Friday, October 31, 2014

Musings: Thoroughly Tricked

It's Halloween, a time when people hide their true identity, pretend to be something they're not and beg for treats under threat of tricks. Which provides the perfect opportunity to rip the mask off the Kauai Independent Food Bank.

I've been hesitant to divulge the gore, thinking surely folks would wise up. But I had to say something after seeing one too many newspaper fluff pieces, especially those that include ignorant quotes from people who should know better:

Following Hurricane Iniki, there were two food banks on Kauai, said Rep. James Tokioka. One left, while the other, through the support of the community, remained.

Here's what really happened.

First, there was the Hawaii Food Bank (HFB), which was founded on Oahu in 1983. It expanded to Maui and Hawaii Island, and then came to Kauai in 1992 to assist after Hurricane Iniki.

In 1994, HFB helped set up a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization so Kauai could have its own food bank, like the other islands. It was called the Kauai Foodbank. HFB provided the Kauai start-up with grant funding, equipment, a warehouse lease and food. Over the years, HFB continued to support KFB with food and money, along with Maui and Hawaii Island.
HFB became aware that KFB had engaged in financial irregularities that jeopardized the Feeding America contract — the major source of food for food banks nationwide — for the entire state. In 2009, HFB officers — acting as Feeding America auditors — attempted to conduct a financial and operations audit of KFB. But they were stopped at the door by KFB staff and barred from completing their audit.

To protect the Feeding America contract, HFB completely severed its ties with Kauai Foodbank in 2010. KFB renamed itself the Kauai Independent Food Bank (KIFB). The KIFB board of directors eventually dumped executive director Judith Lenthall, but not before she talked a lot of shit, like how HFB had abandoned Kauai and “left us with debt” and “no food.” As I noted previously, and as these documents show, that is entirely false.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also ended its contract with KIFB, as did Feeding America. Ultimately, KIFB was ordered to repay $779,393 to the state, and thousands more to the feds, because it had misused grant funds.
Meanwhile, in July 2010, HFB opened the Hawaii Foodbank – Kauai Branch in a modern new warehouse in Puhi. HFB wanted to ensure that needy Kauai residents would continue to get food, and it is mandated by its Feeding America contract to serve all four counties. 

Nearly all the food wholesalers and grocery stores on Kauai (Times/Big Save, Foodland, Safeway, Walmart, Kmart, Meadow Gold, Koa Trading, HFA, etc.), have chosen to donate their merchandise only to HFB-Kauai. Costco, shockingly, throws away everything but its baked goods.

Furthermore, HFB-Kauai is the sole conduit for the essential food support provided by the USDA and Feeding America. This is important, because if there's another hurricane, emergency supplies from those agencies will be distributed through HFB-Kauai only.

The churches, nonprofit organizations and other groups that run the major food pantries that distribute food directly to the needy also have aligned with HFB-Kauai.

Why? Because they are getting more food — 1,023,424 pounds in 2013, to be exact — and much better food from HFB-Kauai than was ever available at KIFB. Some of the church pantries were also repelled by KIFB's unethical business practices.

In a letter to the editor of TGI, the largest food pantries on Kauai explained why they had chosen HFB-Kauai over the KIFB:

HFB-Kauai has had an extremely positive impact on our food pantries since it opened its own Puhi warehouse in July 2010. We now have a steady, dependable source of quality food. We can always get fresh fruits and vegetables, along with dairy products, meats, canned foods and other packaged items.

Meanwhile, our costs have gone down dramatically because HFB-Kauai does not charge us for juice, dairy and many other items. HFB-Kauai also does regular “ohana drops” that distribute thousands of pounds of free food.

Since the agencies split in 2010, KIFB has been focusing on straightening out its legal problems and repaying its misused funds. Though it serves few beyond its school backpack program, it continues to promote a public charade that it's feeding the hungry, while using your cash donations to buy food at Costco. The Garden Island perpetuates the myth by constantly running publicity photos for KIFB.

Unfortunately, KIFB staff continue to talk stink and spread lies, like HFB collects money and food on Kauai and sends it to Oahu. In fact, the reverse is true. ALL food and money collected on Kauai stays here and is fortunately augmented by Oahu, because it's not enough to meet the growing demand.

Meanwhile, in the real world, HFB-Kauai Branch is doing ALL the heavy lifting in this community. It supplies nearly all the food that is distributed to the hungry on Kauai — an effort that is subsidized by Oahu. Real gratitude is due the Board of Directors and administration of HFB-Oahu for their commitment to Kauai.

KIFB manages to limp along only because Kauai folks have misplaced loyalty to the KIFB staff and board, and an unwarranted distrust of Oahu. Kauai residents are wasting precious resources by continuing to support an agency that is horribly inefficient and will never again be able to operate a viable food warehouse.

I'm sorry to be so blunt, folks, but when it comes to KIFB, you've been thoroughly tricked. KIFB is a ghost, with no substance or solidity. So quit rewarding its bad behavior by giving it treats, like money and food! Instead, help pick up the slack and donate to HawaiiFoodbank – Kauai Branch, where it will do the most good for the needy in this community.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Musings: "Red Shirt" Repeal

Kauai Councilmen Mel Rapozo and Ross Kagawa will introduce a bill to repeal Ordinance 960 — the county's controversial pesticide/GMO regulatory law — at the first Council meeting after the election.

