Friday, June 27, 2014

Musings: Better Than That

New moon day brings vast expanse of blue mountains, all their rough edges smoothed away, rolling beneath a canvas streaked with clouds — puffy, streaky, wispy — in shades of pearl and dove gray, raising the ever-present desert question: is it going to rain?

Traveling north along U.S. 285, through some of New Mexico's Native American reservations, I got to thinking about how the feds are in Hawaii now, asking kanaka maoli about self-determination. Independence, which many of those testifying really want to talk about, isn't on the table.

Instead, the Department of Interior has much more specific consultation goals:

Should the Secretary propose an administrative rule that would facilitate the reestablishment of a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community?

Should the Secretary assist the Native Hawaiian community in reorganizing its government, with which the United States could reestablish a government-to-government relationship?

If so, what process should be established for drafting and ratifying a reorganized Native Hawaiian government’s constitution or other governing document?

Should the Secretary instead rely on the reorganization of a Native Hawaiian government through a process established by the Native Hawaiian community and facilitated by the State of Hawaii, to the extent such a process is consistent with Federal law?

If so, what conditions should the Secretary establish as prerequisites to Federal acknowledgment of a government-to-government relationship with the reorganized Native Hawaiian government?

In other words, do kanaka want a version of the Akaka bill dished up entirely by the feds, or the state/OHA dominated process launched by the Hawaiian Roll Commission?

It's odd the DOI should be asking about a process for drafting a native Hawaiian government constitution when a perfectly good one already exists — the one that was in place when the independent Hawaiian nation was illegally overthrown and colonized by the United States.

And it's telling that the feds are interested in dealing only with a reorganized Hawaiian government, as opposed to one that is reinstated, which apparently would require an admission of wrong-doing well beyond the Apology Act.

But cutting through the rhetoric, the long and short of it all is this: how shall the colonizers dictate the terms by which they recognize the colonized?

I pondered the “value” of federal recognition as I drove past gaudy billboards hawking 24-hour casinos, smoke shops selling tax-free cigarettes, liquor stores peddling cheap booze. Yes, those are the goodies the feds have handed down to Native Americans as paltry payment for land theft, cultural annihilation.

Federally recognized tribes have the right to cater to the lowest possible human vibration, to invite onto their reservations the destructive substances and elements that can help complete the process of genocide.

Oh, and as a further salute, their tribal names and traditional designs are painted onto the overpasses of highways that cut through their reservations.

Where is the value in federal recognition for kanaka maoli, especially when it means permanently extinguishing the hope and promise of an independent nation? Surely they can do better than that.

The DOI meetings on Kauai will be held form 6 to 9 p.m. Monday, June 30, at Waimea Neighborhood Center and Tuesday, July 1, at Kapaa Elementary School.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Musings: Tick, Tick, Tick

A thin sliver of ghost moon hung low in the faintly bluing sky, just below Venus and just above the gentle blue-green curve of desert foothills. A giant black crow screamed “caw, caw” from its perch on a sagging telephone line as a ray of sun touched the blood-red buds of a miniature rose bush, tumbling from a trellis.

The moon is waning, the summer solstice is behind us, June is nearly over. Time's a ticking.

It's been almost a year since I wrote the 20th — and final — installment in the Abuse Chronicles series, which detailed both the county's abject failure to properly implement the vacation rental law and the lyin' and cheatin' many folks relied upon to secure one of the limited and valuable life-of-the-property TVR certificates.

I've resigned myself to the fact that nothing is going to happen to the perps, even though they falsified records, lied on notarized affidavits and hired local attorneys to smooth it all over. Nothing except a free pass, that is. And nothing is going to happen to the county administrators and workers who blew it, aside from demoting planning director Ian Costa to deputy director of parks.

But something is finally being done to pluck the much-referenced "low-hanging fruit:" rogues who run TVRs with no permits at all. The prosecutor's office has filed charges against such four offenders, with a summons to appear served in at least one case. I wrote just one post — Fallen Fruit Chronicles — to highlighting two egregious offenders, though dozens of unpermitted TVRs exist.

Kauai Prosecutor Justin Kollar was interviewed this past Monday on Hawaii Public Radio's “The Conversation" where host Beth-Ann Kozlovich asked if his office got calls from people reporting illegal TVRs. Justin replied:

We get those calls all the time. We take complaints on a regular basis.

No doubt the planning department does, too, unless people have simply given up in frustration.

So it's obviously a concern with the community, and not just because people chafe at sharing their neighborhoods with a steady stream of tourists. Justin gets it, acknowledging that on the North Shore it's “a public health and public safety issue.”

As in improper sewage treatment facilities, inadequate infrastructure and insufficient disaster response for a remote area in a tsunami zone. All issues that are not being addressed in any meaningful way. Still, I deeply appreciate that Justin is pursuing criminal charges, and I share his hope that it will put other outliers on notice.

When Beth asked Justin how he would “characterize where everyone is in the process right now," from the illegal "legals" to the full-on illegals, he replied:

It will be a problem in the event that something goes wrong and people are unable to get out.

