Friday, January 30, 2015

Musings: Facts and Fancy

A joint fact-finding process intended to gather and evaluate data on GMOs and related pesticides on Kauai has officially begun, with yesterday's announcement of the panelists invited to serve.

They are Adam Asquith, Lee Evslin, Gerardo Rojas Garcia, Sarah Styan, Kathleen West-Hurd, Douglas Wilmore, Kawika Winter, Louisa Wooton and Roy Yamakawa.

It's a pretty good mix, though Louisa is the weak link, seeing as how she took such a rabid position in support of Bill 2491 and lacks a scientific background. Still, I suppose she is the counter to Sarah and Gerardo, who work for the seed companies, but actually do have science backgrounds.

I give kudos to facilitator Peter Adler for including seed company representatives on the panel. It would be insane to try and suss out what's going on without the participation of people who can share information about the seed companies' practices.

It was also curious to see Carl Berg named as an “informational liaison” because he is affiliated with Surfrider, which is one of the parties appealing the judge's ruling overturning Bill 2491/Ordinance 960.

The county-and state-funded joint fact-finding group is set to convene in March for an anticipated eight meetings. 

As I've previously reported, the group is charged with sorting out facts — something that has been in short supply in the emotionally-charged GMO debate.

But do people even care about scientific inquiry and facts, especially when they run counter to deeply-held (though frequently erroneous) beliefs? A new pair of surveys by the Pew Research Center points out some deep schisms between scientists — at least those who belong to the American Academy for the Advancement of Science — and average citizens.

For example:

Though 57% of the general public say that GMO foods are generally unsafe to eat, 88% of scientists say GM foods are generally safe. Now that alone shows how powerful the anti-GMO fear-mongering campaign has been, especially since a large percentage of people don't even know what GMO means. Yet 67% of citizens say scientists do not have a clear understanding about the health effects.

And while 68% of the public say it is "generally unsafe" to eat foods grown with pesticides, 68% of the scientists say it is safe.

A whopping 98% of the scientists say humans evolved over time, compared to just 65% of the average citizens. Interestingly, nearly half the people who do not believe in evolution think scientists are also split on the isse.

Scientists also disagree with citizens on the topic of vaccinations, with 86% of the scientists saying parents should be required to have their kids vaccinated and just 68% of the public holding that view.

Among scientists, the public’s knowledge about science — or lack thereof — is widely considered to be a major (84%) or minor (14%) problem for the field.

When it comes to food, 62% of Americans say science has had a mostly positive effect, while 34% say science has mostly had a negative effect on the quality of food. Similarly, more say science has had a positive (62%) than negative (31%) effect on the quality of the environment today. But, the balance of opinion on this issue has shifted somewhat compared with 2009 when 66% said science had a positive effect and 23% said it had a negative effect.

A majority of AAAS scientists (58%) say that the best scientific information guides government regulations about new drug and medical treatments at least most of the time, while 41% say such information guides regulations only some of the time or never.

Scientists are largely pessimistic that the best information guides regulations when it comes to clean air and water regulations or land use regulations: 72% and 84%, respectively, say this occurs only some of the time or never. And just 46% think the best science is frequently used in food safety regulations and 58% say the same when it comes to regulations about new drug and medical treatments.

In other words, politics frequently trump science when it comes to regulatory decisions. No surprise there.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Musings: Rat Pack

As the Kauai County Planning Commission considers a string of new bed and breakfast — or “home stay” — permits, it needs to remember this quote: “If it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, by golly, it must be a rat.”

By which is meant, if a property has been operating as an illegal transient vacation rental — and in some cases, the owners have even been cited and/or fined for that unpermitted use — it is still an illegal TVR, despite an attorney's attempts to disguise it as a B&B so the owners can get a permit to which they are not entitled.

Eddie and Joan Ben-Dor were the first to pull this trick for their Hanalei TVR, which they were forced to shut down because they'd never even bothered to apply for a TVR permit. Eddie ultimately was ordered to pay civil and criminal fines for his zoning violations.