Proposed Bill 2562 calls for repealing the hotly contested law from the county code. It's scheduled for first reading on the Nov. 5 Council agenda, which was just posted this afternoon.

In their communication submitting the proposed bill, Ross and Mel thank the Council in advance for its "thoughtful discussion of the matter."

Though Ordinance 960 was overturned by a federal court order, the Council voted to appeal the decision in court. Meanwhile, the county is enjoined from implementing the law, which imposed buffer zone and restricted use pesticide disclosure requirements on four seed companies and Kauai Coffee.

Proposed Bill 2562 would wipe the law off the books, rendering the appeal process essentially moot. Because even if it was upheld on appeal, the law would no longer exist.

Mel and Ross, who scored first and second, respectively, in the primary are assured of re-election. The only question now is whether voters will give them a majority to ensure passage of their repeal bill.

Police Chief and Council candidate Darryl Perry, meanwhile, issued a silly press release warning parents to inspect trick or treat bags for “marijuana-laced candies.” Though Darryl did acknowledge “it's highly unlikely that a child on Kaua‘i will receive this candy,” KPD just couldn't resist “reminding residents that it is illegal to consume non-medicinal marijuana in Hawaii.”

Yes, Chief, we know. And we won't forget to inspect the candy apples for razor blades, either.

Musings: Critical Thinking

Critical thinking skills — or more precisely, their pronounced lack among so many politicians and political movements — came up in two separate conversations the other day.

And then, as serendipity would have it, someone left this comment on the “Dustin's Dirty Deeds” post, which included photographs of anti-GMO graffiti on Maui:

This isnt the first time people who are actually trying to protect the Aina (Land) and do something good are being slandered in the media. Wake up people! These groups like The shaka movement are the only people who are trying to save our islands from being controlled by these large corporations. from a 90's baby im saying we see through all your lies. When our lands being destroyed with poison that "graffitti" [sic] or vandalism is a form of revolution against the chemicals and harm done to our islands every day!

So in other words, you buy chemical spray paint made by the chem companies you're fighting, use it to deface something in your own community, throw the cans in the bushes, do a mobile upload from your sweatshop-made smart phone to corporate-owned Facebook and proclaim Viva la revoluciĆ³n!

And people wonder why things don't change....

Dylan Hooser showed his own lack of critical thinking when he left this comment on a Facebook post by Luke Evslin that lamented the $568,000 spent on the Kauai election and how that money surely could've been put to better use:

I agree ‪Luke. It would be nice to take the money out of politics. How about the $6.3 million spent on Maui by Monsanto & Dow. Pretty crazy amount of money to spend. Sounds like it'll be closer to $8 million once they are done.

Yes, the chem/ag giants did raise a record $7.9 million in their bid to stop the crazy — and likely illegal — Maui initiative, which would impose hefty fines for the cultivation of a single GMO papaya tree and bring biotech seed production to a screeching halt, putting some 850 people out of work.

You might be tempted to spend millions, too, to protect your investment and your future production, as well as an industry that the Maui Chamber of Commerce estimates generates $85 million a year for that county, with nothing in line to take its place should it fall.

Ashley Lukens, the Hawaii director of the mainland-based Center for Food Safety, which spent at least $15,000 to promote the Maui initiative, demonstrated her lack of critical thinking when she falsely claimed the companies could've done a comprehensive EIS and health study for just $500,000 (ya, right) and made this comment to Hawaii News Now:

"What's happening to our democratic process such that mainland corporations can dedicate unlimited amounts to county-level politics?" asked Lukens.

What's happening, Ashley, is that mainland political advocacy groups disguised as nonprofit corporations, like Center for Food Safety and Pesticide Action Network, came to Hawaii to wage an international battle and manipulate local politics. And this big-spending is just more of the ugly fallout.

Meanwhile, Ashley donated to Baby Hoos' own failed bid for the state House, as did GMO opponents Laurel Brier (“red shirt” leader Andrea Brower's mom), Chris Kobayashi, Joan Porter and Judith Shabert, even though none them even live in his district. And then there was $525 from Papa Gary and $2,000 from some group called COPE that Dylan's campaign report still hasn't identified with an address.

If you want to take money out of politics, Dylan, why not start with yourself, or at least stick to accepting donations from your prospective constituents? But it's always and only the other guy that's "bad"

Papa Gary, meanwhile, took $2,000 from Anne Getty Earhart — California heiress to the J. Paul Getty oil fortune — in the latest example of mainland oil money coming into the local anti-GMO campaign.

Yet due to their lack of critical thinking, the anti-GMO crowd has never questioned why mainland groups, upscale Hawaii Realtors and the scions of big oil are supporting their cause. Mmm, doncha think they might want something in return for all that dough? And how is that folks are still supporting Center for Food Safety when it authored the Kauai GMO/pesticide regulatory bill that got thrown out of court? Hello!