That's when, as Justin noted, the finger-pointing will begin.

Of course, it's just a question of time until denial meets disaster. Tick, tick, tick…..

On that note, here's a link to the original Fresno Bee article on the UC Davis study suggesting women who live near agricultural fields where pesticides are sprayed are at increased risk of having a child with autism.

The risks appear to be increased for women exposed to chlorpyrifos in the second trimester and organophosphates in the third trimester — pesticides used in Kauai seed fields, and elsewhere. The Fresno Bee reports: 

Pyrethroids also were associated with autism and developmental delay prior to conception or in the third trimester. Carbamates sprayed nearby while a woman was pregnant were associated with developmental delay, the study said.

Fadipe of the state Department of Pesticide Regulation said scientists in the department had not been able to fully review the UC Davis report, but she said it is a "useful tool for the department to take into consideration."

The study also speaks to the difficulties associated with pinpointing a specific cause:

The report, like others, has shortcomings, Fadipe said. It doesn't provide an accurate sense of whether the exposure actually occurred and whether the exposure resulted in autism.

Researchers said the study has limitations that were unavoidable, including not knowing all of the potential sources of exposure to pesticides from non-agricultural sources, such as on food sources and from residential indoor use of chemicals and outdoor use for pest control.

Still, here's the take-away from senior report author and professor Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto:

The process that pesticides use to kill insects "is also a process that is shared with mammals and with human beings, and I think that makes them something we should think twice about exposing ourselves to."  

Tick, tick, tick…..

Monday, June 23, 2014

Musings: Appreciatively

Sitting in a meadow in a forest burned two years ago, where skeletons of charred ponderosa pine reach toward a cobalt sky, I am marveling at the lushness of the land in this high desert place. Opened by the blaze, the forest floor is a riot of life, profuse with thistle, milkweed, yellow dandelions, delicate wildflowers of pink, lavender, white, blue. 
It is a bursting banquet of food for birds and insects; the elk, deer, rabbits and rodents that feed coyotes, bears, us. In days of old, people, too, would've relished the succulent dandelion and thistle greens, fresh and purifying after the monotony of winter's dead diet.

And now we dismiss them as weeds, deem them bad, unsightly, douse them with poison, eradicate them with a vengeance. How do we come to forgot the value of such things?

I have been appreciating small things in this arid climate: sprinkling salt easily from a shaker left always open; keeping chocolate in its original wrapper, at room temperature, secure in the knowledge it will not be chewed or licked by geckos, ants or cockroaches; towels that dry quickly, even when folded in thirds on a rack.

Some of us are learning to appreciate the importance of pollinators, which are celebrated with a national week of their own. This series of amazing photographs gives a glimpse into the incredible beauty of bees, which come in far more colors than the standard yellow and black.

But the recent Cascadia Times article on seed company pesticide use — rehashed in The Garden Island, though TGI staffer Chris D'Angelo did no original research or verification of his own — is nothing more than the standard propaganda now regularly served up by the anti-GMO/anti-"big ag" forces.

As I reported last November, the Media Consortium is funding a series of supposedly independent articles about “pesticide-based pollution, GE food, corporate influence and other important topics” here on Kauai. The Cascadia Times article is the latest.

So far, every report published has reiterated all the same stuff, including the Cascadia Times piece, which also compared pesticide use on Kauai to the mainland.

The reporter came to the alarming conclusion — dutifully and unquestioningly regurgitated by TGI's Chris D'Angelo — that the seed/chem companies are applying restricted use pesticides here at a much greater rate than most mainland farms. But Dr. Steven Savage, a former manager of research at DuPont and a former professor at Colorado State University whose research is cited in the Cascadia Times article, contends the reporter misinterpreted data.

One example is the restricted use pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is applied in much higher quantities to California crops like walnuts, pecans, sweet potatoes and asparagus than Kauai seed corn, according to Savage.

The Cascadia Times article also compared unlike figures, including the total amount of land leased by seed companies today to the total amount of harvested cropland in the U.S. in 2012. It also extrapolated annualized pesticide use on Kauai by using several months of data reported by the seed companies, which they say is not representative of yearly use. That figure was then compared to mainland pesticide data from 2009.

In short, the article used shoddy “research” to achieve sensationalized results. But that didn't prevent Huffington Post, The Progessive and other like-mined media outlets and blogs from lazily reprinting its findings without question, just like TGI.

And just like the other Media Consortium articles, the Cascadian Times piece quotes only those who tout the party line. Like Councilman Gary Hooser, who previously took the chem/seed industry to task for “employ[ing] an army of industry bloggers and social media experts that attack the credibility and integrity of their opponents at every step.”

But I haven't heard Gary or any of his anti-GMO supporters speak against the blog that was started solely for the purpose of attacking me, Luke Evslin, Joni Kamiya-Rose and anyone else who dares to question the movement, its tactics, its funders, its objectives or its fallout.