But in true never-say-die fashion, the Ben-Dors came in for an after-the-fact permit to operate their Weke Road property as a B&B. County planners initially quite rightly denied their request. It then went to the planning commission, which in its usual fashion is waffling because it has a problem saying no, even to folks who are so obviously trying to game the system.

In the meantime, other scofflaws are now coming in for B&B/home stay use permits in an attempt to legitimize activities that should not be allowed because the county is no longer issuing TVR permits. Many of them are represented by attorney Jonathan Chun. As outlined in the Abuse Chronicles, he previously helped a number of landowners obtain TVR permits without the documentation required by law, which makes me wonder how he ever got approved as a per diem judge.

In denying the Ben-Dor application, county planner Dale Cua correctly found that a special management area (SMA) permit was required for the proposed use. He also referenced the General Plan, which calls for preserving Kauai's rural character by limiting resort development in residential neighborhoods. The GP also finds urban uses in the Hanalei and Wainiha-Haena area to be undesirable because of limited infrastructure and environmental factors.

Perhaps most importantly, the General Plan states that development standards for B&Bs and TVRs should consider a number of factors, including “the total number of vacation rentals in the neighborhood and the cumulative impacts on the neighborhood.”

Cua also found that Hanalei town is designated a residential community, “and introducing B&Bs as well as vacation rentals in this area would significantly change the character of the neighborhood and cause unwanted impacts” counter to a residential designation. Furthermore, the town lacks a sewage treatment system, so wastewater is treated by septic systems and cesspools.

Unfortunately, the County Council ignored those elements of the General Plan, as well as the SMA law, when it passed an ordinance that allowed a slew of landowners to get TVR permits for big houses that are the occupancy equivalent to several small hotels in Wainiha and Hanalei.

The Council compounded that injustice and rewarded bad behavior by allowing only those who had been operating illegally to apply for TVRs. And though many did not qualify, as evidenced in the Abuse Chronicles, they got “for life” permits that greatly increased the value of their properties, anyway.

But even that big permit give-away didn't resolve the problem. In his October 2014 power point presentation to the Council, Planning Director Mike Dahilig reported that landowners self-identified 320 properties as TVRs for real property tax purposes, even though they do not have TVR permits. But since they can't legally get TVR permits, many are now claiming to be B&Bs.

Among them are Greg Allen, one of the principles in the controversial HoKua Place housing project near Kapaa Middle School. He was cited for illegally operating his 6,000-square foot, seven-bedroom, sleeps-18 Anini Beach property as a TVR, but is now claiming in his VRBO ad that it's a B&B. Oh, come on!
What's more, from the reader comments left on his VRBO site, it sounds like it operates as an illegal multi-family rental, with people saying they rented “both levels” and “all the units.” The ad itself states:

Low Season Rate: $795/night 5 night minimum, up to 6 people, Main level, 3 Suites; $1500/night up to 12 people includes Main and Top levels, 6 Suites; Add the Studio Suite $250/night Ground level.

A previous ad also speaks to its use as a multi-family vacation rental, which is not allowed under the TVR law.

Some of those now seeking B&B use permits operate legit home stays, where the owner actually lives on site and the neighbors have no objections. Their applications should be considered.  But people who have been cited for illegally operating as a TVR should not even be in the running for a B&B use permit.

The county made a lot of mistakes with the TVR permitting process. Now that it has a chance for a “do-over” with B&Bs, it needs to make sure it doesn't blow it again. In other words, don't reward bad behavior by granting permits to scofflaws. 

And don't further compound problems by approving B&Bs in areas that are already heavily saturated by TVRs that never should have been allowed there in the first place, like Hanalei-to-Haena and North Shore agricultural lands.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Musings: Hooser's Conflicting Roles

Gary Hooser's dual roles as Kauai County Councilman and president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action are already in conflict with his opposition to one of Gov. Ige's cabinet nominees.

Hooser's group was one of 20 opposing the nomination of Carleton Ching to lead the Department of Land and Natural Resources. In today's The Garden Island he is identified as a Councilman and HAPA president in issuing this quote:

While Carlton Ching is no doubt a competent administrator, his extensive background as a lobbyist on behalf of development interests are inappropriate credentials for a position responsible for the preservation of our states finite natural resources. Each of us has some inherent bias and this position deserves someone whose bias leans toward protecting our natural environment for the benefit of future generations, rather than for the development and commercialization of those same irreplaceable public resources.