Gary has been spending large on Facebook ads, which provide a very distorted picture of his supposed supporters. Here I am, falsely shown as endorsing him, when he knows darn well I totally oppose his candidacy:
Yes, why would you choose da Hoos when he has lied to voters and divided the county for his own political gain?

Gary's own organization, HAPA, has yet to file any reports on the source of its money, or how it's spent, but its actions have been focused on political advocacy to a degree that seems to exceed what is allowed for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Careful, Gary. People are watching.

Mayoral candidate Dustin Barca, meanwhile, appears to be soliciting donations for the Maui initiative via his own campaign, which is clearly not allowed under the Hawaii campaign spending law:
And in looking through Dustin's various campaign reports, there's no mention of who funded his slick media stuff (website setup and maintenance, videos, TV commercial production, graphic design, etc.) and the catamaran sail with his campaign logo, just as there's no disclosure of his two-minute video competition, with all kinds of swag donated by different companies.

Interestingly, both Council candidate Felicia Cowden and Gary took donations from Patricia Hanwright — one of the landowners accused of blocking the “ala loa” at Lepeuli (Larsen's) Beach. Guess anti-GMO trumps public access? And though Felicia's campaign report shows total receipts of $51,000, she claimed in a TGI comment:

I wish I had raised $51,000, but my numbers are nowhere near that. Thanks for the heads up on a mistake that might be in the official books. Reporting is complicated. The spending is so high, because my signs and banners come down about as soon as they go up on the south and west sides.

Thank god people didn't blow $51,000 on her doomed-to-fail candidacy. But if you can't keep your own campaign records straight, Felicia, it doesn't speak well to your future budgeting abilities as a Councilwoman.

Still, it's too bad that candidates on both sides of the GMO debate have reported vandalism and theft of their signs. It's yet another indication of the divisiveness and polarization that is still tearing Kauai apart, nearly a year after the passage of Bill 2491. 

And no doubt the intense sentiments it has fueled will influence the general election results.

For evidence, all you have to do is look at the whopping $80,140 that pro-ag, first-time Council candidate Arryl Kaneshiro raised — nearly all of it on-island.

"Do you think we're going to end up with a pro-development Council?" a friend texted.

I had to stop for a moment to think of who might even be considered anti-development these days. Certainly not Gary and Councilman Tim Bynum, with their bid to pull 23,000 acres out of ag dedication and tax it at market value, or Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, with her "bright line" amendment to the shoreline bill, which would make it easier to develop on rocky coastlines, which are pretty much all that's left.

"I don't know where any of their heads are at any more," I texted back.

"It's all so complicated," emailed another friend, trying to make sense of the possible allegiances and power blocs that could form with a serious shake-up on the Council. "Is anyone worth voting for besides mom and apple pie?"

Guess that depends. Who's your mama? And is the pie GMO or organic?

I know it's tough, and every candidate has flaws, but put on your critical thinking caps, folks, and vote for the candidates you believe truly have the best interests of Kauai, and not themselves, at heart. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Musings: Who is Arthur Brun?

People have been asking me about Council candidate Arthur Brun – who he is and what he's all about, beyond his campaign signs, which one friend described as “tasteful.”

Until recently, my only encounter with Arthur was at the July 21, 2010, Council hearing on the bill to allow vacation rentals on ag land. Though nearly everyone in attendance was a well-heeled North Shore resident trying to justify their illegal use of farm land, Arthur was a voice from the westside, and one of the few (along with Mel Rapozo) who spoke in opposition, testifying:

This bill is wrong. What about the local families that had farm land for generations and followed the law? You’re making our families that followed the law suffer. I don’t think you should be punishing the people who followed the law.

But that's exactly what the Council did when it passed Tim Bynum's bill and rewarded the scofflaws by opening up the permitting process only to those who had been operating illegally. In the process, they screwed everyone who had never started a TVR because they were against the law, forever denying them that source of lucrative revenue.

I later learned Arthur had been speaking strictly on principle, since he comes from the branch of the Brun family that owns no land, and that impressed me.

Then I got an anonymous comment from someone who said Arthur had been convicted of theft in 2002 and family abuse in 2004. Public court records confirmed the report, so I contacted Arthur to ask what it was all about.

I got nothing to hide,” he said. “I did what I did. I made some bad choices in life, but I shaped up and moved on.”

Arthur, like so many young men on this island, had a serious run-in with crystal meth — the epidemic that is destroying countless human beings on this island, and which I consider a far more serious, real and far-reaching threat than pesticide applications.

I went down to ground zero,” he said. And then he pulled himself back up.

Arthur spent 10 days in jail, paid full restitution of $14,000 and healed the relationship with his girlfriend, who is now his wife. “I've been clean for like 10 years now,” he said.

I recently wrote a little about my own encounters with family abuse, which I experienced first in my childhood home, where my father was an alcoholic, and later with a husband, and then a boyfriend. Both of them were local boys who got deep into ice. I saw first hand how it ravaged lives, the toll it was taking on generations of mostly local men, many of whom lost their jobs, their families, their homes, their freedom and sometimes, their minds and lives.

Ice is the most insidious, addictive, destructive drug I've ever seen. Only a very few of the users I knew ever got out of the spin, the downward spiral. Sadly, my two exes never did.