The Cascadia Times article includes this quote:

Kaua‘i is Ground Zero for the testing of GMO crops,” said Gary Hooser, a member of the Kaua‘i County Council and an author of Ordinance 960. “It is also Ground Zero for democracy in action.”

So how, exactly, is an active effort to force dissenters to “shut the fuck” up an expression of “democracy in action”? It's not unlike the recent commenter who could only come to one conclusion for my critique of the movement he endorses: I must be in the pay of the seed companies.

No, as I've stated numerous times, I've never gotten a penny or anything else from those folks. My criticism of the anti-GMO movement and its divisive, simplistic, “with us or against us” mentality is based solely on my disdain for any propaganda-promoting totalitarian crowd. 

It's bad enough that the anti-GMO movement has discredited itself by taking such an approach. But it's even worse that it seems totally blind to the fact that it is behaving exactly like the chem companies it reviles, pushing those of us who appreciate dialogue and discernment into the fertile landscape of middle ground.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Musings: Who is Fooling Who?

It was rather curious to read Fern Rosenstiel's guest commentary —oddly posted under “local news” in The Garden Island's online edition — demanding the chem/seed companies adhere to the county's GMO/pesticide regulatory bill.

She writes:

Your time for open, voluntary disclosure has long passed, it’s time to follow the regulations our island has set in place. It’s time you comply with Ordinance 960.

Surely Fern knows Ordinance 960 — the GMO/pesticide regulatory law — was not scheduled to take effect until Aug. 16. Now that date has been delayed to Oct. 1. The rules have not yet been adopted, and four of the five affected companies have filed suit to block the law's implementation.

The court is set to hold hearings on the case on July 23. Due to "the volume of cross motions that have been filed, all parties have entered into a stipulation and order that delays the effective date of the ordinance," according to a county press release.

In the meantime, voluntary disclosure is all we've got. What's more, Ordinance 960 itself relies on voluntary compliance.

It was also interesting to read Fern's assertion that:

Nearly two years ago, I sat down with [Councilman] Gary Hooser and explained that we needed to know how much of these different pesticides, atrazine specifically, they were spraying, that we needed to know where, so we could really target our studies to better understand what the concern is.

And I wondered, if that was the goal, why didn't Bill 2491/Ordinance 960, which Gary introduced, emphasize pesticide studies or health assessments? Instead, the triggers for an EIS in the original bill were linked solely to GMOs, not actual pesticide use, and no studies were mandated.

Instead, that crucial component is being handled in a decidedly ad hoc manner. The state Department of Health has said it was given no money to conduct any follow ups to the recent statewide study that found trace amounts of pesticides in waterways. Surfrider Foundation is planning to pursue studies with money from unspecified sources, but its objectivity was compromised when it joined the county's legal defense of 960.

So again I find myself questioning the objectives of the 2491/960 movement. Was it to address concerns associated with pesticide use, or eliminate GMOs? I ask, partly to determine its effectiveness — it seems to have failed at both — and because when you look at how the movement has been expressed on the Big Island and Maui, it's all about GMOs — even though the bulk of the atrazine used in the state is applied to the sugar fields on Maui.

Speaking of the Big Island, farmer Richard Ha recently spoke at the Hawaii State Association of Counties 2014 Annual Conference, and discussed why farmers there had filed suit against the anti-GMO bill passed by the Hawaii County Council. I'm sharing an excerpt of his speech because it does a good job of explaining why the anti-GMO movement has met resistance from many who support agriculture in Hawaii:

Why? Clarity: Farmers are law-abiding citizens and we play by the rules. We thought that the Feds and the State had jurisdiction. We want clarity about the rules of the game.

Equal treatment: Only Big Island farmers are prohibited from using biotech solutions that all our competitors can use. How is that equal? It’s discriminatory against local farmers.

When the law was first proposed, they wanted to ban all GMOs. We asked what are papaya farmers supposed to do? They said, we can help them get new jobs, to transition. We were speechless. It was as if they were just another commodity. So farmers and ranchers got together and ran a convoy around the County building in protest. Then they said they would give the Rainbow papaya farmers a break. I was there when the papaya farmers had a vote to accept the grandfather clause for Rainbow papayas. There were a lot of young, second- and third-generation farmers there in the room.

In the end, the papaya farmers said, We are not going to abandon our friends who supported us when we needed help. That is not who we are. Then they voted unanimously to reject the offer. I was there and being a Vietnam vet, where the unspoken rule was we all come back or no one comes back, I could not have been prouder of the papaya farmers. That explains why the Big Island farmers are tight. Old-fashioned values. The rubbah slippah folks absolutely get all of this.

So who are these farmers? I am one. I don't grow GMOs. It isn't about me. I'll make 70 this year and, like almost all the farmers, have never sued anyone. But there comes a time when you have to stand up for what is right.

The group we formed, Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United, grows more than 90 percent of the farm value on the Big Island.

