who lost her own bid for re-election.

Of course, it's not Tim's fault that Shay was vindictive, or the county blew $750,000 fighting his civil rights lawsuit, only to see its insurance company quickly settle for $290,000. But with voters facing higher fees and taxes and a grim economic picture, his re-election may prove a hard sell.

I think a lot of folks are looking for some fresh faces on the County Council, some new beginnings at the Historic County Building. And for the first time that I can remember, I don't think any of the Council incumbents are a shoo-in, save for Mel Rapozo and Ross Kagawa, which should make for an interesting — and possibly bloody — election season.