So I have to hand it to Arthur for having the strength and courage to get off the shit, pull his life together, accept responsibility for choices, make amends to those he'd wronged, get a job and take care of his family.

But it didn't just stop there. Arthur has gone into the schools to give anti-drug talks, and when Anahola had a spate of youth suicides a few years back, he and Mel went out and talked to the kids. He also coaches youth sports.

I'm not proud of what I did, but if I can help other people, that's what I want to do,” he said.

Arthur is a strong advocate for opening adult drug and alcohol rehab centers on island. In fact, that's the number one platform of his campaign. “We have to deal with the adults,” he said, “because they're the ones who are bringing the dope onto the island.”

In his job as third-party coordinator for Syngenta, where he hires and manages the seasonal field workers, Arthur also has employed KCCC inmates in the work-release program, helping them get ready for life when they're released from jail.

So to me, Arthur's past is not a strike against him. He took responsibility for his misdeeds, instead of making excuses, and he's trying to help others. If he can be a positive role model for local guys, and help this island get a handle on the ice epidemic, well, that would be one helluva contribution.

But what about his job with Syngenta? I asked Arthur whether he was in a position to influence its activities, in terms of buffer zones and pesticide use. He's not. I then asked if his employer would be in a position to influence him, if he's elected to Council.

No,” he said. “I don't think they could influence me. I just gotta do what is right for the people of Kauai. If we do things that are illegal, I want to know, because I want to live here for the rest of my life. I'm not blinded by them.”

In fact, his children were attending Waimea Canyon School a few years back when the reports came in of students getting sick. Though some continue to blame pesticides, the state fingered stink weed, and Arthur agrees.

We didn't spray,” Arthur said. “I'd had my crew out there pulling stink weed, and we laid it on the ground and the smell came out a couple of days later.”

His children still attend school near the seed fields in Kekaha.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Musings: So Special

Though Kauai likes to think of itself as “special,” its dramas are so often a microcosm of what's playing out in a larger arena.

That reality came to mind when I read the recent article about how a group of southsiders are threatening a lawsuit to stop Hawaii Dairy Farms, a pilot project funded by billionaire Pierre Omidyar.

The article was published right after a friend who disagrees with me on Bill 2491 emailed to say:

Why not grow food without chemicals? That’s a great “experiment” which could employ people healthfully. Could employ people in healthy environments. Have the government subsidize this experiment and employ people.  The experiments can be funded by grants…….

So here we have an uber-rich guy, ready to fund a test project to see if milk can be produced cost-effectively in Hawaii using a rotational pasture method as an alternative to feedlots, employing people in a healthy environment, creating a stable new market for locally-grown feed, which is otherwise entirely imported, and what happens? It gets rejected before one cow even sets hoof on the island.

Surfrider and Friends of Mahaulepu, yet another new group formed in opposition to something, claim the dairy is already polluting the area, though it hasn't yet started operations. Friends member Bridget Hammerquist is quoted as saying:

They’re going to create a health hazard. It’s going to go into the streams. It already is.

Though it's not clear exactly what “it” is, since no dairy cows are on site, Surfrider's Carl Berg maintains the dairy has “already polluted the stream while doing its grading and grubbing on the land.” When I asked what he based that on, he replied: “Water sampling for bacteria, turbidity, total suspended solids, and nutrients at mouth of stream and just downstream of HDF property.”

In other words, it's not just the dairy that's bothering the groups, it's any agricultural activity at all. Because no matter what is grown or raised on that land, some grubbing and grading will be required. And that's a crucial point, since the dairy is proposed for acreage designated as Important Ag Land. The Mahaulepu site is an area where community members and elected officials agreed, after extensive public deliberation and discussion, that agriculture should be preserved for perpetuity.

But now we have people who chose to buy homes near an active agricultural area, saying no, we don't want any ag near us. Their sentiments are expressed by Jay Kechloian, who is quoted as saying:

Friends of Mahaulepu is pro agriculture and pro sustainable dairy on Kauai as long as it does not harm our environment — rivers, streams and oceans — and endanger our drinking water.

But even though their rhetoric is pro-ag/pro-dairy, their actions are anti-ag/anti-dairy — to the point of eying a lawsuit against HDF even though the dairy has not yet been approved by the state Department of Health, much less begun operations. They are launching a pre-emptive attack based on fear and speculation — the same tactics that proved so effective in the Bill 2491 GMO/pesticide debate.

It's clear that Surfrider and Friends of Mahaulepu alone want to dictate what sort of agriculture is acceptable and sustainable. And garans, no agricultural operation will ever be clean or sustainable enough to suit them.

Meanwhile, there's this weird dichotomy with the tourism industry that has inserted itself into ag and coastal lands throughout the island, especially on the southside. For some reason, tourism is getting a free pass from Surfrider, Friends and GMO Free Kauai. 

This giant disconnect is blithely expressed by Linda Bothe — a Kalaheo resident and Dustin Barca supporter — in a letter to the editor today:

We are also dealing with some elected officials’ “brilliant idea” to put a polluting, smelly dairy on sacred grounds that lead right to the ocean. Also, right next door to one of our beautiful hotels that brings in tourism and with that income and jobs. Who is going to benefit from this huge mistake? Some elected leader is putting a lot of moo-la in their pocket, is my guess.