This is about food security. The GMO portion of food security is small. This is not about large corporations. It is about local farmers. It is not about organics; we need everybody. But organics only supply 4 percent of the national food supply and maybe 1 percent of Hawaii’s. Our organic farmers are not threatened by modern farming. Hawaii organic farmers are threatened by mainland, industrial-scale organic farms. That is why there are hardly any locally grown organics in the retail stores. It’s about cost of production. Also, on the mainland winter kills off the bad bugs and weeds and the organic farmers can outrun the bugs through the early part of summer. Hawai‘i farmers don't have winter to help us.

Most importantly, this is about pro-science and anti-science. That is why farmers are stepping up. We know that science is self-correcting. It gives us a solid frame of reference. You don't end up fooling yourself. In all of Hawaii’s history, now is no time to be fooling ourselves.

Which brings me back to Ordinance 960 and all the people who were fooled into thinking they were supporting a bill that would actually “stop poisoning paradise” and address their health concerns, when in fact it does neither.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Musings: Interclass Breedings

White clouds drift in, obscure the expanse of blue, turn gray, then black, temperature drops, thunder rumbles, lightning flashes above mountain ranges hundreds of miles distant, dark fingers of rain soak sand and cinders, quench the desert's thirst. Dust settles. Birds sing. Thunder rumbles, departs.

I'm still off-island, enjoying a very different landscape and fresh creative pursuits, while keeping a finger on the pulse of Kauai, the Islands.

I'll occasionally be sharing guest posts written by some of my Kauai friends, such as this piece by “Mongo,” which touches on the touchy issues of race, culture and rapid socioeconomic change while offering one of those oft-demanded and elusive “solutions” to the many challenges that confront us:

I love hapa children. Everywhere you look, you see beautiful mixtures in all kinds of combinations. Not to say that some won't grow up to be sociopaths, but when they're kids, it's all good. And whether it's by in vitro fertilization or plain ol' fornicating between the races, I say we have at it.

Back in the good old days, before indoor plumbing, people would be dragged through the streets, shot and hung for the miscegenation that thousands of us practice on Kauai every day. Though now days, they would only do it in select parts of Poipu or Princeville...Only joking, you folks, no get excited...I know you only discriminate against the poor and the middle class, not other races... Only joking. I keed, I keed.

What is going to happen on Kauai? I know some of you find it hard to believe, not having quite crossed the drawbridge, but those of us born and raised are going through sticker shock as we watch the island change and it is causing some resentment.

What is my solution? Interclass breeding. Exogamy. The newcomers have to start marrying the yardmen and house cleaners. Nothing says welcome to Kauai like having your grand child's baby luau at your beachfront home in Hanalei! Not to mention all the benefits of instant family on Kauai. And the extended ohana, which by extension becomes your extended family. 

Ho, aunty, can stay over?  

Monday, June 16, 2014

Musings: Something Else

Rambling country roses in bold red and sweet pink, hollyhocks of many hues, bunches of fragrant lavender, clumps of Russian sage, jasmine clinging to fence posts, pansies turning their sweet faces to the morning sun — these are the flowers that greet me in the chill of a desert dawn, the sky already achingly blue.
Kauai is thousands of miles away — and feels like it — though she returned last night in a dream. I was pointing out to a state inspector something that most definitely did not belong within what was clearly the public shoreline, as evidenced by the waves washing up around it, and he was saying, with that characteristic sideways glance, that subtle shrug of the shoulders, “Yeah, but ....”

As in just pretend what you're seeing isn't actually what you're seeing.

I encountered a guy the other day who, upon learning I hailed from Kauai, said, “yeah, I just heard something about how Monsanto is taking over there. That's not right.”

I assured him that no, it wasn't, both figuratively and literally, since Monsanto has no presence there.

The topic that has consumed and polarized Kauai for a year now ripples out across the Pacific and takes form as a misinformed sound byte. Ah, yes, the whole world is watching......something else.

It's worth watching how the Kauai County Council handles the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) charges against Police Chief Darryl Perry, who could well be one of its members after the fall election.

An executive session is scheduled for Wednesday morning to brief the Council on the three claims of workplace retaliation that the EEOC has upheld against the Chief/KPD.

What I find most disturbing about this whole mess — whose fallout include the mayor suspending the chief and three assistant chiefs; a lawsuit to determine if the mayor had that power; an appeal of the Circuit Court decision that yes, he does have that authority; several investigations; and now, claims for damages brought by three police officers, two of whom have been out on medical stress leave for 18 months — is its root cause.

And that is this: A man in a position of authority in 21st Century America made repeated (and disparaging) comments about the breasts of a lower-ranking female colleague.


Even a Kauai cop should know better than that.

What I find most intriguing is how the Council so quickly again finds itself in the position of navigating a politically-charged legal mine field in the manner of Tim Bynum vs Shaylene/Sheilah/County. The chief wants a chance to tell his side, as did Shay; the chief is at odds with the mayor, as are many on the Council; the Council is at odds with the county attorney's office, which is negotiating the settlement; and they're all wondering how this will play out for them politically.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of dollars later…..and still counting…..

Also up on Wednesday is a Council committee review of Councilman Tim Bynum's politically-driven bill to “punish” the seed/chem companies by eliminating their ag tax deduction. His proposed Bill 2456 would exclude horticulture and “lands that are used primarily for the research and development of crops or parent seed production, which do not directly gain monetary profit from the ultimate consumer.”

But in the typical blinders-on fashion that narrows and distorts everything to do with the seed industry on Kauai, it fails to consider the broader picture, who else and what else might be affected.

Like experimental hemp crops, or the future cultivation of hemp for fuel, food or fiber. Research on biofuels. Taro, cows and pigs raised for home consumption. The north shore organic ginger and turmeric farmers producing seed for export. Flower growers making keiki. Taro huli banks. Fruit farmers and beekeepers selling to the meadery. Anybody producing a wholesale ag product rather than peddling directly to a consumer.

Aside from hindering non-GMO ag activities that most of us would support as positive contributions to the island, the bill arbitrarily, and bizarrely, bans crops and seeds from the definition of agriculture. For some inexplicable reason you can grow trees, though we have no lumber mills here, and no direct consumer market exists for such a product, but you cannot grow seeds.

Which opens the door to another discrimination lawsuit from the multinational chem/seed companies, as already promised in public session by Pioneer rep Laurie Yoshida. (Btw, after repeatedly hearing the claim that none of the four companies ship seed off the island, I sent inquiries to Dow, BASF, Syngenta and Pioneer, asking if that was true. Laurie was the only one to respond, saying Pioneer harvests and ships “significant amounts of seed” from Kauai.)

Then you have to stop for a moment and look at who, primarily, would be affected by the loss of the ag tax rate under Bill 2456: Gay & Robinson, Grove Farm, A&B, Kamehameha Schools, the state. 

In other words, all the big landowners. And what always and invariably happens to ag land in Hawaii, on Kauai, when it is no longer in production?

That's right: Development. Gentleman's estates. Resorts. Golf courses. Shopping centers. A smattering, here and there, of affordable homes.

And the question any thinking person must raise is this: Why? Why in the world would we want to start down this rutted road? 

Unless it's to boost the real estate/tourism/construction industry and help Councilmen Tim Bynum — and by extension, Gary Hooser and perhaps Mason Chock — get re-elected. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Musings: Road Show

I'm on a great road trip through the Southwest, which had me perfectly situated to watch the full moon rise over the red rocks of Sedona.
Meanwhile, the citizen news feed from Kauai continues...

First, I was directed to this link to a video of mayoral candidate Dustin Barca apparently beefing with Sol Kahn on the beach.

And someone else checked on the traffic court records of both Dustin and his opponent, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., discovering:

Dustin had 12 traffic cases between 2002 and 2014, all minor, but at least two speeding cases of 20 or more mph over the speed limit and one crash.

Bernard, on the other hand, has eight traffic cases starting in 1996.

Seems that neither candidate is a stranger to traffic court….

Correction: It appears the "citizen journalist" inadvertently collected traffic data for a Dustin Barra. In checking court records myself, I could find no citations for Dustin Barca. I apologize for not scrutinizing the information more carefully prior to posting it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Musings: Amendment Rejected

The Kauai County Clerk has rejected Kauai Rising's sweeping proposed charter amendment on technical grounds.

The group apparently failed to follow the correct format for creating a petition, despite being given samples to work from. As a result, its paperwork is invalid and all the signatures must be collected again, within a month, for a chance to appear on the November ballot.

The 18-page anti-ag amendment would create an all-powerful Office of Environmental Health under the sole control of the County Council, impose stringent regulations on the use of toxins, greatly expand the right of citizens to sue and recover legal fees and damages even if they don't win, and would allow people to be found guilty of violations without requiring proof that the defendant "knew or intended that such action, activities or conduct, or failure to act, would cause or contribute to the violation."

It has been billed as the “next step” after Bill 2491/Ordinance 960 — the county's pesticide/GMO regulatory law. That measure targets Kauai Coffee and four seed/chemical companies growing crops on the island. DOW, Syngenta, BASF and Dupont-Pioneer are suing the county over the law, due to take effect in August, and have said the charter amendment is similarly discriminatory.

The signatures that were turned in were not verified because the document itself was flawed. Nor did the county resolve the question of whether the lengthy, multi-faceted proposal is in fact an ordinance, which would require more signatures to qualify for the ballot, or a charter amendment.

Additionally, many signatures were collected from people who were not given a copy of the full amendment to review, but simply a summary.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Musings: Prescience and Predictability

It wasn't prescience, but political predictability, that prompted me to previously proclaim that Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser was using the anti-GMO movement to position himself as the head of an organization.

And sure enough, shortly after he filed for re-election, Gary announced he is president of a newly formed nonprofit — Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action, or HAPA — and immediately began soliciting donations.

Which means he's created a new funnel for mainland money, and it will be years before we can see who is supporting this group's agenda and activities. Once again, transparency and disclosure are for the "other guys."

While Gary contends HAPA is devoted to fostering “grassroots participation in democracy,” the group has just one campaign: “defending Kauaʻi and all Hawaiʻi from the harmful actions of these companies.” By which is meant the chemical/seed companies.