First, the dairy is not the “brilliant idea” of any elected official, but Omidyar's Ulu Pono Initiative — the same organization that has given money to greenie groups like Waipa [correction, Waipa has not been funded by Ulu Pono] and Malama Kauai. Since Omidyar doesn't even care if the dairy makes a profit, the ones who are intended to benefit are Hawaii residents who could buy fresh milk, instead of stuff imported thousands of miles from the mainland.

And why is it that Linda and others are bothered by the idea of a dairy “on sacred grounds that lead right to the ocean” but not a 600-room luxury hotel that is much closer to the ocean, with a sewage treatment plant in the flood zone, extensively manicured grounds, a golf course and numerous pools? If she believes the dairy will pollute the water, how is that she thinks the pesticides, sewage, chlorinated water and fertilizers associated with the Hyatt are not?

So if Linda, Surfrider, Friends of Mahaulepu and Malama Mahaulepu — whose board of directors includes GMO Free Kauai/Hawaii Seed President Jeri DiPietro — are successful in destroying HDF, and preventing Grove Farm from using even its IAL acreage for agriculture, what will come next?

You got it: more hotels and luxury homes, with their concurrent sewage, pesticide treatment, fertilized landscaping, etc. What's more, with the shoreline setback bill now under review, these uses wouldn't even need to go through a shoreline certification, since they'd be built on a rocky cliff. So they could be hanging right on the edge of those lovely limestone cliffs, with their sewage and chemicals seeping down into the water.

Is this a good trade-off? Are the dairy opponents aware of this? Or is this yet another example of how the anti-GMO folks are actually actively working to destroy agriculture in order to facilitate development?

Returning to the threatened lawsuit, and what's playing out in a larger arena, I recently read a piece about how 21 residents of a small New Mexico town have brought a nuisance lawsuit against “dairy row” — a string of feedlot dairies in the southern part of the state.

They are unhappy with the odor and flies they attribute to the dairy, but their legal action was prompted by a Georgia attorney, Richard Middleton, who specializes in agricultural nuisance lawsuits. Middletown — a new kind of ambulance chaser — came to the town, soliciting plaintiffs, after hearing one resident complain on NPR about flies.

Curiously, though all the dairies ostensibly produce flies and odors, only seven of the dozen or so that operate there are being sued. Perhaps because they've been identified as deep pockets? At any rate, a mediation session is set for Dec. 11.

If successful, it could avoid a trial,” says Middleton, the residents’ attorney, “But we can walk away if there’s not sufficient money offered.” He declined to offer a figure that he was looking for, but added, “I’ve learned over the years that you have to hit [dairies] in the pocketbook.” Middleton’s been doing this kind of work since 1999 and says he’s seen some dairies clean up their operations while others have folded or moved.

Some of the plaintiffs want the dairies to leave, believing their town of about 1,000 people in one of the nation's poorest states will attract new industry. Others don't care because they're retired. And some, it seems, will tolerate smell and flies if they have money in their pocket, their friends, family and neighbors be damned.

But what really struck me about all this were the options: clean up, fold or move. If they fold, that's one less producer of the local food that everyone is clamoring for. If they move, it's someone else's problem. If they clean up, then maybe everyone benefits — except lawyers engaged in this ag extortion racket.

So instead of trying to destroy HDF (or the seed companies), or send them somewhere that's out of sight, out of mind, why not work with the agricultural entities to address real and legitimate concerns? Why not come at it from a place of, let's see what's possible? Instead of no, it's absolutely impossible —  at least, in my backyard?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Musings: Dustin's Dirty Deeds

Gosh, The Garden Island actually did some investigating and came up with a scoop: mayoral candidate Dustin Barca declared bankruptcy to avoid a $2 million judgment for cutting a guy's face in a bar brawl.

Unfortunately, Dustin confirms his immaturity and low morals by refusing to take any responsibility for the attack. He's chock full of excuses: he was never charged, it was an “unfortunate incident,” people are trying to make him “look bad,” everybody wants to focus on his thuggish past “when there is so much to work for in our future.”

And then he tells a giant, crybaby whopper: his bankruptcy was due to “a 22-year-old kid with $70,000 in hospital bills for appendicitis and dehydration” — not a judgment won by Patrick Gray, the guy who required 40 sutures after Dustin beaned him with a cocktail glass. 

Mmmm, then how come Dustin's bankruptcy papers claim $2,023,034 in liabilities, including just $23,000 for medical bills and $2 million in an unsecured claim to Gray?

For a guy who claims to be on a mission from God, he sure talks a lot of shit.

Which brings us to this statement, which proves just how ignorant Dustin is:

Economic sustainability is tourism.

Huh? What, exactly, is sustainable about tourism, either environmentally or economically?