That made me think of a letter I got from a westside resident who was saying she had supported Gary and the pesticide/GMO regulatory Bill 2491 because she and her neighbors needed some relief.

And while I could certainly understand that desire, I thought, yes, but what relief have they gotten, or will they actually ever get? Nothing has changed, other than what the companies voluntarily agreed to do, in terms of buffers and disclosure. Nor will it change through the years that this badly flawed bill drags through the courts.

When are people going to wake up and see they are being shamelessly used to further one man's ambitions? Remember, this is the man who told me "it doesn't matter if the bill is enforced. All that matters is getting it passed."

As in giving Gary a new schtick and sound byte with "the little island that could." 

Meanwhile,  in the real world, no enforcement = no relief.

Though Gary claims the group's board of directors is “diverse,” a quick look at the like-minded line-up proves otherwise: Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff, Andrea Brower, Aria Juliet Castillo, Lorilani Keohokalole-Torio, Josh Mori, Malia Chun (Councilman Mason Chock's sister), Bart Dame (who I know only from the extremely vicious and ugly hate messages he sent me), Laura Harrelson, Bianca Kai Isaki, Ikaika Hussey, Maui publicist Katie McMillan, Josh Mori, Karen Shishido, Cade Watanabe and good old Walter Ritte Jr.

In catering to the non-thinking/group-think set, HAPA has helpfully boiled down its mission to three bumper stickers: Take Back Government; People over Profits, and Think Global, Act Local.

Of course, Gary doesn't mean we should also take back our government from him. Just "the other guys." 

And should we vote him out of office, he will blame the dirty deeds of the chem companies — though the anti-GMO movement certainly rivals its foe in that department — and assume the role of martyred victim.

The press release says Gary serves as president of HAPA in a volunteer capacity, but you can be certain that should he lose the election, he will quickly be paid to sell his message of “the little island that could.”  Which is what he's been seeking all this time at our expense: a voice on the national — shoots, international; heck, intergalactic  — stage.

Meanwhile, whether Gary's a volunteer or paid, his affiliation with HAPA creates a severe conflict of interest for him — and possibly Mason Chock, due to his sister's involvement — in dealing with any issue regarding pesticides, agriculture and the seed/chem companies that comes before the County Council.

And that's more than a little troubling, considering there's litigation pending and an environmental and public health impact study to be planned.

Which raises the question of why Gary would place himself in a position that renders him totally useless as a Councilman on the issue nearest and dearest to his heart.

But then, he's got bigger fish to fry than our dinky little County Council. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Musings: Pick a Winner

After the deadline for filing papers to run for political office had passed, a friend sent me a text:

Woohoo neither Shaylene [Iseri] or Kaipo [Asing] filed.

To which I replied:

It says something when you can get more excited about who isn't running than who is.

Prompting my friend to respond:

Ain't that the truth. I can't think of anyone in this current slate that I'm EXCITED about.

There's certainly no shortage of candidates, with a whopping 20 County Council candidates, three people seeking the mayor's chair and all the state House reps facing challengers.

Yet as Auntie Maria Hickling so astutely observed:

Why is it that all salaried/hourly County jobs have specific "minimum education / work experience" requirements for hiring -- yet our elected offices do not? Sadly, Kaua`i elections are nothing more than a "People's Choice" contest for the most part...sigh...

Excellent point. Some people keep clamoring for a county manager, but why not start with some basic candidate qualifications, like high school diploma and at least one term on a board or commission to show voters you have some sense of how government actually works?

Though the list of candidates is lengthy, that's no guarantee of change. A crowded field tends to favor incumbents, and they're all up for another go.

Still, aside from Mel Rapozo and Ross Kagawa, who I already predicted are shoo-ins — Mel, because he managed to remain in good favor with the “red shirts,” despite voting against the pesticide/GMO regulatory Bill 2491, and Ross because he has a remarkably solid base of local, grassroots donors that spans the west and east sides — I think some of the incumbents are going to meet with resistance.

I know a lot of us were disappointed to see Council Chair Jay Furfaro run yet again, just like it was a little shocking to see the headline, “JoAnn Yukimura seeks 10th term on County Council.” Cause sometimes, it's like, mahalo for all your service, but 'nuff already.

In a recent video speech, Councilman Gary Hooser asserted that the chem/seed companies will be gunning for him, Tim Bynum and Mason Chock because they supported Bill 2491. Funny, JoAnn and Jay also voted for that bill, yet somehow they're not part of the “in-crowd.”

It apparently never occurred to Gary that voters might have their own reasons not to cast ballots for those three: Gary for his disingenuousness, political pandering and divisiveness; Tim for his whining and $290,000 payout from the county, and Mason for the sadly shady way he got appointed to the Council to override the mayor's veto of 2491. As I previously reported:

Mason Chock, who was chosen yesterday to complete Nadine Nakamura's Council term, said citizens had expressed “discontent” to him about the process that led to his appointment. The Council, after saying last week it would take the veto override vote without a seventh member, abruptly changed course on Thursday when it became clear it didn't have five votes for an override.

Most of the other candidates are facing serious name recognition issues, aside from former Councilman KipuKai Kualii, Police Chief Darryl Perry, Aryl Kaneshiro, whose father, Daryl, was a longtime Councilman, and Dylan Hooser, son of the aforementioned Gary.

Though it's tempting to vote for someone based on name recognition alone, I urge people to take some time to really understand where the candidates stand on issues. And this includes looking at who they are as people, as well as their ability to actually implement the proposals they favor.

I'd like to close by directing you to Luke Evslin's always excellent blog, Ka Wae, which is published monthly. In his most recent post, he encourages folks to dig deep, especially in the mayor's race, where surfer/MMA fighter Dustin Barca is squaring off against the Mayor:

Gandhi famously wrote that “the pursuit of truth does not permit violence on one’s opponent.” Barca’s candidacy is currently painted as a protest against Mayor Carvalho. And there are many who will vote for him solely because of that.  But, in order to have a realistic shot at winning, he needs to do more to separate himself from any threats of violence, aggression, and conspiracy theories.  Most importantly, he needs to make this a campaign about finding real solutions to our gravest systemic issues.

As George Orwell stated, we have three agents of social change: politics, violence, and education.  On Kaua’i, we now have a clear choice between two of those three: politics or violence.

In the same way that I hope that Barca can move beyond the rhetoric of violence that often defined the anti-GMO movement, I hope that Mayor Carvalho sees the inherent anger and disenfranchisement of the Barca campaign as a wake-up call to move beyond back-room politics. Barca has identified some of the problems, can Carvalho do any better in identifying solutions?

Quite frankly, I don't have much hope that either will change their ways. Which leads me to another quote that Luke posted:

“If you hate violence and don’t believe in politics, the only major remedy remaining is education.”
-George Orwell

Yeah. I think I'll go with door #3. And not the fake kine education you so often get on social media or KKCR talk shows, but the real thing, where people actually discuss and debate ideas and issues, learn from history, understand civics and see the value of looking at and considering the bigger picture, rather than taking "with us or against us" stances and spouting overly simplistic “solutions” that only make things worse.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Musings: Beached

Sometimes I get emails that remind me why I do this blog, like the photo and message from a guy reporting that the Sheraton Poipu was renting cabanas on the beach for $40 per day, and wondering if it was legal.
I contacted the planning department, which said such an activity likely would require a Special Management Area permit. They're looking to see if the resort does, in fact, have such a permit. When I contacted the guy to tell him they're checking it out, he replied:

Thank you it looks fishy, no one should be doing business on the sand the sand belongs to all.  These things I have learned in part from you.  I have been reading your blog for years.  Thank you

Hey, thank you, for caring enough to get involved. Because the sand does belong to the public — all the way to the upper reaches of the highest seasonal wash of the waves.

And sometimes I get emails that are terribly discouraging, like this photo of “marine biologist” Terry Lilley getting way too close and personal with an endangered Hawaiian monk seal:
Surely Terry, as self-proclaimed champion of the seas, knows better than to approach a monk seal, and that blocking an animal's route to the water is especially dangerous. The scene occurred at Kee, setting a very bad example for the tourists and keiki.

The occasion was the start of mayoral candidate Dustin Barca's run around the island. This video shows him launching his canoe just feet from the seal, which scurries out of the way. 

Speaking of videos, Councilman Gary Hooser is oh-so-enamored of himself in this one that he's circulating the link with the comment:

This is the best 15 minutes I have ever delivered on the chemical companies, their attack on our community and why we are fighting back.

In checking out the link posted on his blog, I noticed he's massaged his bio to remove the dreaded “Realtor” profession, replacing it with "entrepreneur and small business owner." Hmmm.

In the video, Gary admits, I'm caught in a positive feedback loop.” Though some might call it an echo chamber. He then goes on to talk about why he left his job at the Office of Environmental Quality Control:

It wasn't enough for me. I wanted to make a bigger impact.

Actually, he was about to get the boot, so he split.

But what struck me was his rationale for introducing Bill 2491, the GMO/pesticide regulatory bill that is now the subject of a lawsuit by the four seed/chem companies it targets. Gary tells of how some KVMH doctors believe they're seeing 10 times the national rate of a rare heart birth defect:

They're upfront. They don't know if it's pesticides or GMOs or what, but they believe there's a problem. That's enough for me. I don't need any more than that to pass legislation that's going to regulate these companies.

Oh, and the fact that 150 people are suing Pioneer over dust from the fields:

If they're concerned enough to file suit, clearly we have a problem.

After he tells us “I've been involved in a lot of important issues” and passing 2491 was “truly a phenomenal effort," he proclaims:

I'm confident the bill is good and solid and we will win.

So maybe, Gary, you'd like to put your own money where your mouth is?

And then he goes on to reveal what's really driving him:

The world is watching me us. They [the chem companies] know the world is watching us. Communities all over our country are watching. They're celebrating our victory. They're hoping for us. We have to keep fighting, we have to keep winning and we have to show the world the little island that could still can. 