You have 8 million people flying, via carbon-producing airlines, to the Islands each year. Then they cruise around in rental cars and tour buses, producing more emissions. They all must eat, requiring the state to import tons of food, and they're meanwhile consuming fresh water for their showers and toilets. They're using electricity generated primarily by imported fossil fuels, producing sewage the Islands are ill-equipped to treat and generating mountains of rubbish for over-taxed landfills. They're staying in hotels that consume lots of natural resources or vacation rentals that impact neighborhoods. Their accommodations and golf courses are heavily treated with pesticides to keep them bug-free and beautiful.

Virtually everything they require — aside from the waning “aloha spirit” — is imported. In return, they produce nothing of value, though they do spend money. However, a lot of that cash leaves the state and goes to corporations based elsewhere. So how is that any more sustainable than the seed companies Dustin rails against? Why isn't he demanding an EIS on tourism and its impacts?

I loved this:

“People will do anything to smear your name,” Barca said.

You mean like all those nasty, unfounded social media attacks you and your “red-shirt” pals engaged in against Mayor Carvalho and biotech employees, Dustin? The ones that are still being leveled against folks on Maui, where your anti-GMO campaign is now focused?

Yeah, that's how Dustin and the “red-shirts” and the “fistees” roll. And he and Councilman Gary Hooser can't claim they're not complicit. Shoots,they're participating in today's rally on behalf of the SHAKA movement, which has engaged in hate speech, death threats, criminal property damage and vandalism throughout Maui and Molokai.
I keep waiting for all the good people in the movement, the decent folk who still support Gary and Dustin, to say something —anything — against the ugliness. How can you support candidates who condone such actions? Doesn't it bother you guys enough to speak up? 

But so far, just crickets…. 

Meanwhile, that master manipulator of social media, Center for Food Safety, is ironically participating in a “teach-in” on “Techno-Utopianism and the Fate of the Earth”in New York City this weekend. Andrew Kimbrell, the same guy who joined Vandana Shiva in rallying Kauai folks to kick out the seed companies, is giving two talks: The End of Market Capitalism? and Genetic Redesign of Human Beings.

Koohan Paik — remember her from the Kauai Superferry days? — is in charge of “technology” for the event. Ironically, her hubby, Jerry Mander, will be speaking on Questions We Should Have Asked About Technology.

You mean like why it's OK for you guys to use it for propaganda and deception, but everyone else is suspect?

Good old Vandana is on the program, too, collecting her big speaking fee:
So let's see, if Hawaii Seed/GMO-Free Kauai brought Vandana here twice, via business class, with hotels and entourage, that's like a cool $100,000 they plunked down just for that particular piece of propaganda. And you thought this was a poor little David vs Goliath grassroots movement!


Or to quote old Dustin hisself:


Would somebody please give the guy a mirror?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Musings: Final Stretch

It's coming down to the final stretch of the campaign season — thankfully — and candidates are keen to get their names and messages out there.

But sometimes they're too cryptic, like this postcard, mailed first class from St. Paul, Minn. Who sent it? Who is it for? KipuKai and Arryl? An overall pitch to get out the vote for Council? Poor Eddie, the way his name is used without his consent. And in this case, exactly where would Eddie go?
Plus what's up with the chicken, and the “sistah” reference? Bizarre.
Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, meanwhile, chose to propose a tax increase to fund the Kauai Bus. As a friend noted in an email:

Is Joann trying NOT to get reelected? Don’t they teach you on the first day of class at Politician School that you shouldn’t be talking about raising taxes – certainly not the SALES tax – 2 weeks before an election? And especially not for something as lame as the Kauai Bus which is really … lame … speaking as someone who has actually ridden it. Bad enough their tinkering with the property tax formula — not just in an election year but in the DAYS before an election – but now JY jumps into the act with more ideas on taking money away?

Ya gotta wonder....

Speaking of public transportation, I see Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. has launched the North Shore shuttle, something that's been talked about for how long now? It's just his way of telling NS voters, hey, I still care about you guys, even though you did call me the birth defects mayor for vetoing that illegal Bill 2491, and then compounded the insult by backing that kook who's running against me.

Which leads us to Dustin Barca. If you're still undecided about the guy, just check out his Facebook pages. I mean, I can understand if you don't want Bernard. But to actually support Dustin? Yikes. Here's a spooky sample of where that guy's head is at, in all his CAP LOCK screaming glory:

THE GMO FIGHT IN HAWAII-KAUA'I,OAHU,MOLOKA'I, MAUI AND THE BIG ISLAND IS ABOUT POISON NOT FOOD!! IT'S A HUMAN HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH ISSUE!!! THIS IS ABOUT OUR KEIKI AND AINA!! WE are the Root of a Worldwide Problem. WE are THIS IS TERRORISM! Blocking US the Tax Paying People By Suing Every County For Protecting OURselves From 6 Times More Poison Per Acre than Anywhere in America!

Yes, Dustin, you and your fellow “fistees” are indeed the root of a worldwide problem. It's called ignorance.


Ya know, Dustin, ya might just want to stick to surf stuff, cause your unification (and punctuation) skills really suck.

In Kaua'i, Our Aquifers are contaminated by Large Ag. Restricted use Pesticides like Atrazine and TCP

Mmmm, really, Dustin? Like which ones, exactly? And are you talking to the wealthy Californians who are funding your campaign, or just Californians in general?