Wow. Can you spell delusions of grandeur?

Finally, Hawaii Public Radio's first-rate talk show, The Conversation, will be broadcasting live on Kauai Wednesday and Thursday, starting at 8 a.m., covering topics of interest to our island and the rest of the state. You can listen online, or tune in at M 89.9. 

I'm hoping the KKCR talk show hosts will listen in and discover what good talk radio can sound like.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Musings: Barc and Bite

A friend asked me the other day what I thought of Dustin Barca — the surfer/MMA fighter who is challenging Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. — saying, “He sounds great.”

Yes, his four-pronged message of “sustainable agriculture, cultural revival, kapu on ice and ka wai ola (life-giving water)” does indeed sound great. But though I scoured his website, I found no plans, only platitudes. I'm sure most of us would agree that restoring heiau and fishponds, protecting water sources, boosting local food production and especially creating a farm-type setting for drug rehab are great ideas.

But as the old saying goes, the devil is in the details, and I've yet to see any details on how all those lofty ideals will actually be implemented. Well, aside from his “vision” for agriculture, as articulated in Flux Hawaii:

His personal farming dreams start with circulatory livestock farming—plots of land being grazed by cattle, rotating to chickens who fertilize the land with their feces, to organic farming the nutrient-rich soil area until it’s time to bring the cattle back.

Just don't try it near Poipu…. Gee, maybe Hawaii Dairy Farms could take him on as a consultant, make all that bad PR go away.

Still, it's not just the empty campaign promises that concern me. That's typical among politicians, including many who are regularly re-elected. No, what worries me are his other words, the ones where he departs from his carefully crafted script and reveals who he really is, and worse, how little he really knows.

For example, this piece on

"There is a bacteria on the reef in Hanalei Bay that doesn't exist anywhere in the world," explains Barca, a former ASP Tour competitor who grew up surfing Hanalei alongside Andy and Bruce Irons. "It's killing the reef. There are a lot of big chemical companies -- such as Dow and Monsanto, among others -- that test in the hills and fields around Kauai, and what we're seeing on the reef at Hanalei, it's no coincidence."

No coincidence? Does anyone in their right mind really believe the chem companies are impacting the reef in Hanalei, which is on the opposite side of the island? And btw, Dustin, Monsanto hasn't been on Kauai for a few years now.

Then there was this weekend's Instagram post, where he's running past Hanapepe Valley, but identifies it as Waimea Canyon. But hey, we'll cut him some slack since he's a North Shore boy. And he's not gonna get the westside vote, anyway. Not while he's riling workers with a video that derides the seed companies as “lazy man's farming," though he's never actually had his ass out in a field all day.

But it was the article in Flux that really raised eyebrows, and I'm not just talking about the part where he dropped out of school in tenth grade (did he ever finish?) and has spent his adult life fighting and surfing. Has he ever had a regular job, the office-kine, like where you show up every day at the Round Building and put in a solid 10 to 15 hours? Is he even working now?

No, it was this comment:

I’m not a religious person, but I feel like I’m on a mission from God.”

Hooboy. Giant red flag.

Followed by this:

Even from an early age, Barca was angry and quick to throw a punch. He fought so much that his surf sponsorships were revoked. “I’m the sorest loser—I don’t see myself losing this fight. No way.”

And therein you see the true essence of the “leadership” behind the anti-GMO movement on Kauai. It's got all the religious fervor, sanctimony and single-minded group think of an evangelical sect wrapped in the angry, reactionary violence of a sore-loser mob quick to throw a punch.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that everyone who supports pesticide regulations or has concerns about GMOs, as I do myself, is like that. I'm saying that's the true tenor and tone of the movement's leadership, as Dustin — and Councilman Gary Hooser, with his "lil fistees" call to action — so vividly portray.

That's the ugliness that repelled me from the get-go, and that I've been railing against ever since.

And it's not just Dustin and Gary. We see it also in groups like Kauai Rising, which sent out a hit email — with the subject line “Community Alert” no less — denouncing Allan Parachini as a chem company shill because he dared to publish a commentary outlining the many flaws of that asinine charter amendment and speak against it at last week's Council meeting.

Blogger Andy Parx — the “voice” of the anti-GMO movement who tellingly self-declares as “rabid" — quickly piled on, trying to cast aspersions on Allan because he previously suffered from depression. Never mind that Andy is himself disabled. Because empathy and compassion have no place in this movement.

The goal is to simply smear and silence anyone who dares to express an opinion contrary to group think, so that no one speaks up anymore. As in Twilight Zone's "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street." 

All the while coating the slime in syrup, like the “Please keep on shining” and “blessings” that Kauai Rising's Michael Shooltz used to close his hit piece.

But no, we're not a divided island, it's all aloha here, the movement is couched in peace and love and Dustin and Gary are gonna save us from the big bad chem companies — while racking up ego-feeding national press clippings for themselves.

More GMO-corn syrup-sweetened Kool-aid anyone?