After the Ebola plane landed on Kauai for a Navy mission, Dustin linked to an article that claims Monsanto created the Ebola virus so it could make money on an Ebola vaccine it developed with the Department of Defense. The article ended, aptly, with this sentence: “There’s just something wrong with this whole picture.”

Ya think? But Dustin swallowed it hook, line and sinker, posting:

Airport is NOT shut down? Department of health didn't even know about this when we called this morning? WTH IS GOING ON?!?!!

Mahana Mari, one of his conspiracy theorist followers, had the answer:

quite the "coincidence" that the top Monsanto executives and the Ebola plane are on Kaua'i at the same time...

Oh, yes, quite. This was my favorite, though:


Well, he's certainly right about that one....

Which leads me past Dustin and on to Councilman Gary Hooser. Remember EPHIS, the Environment and Public Health Impact Study that Nadine Nakamura and JoAnn actually authored? The one that was supposed to figure out just how poisoned all the westsiders actually are? The one that was supposed to give them answers, and then some relief?

Well, the resolution that authorized that study was approved separately from Bill 2491, which meant it could have stood on its own. But Gary, in his infinite wisdom, absolutely insisted that it be wrapped into Bill 2491. And it was.

So when Bill 2491 was struck down, EPHIS was, too. That's right, folks. If it weren't for Gary, the EPHIS would already be under way, shepherded by the Council. Instead, it's dead, and the Administration and Department of Health are pursuing a much narrower study.

Way to go, Gary! Kind of makes you wonder, yet again, who he's really working for.

But it seems no matter how badly Gary blows it, he just can't shake the faith of his “red shirt” followers, as evidenced by the GMO-Free Kauai “voters guide.” Seems they're back at it after a hard-earned “activist vacation.” Cause it's just so exhausting to be in a constant state of agitated alarm, not to mention the stress of flitting between islands and posting bullshit on Facebook round the clock. Here's their slate:

Mayor: Dustin Barca. County Council: Gary Hooser, Tim Bynum, Mason Chock, Felicia Cowden, Tiana Laranio.

A friend likened the current polarization over GMOs to the conflict in the Middle East, and it seems a reasonable comparison. Personally, I blame the "red-shirts" and "fistees" — I know some folks have complained about those labels, but truly, you brought them upon yourselves — for launching a war before they even tried diplomacy.

Still, it's possible that one day Kauai, and the rest of Hawaii, may be able to heal the wounds, bridge the divide. I'm not at all confident, though, in part because people like Gary — the original fistee fomenter — and Dustin — a fighter by trade — are just itching to keep the conflict alive:
Perhaps the place to start is by replacing — and rejecting — politicians who are an impediment to peace.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Musings: On My Critics, Round 2

Yesterday's post, where I asked why good people in the anti-GMO movement hadn't stood up against the jackboot behavior of their cohorts, prompted this comment from Ed Coll:

You say you have no soft soft spot for the chem/seed companies yet the bulk of your criticism is aimed at the anti-movement. Where is the balance? You decry “the promulgation of misinformation” by the anti-movement and do a great job pointing such misinformation out but fail to point out the misinformation of the chem/seed companies. Likewise you analyze funding sources and amounts the anti-movement spends but not the spending and lobbying of the chem/seed companies. No mention of the historical relationship between HICA and UH-CTAHR, the projects and research members of HICA fund at CTAHR or how such funding might influence what is researched, or how much HICA pays Becker Communications to churn out propaganda, or how much Jon Entine and Karl Haro von Mogel were paid and by whom. You also stress “voluntary disclosure” as if the fox guarding the hen house has ever been good for the chickens. No mention of how the FDA has been a captive agency since 1977 and has failed to regulate the use of antibiotics on feed animals perhaps resulting in antibiotic resistance in humans.

While it is valid to criticize the uncivil, stumbling, bumbling mis-steps of local "activists" and their "leaders" how about looking into the misdeeds of corporate and government actors as well. You seem to be always aiming at David and giving Goliath a free pass.

I want to respond to that comment in a post, because it's a criticism that others with ideological blinders and short memories have levied, too. And it's pure bullshit.

For nearly a decade I wrote frequently about the seed/chem companies in Hawaii, primarily for the Honolulu Weekly. I was the first journalist to cover the issue in any depth in Hawaii, and the first to write about it for a mainstream Hawaii publication — Honolulu Magazine. I wrote about biopharmaceuticals cultivated in Hawaii, minimal state oversight, federal dominance, the appointment of industry officials to federal agencies, the state's efforts to attract biotech, the industry's support for UH research.

My reporting earned me the ire of the chem companies, most notably Pioneer's Cindy Goldstein, who tried to publicly discredit me, rallying some UH biotech researchers to her cause. My work, which I thought was important for the public's right to know, cost me assignments with Hawaii publications that didn't want to risk alienating advertisers because I was too hot to handle. The general public, meanwhile, didn't seem much interested.

During the seven years of writing this blog, I've continued my research, writing extensively about pesticides and genetic engineering, the cozy relationship between regulators and all industry, the problems associated with using antibiotics on livestock, stressors on pollinators, etc., etc. I've covered countless local and international environmental issues, as well as the misdeeds of numerous “government actors,” most notably former Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri.

As recently as a year ago I was still castigating the seed/chem companies, though by that time I had begun to realize that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Or to paraphrase, I had come to understand that the anti-GMO movement in Hawaii — and pretty much all the environmental movements, too — was not a David fighting Goliath, not an underdog, not in any way pono.

My disenchantment began in early 2013, when the Vandana Shiva circus came to town, and I realized somebody was pumping a whole bunch of money into what had been a tepid, powerless movement. Simultaneously, but not coincidentally, Councilman Gary Hooser began drafting Bill 2491, ignoring those of us who cautioned against overreach and including GMOs.

Meanwhile, I was investigating and writing the Abuse Chronicles series, in which I catalogued the systemic failure of a Kauai County regulatory process involving vacation rentals. I saw clearly, as did the entire County Council and Administration, the problems that can arise when government is unwilling or unable to enforce the law.

So when I asked Gary about enforcement of his pesticide/GMO bill, and he replied that enforcement didn't matter, all that mattered was getting the bill passed, I knew that he and outside influences were using Kauai to wage a bigger battle, and that our community was going to suffer.

I began digging around with the help of an akamai friend. We soon saw how much of the environmental movement is funded by the same corporations they claim to be fighting. We saw the ugly totalitarian tactics embraced by people we thought were progressives. We saw reasonable folks embrace a wild disinformation campaign. We saw activists intentionally stir up fear with absolutely no basis in fact. We saw the movement swell with people who were either new to the island, or paid instigators, like Nomi Carmona and Jennifer Ruggles.

I saw the intense pain they were causing by the attacks they were leveling on longtime farmers and local people trying to work in ag, and how they were undermining all agriculture with their short-sighted stance. Sadly, I saw folks who I thought were good people either stand by and say nothing about the ugliness, or join in the fray.

After watching the mob action that resulted in the passage of a badly flawed bill, and the deceptive Council shenanigans that led to Mason Chock's appointment to override the mayor's veto, I realized I was covering what my journalism professors had termed a “man bites dog” story.

In other words, what began to interest me was not the usual bad deeds of corporations, but the bad deeds of the so-called “good guys” — the folks whose rhetoric speaks to love, peace, aloha and progressive tolerance, but whose actions reveal them to be rabid fanatics who will stop at nothing to promote their cause.

What's more, they were so deluded, or stupid, they didn't even know they were being funded by the heirs of big oil and manufacturing,  that they were engaged in seed gathering activities exactly of the sort that had resulted in the collection of the Seed Savers Exchange being sent to the vaults at Svalbard — a seed bank funded by Dow, Syngenta, Bill Gates and the Rockefeller Foundation, with treaties that allow that genetic material to be patented — that they were pushing a bill that gave the industry exactly what it wanted: a clear court ruling that solidified the state's pre-emption.

They didn't even see they were being played as fools by Gary and all the other political ideologues who don't give a shit about what's right, but are driven instead by ego, power and their allegiance to forces other than their constituents.

As my friend wrote in comments yesterday: "When the anti side achieves what the chem corp wants, we need to question."

I began to question all the premises I'd previously held, all the slack I'd previously cut activists because I believed them to be on the side of good. Because when the “good guys” are using the same tactics as the “bad guys,” they can no longer claim moral superiority. With the sympathetic blinders off, I began to see that many of the activists I'd been covering for years are narcissists who love conflict and drama, and have no desire to solve problems or reach resolutions. I came to realize that lawyers I'd previously admired, like Paul Achitoff of Earthjustice, lie and deceive just like their opponents, and have a financial incentive to keep the litigation going.

Along the way, I also began to change my views about biotech. It isn't all evil, all bad. Decent people with lofty aims are devoting their lives to this research, believing it can do good. It shouldn't be shut down because of the false beliefs of ignorant fanatics. I've come to suspect that GMO labeling initiatives aren't driven by the "right to know," but an attempt to instill fear in order to build market share for organic producers. And I've learned that organic farming isn't environmentally benign, and it has its corporate backers, too.

It's all very complicated, and it's all intertwined. What's more, we're all complicit. It's mad foolishness to be blaming the corporations for our woes when we're all buying their products, helping their bottom line. And there isn't one activist, one true believer, who can honestly claim he or she is pure. I'm sick and tired of watching phonies claim the moral high ground.

So don't be dinging me for not bashing the “bad guys” enough. Been there, done that. There's a reason why I'm now banging on the “good guys." I'm hoping that some of you in that camp will open your eyes and see. But given the response to yesterday's post, denial and self-righteous is still rampant.

This is where I'm at these days, with a nod to Dave Mason: There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys; there ain't no us, there ain't no them. There are only different belief systems, some rigid, some fluid. Some people cling doggedly to their beliefs, while others — including several in the Kauai political arena — exploit them for nefarious purposes.

But that doesn't change this one absolute truth: We're all in this together. And the sooner we realize that, and step away from our respective camps, the sooner we'll start working to create a better world. Until then it's just war driven by the false belief of separation.