First, Gary should always make it very clear that he is not speaking for the Council in any of his HAPA activities. Similarly, when he was speaking at the Center for Food Safety's Vandana Shiva event, he was introduced as a Kauai Councilman, and he did not clarify that his views are not shared by the Council.

It's also inappropriate for Gary to be speaking so strongly against a nominee that the Council and county will need to work with should his appointment be confirmed. By denouncing him as biased, he's already burned his bridges with the guy. How can that possibly serve the best interest of the people of Kauai?

But then, Gary doesn't give a crap about the Council, or serving the overall public. He just likes being able to use the title of Councilman as it gives him a bit more credibility (but only among those who don't know him) than he would have as president of a small, obscure advocacy group.

Gary also takes his case for his badly flawed anti-burning bill to TGI's editorial pages with an opinion piece titled: Smoke — hyperbole, reality and politics. Gary, who led the fear frenzy of Bill 2491, knows all about hyperbole and politics, but his editorial shows he still has a poor grasp of reality.

He claims:

Bill #2573 does not and will not ban life as we know it on Kauai. Bill #2573 does not ban backyard barbecue’s, smoke meat, cooking in imu, or the roasting of marshmallows on an open fire. Nor does it ban spray painting, torch lighting, weed poisons, smoking of cigarettes, body odor, the wearing of excess perfume, fireplaces or the burning of wood, charcoal or gas.

However, given the language of his bill, it most certainly can be used to ban “backyard barbecue’s, smoke meat, cooking in imu, or the roasting of marshmallows on an open fire,” as well as “torch lightings, fireplaces or the burning of wood, charcoal or gas.” It could even be used to ban cigarettes.

Here is the wording:

It is declared to be a public nuisance and unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation in the County of Kauai to intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause, permit, or allow to escape into the open air, smoke, soot, poisonous gases, dirt, dust or debris of any kind from any smokestack, chimney, flue, or incinerator, or any opening of any building, or from any smoldering or open fires under the person's, firm's, or corporation's charge or control, in such a manner or in such a place as to cause injury to the health of persons or damage to the property.

Gary himself has said if a person gets a notice from a doctor saying that smoke from any fire is harming their health, they can use it to push enforcement of the law. And as Prosecutor Justin Kollar pointed out in his testimony against the bill, it's pretty easy to get a doctor to write a letter saying whatever you want.

Though the letter may not hold up in court, it could still be used to harass and annoy citizens who are making fires for any number of legitimate purposes.

Gary also shows he excels at disingenuous speech when he writes that his bill is modeled after a Maui ordinance and says, “It is my understanding that barbeques, imu and smoke meat still thrive on the Valley Island and these practices have not been banned, limited or restricted by the existence of this ordinance.”

What Gary doesn't say is that the Maui ordinance has never been enforced. He knows that, because it came up in the last Council meeting, yet he still pretends otherwise. This is the kind of blatant dishonesty that is so very disturbing about the way Gary plays politics. 

Gary then goes on to essentially acknowledge that this bill, which is resulting in county time and money and an untold amount of community angst, is intended to rectify one situation on Kauai, where he has already played judge and jury and determined that a man using a fireplace is harming his neighbors and should be arrested and thrown in jail.

Gary claims the state Department of Health has failed to act, but as the man with the fireplace has noted, his place has been checked out numerous times and he is doing nothing wrong. If his fireplace and outdoor barbecuing practices aren't faulty, and he's not burning inappropriate materials, why should he be stopped just because a neighbor doesn't like smoke?

As a woman so astutely noted on a Facebook post about Gary and his dogged determination to help a few families with this misguided, poorly written, unenforceable bill:

Sometimes it's hard to know when to take off the cape.

You're not a super hero, Gary. You're not even a good lawmaker, or else you would have started with a much better bill, instead of bringing an ambiguous piece of legislation to your colleagues to hash out.

But what really made me laugh, and shake my head, was Gary's closing line:

Of course my preference is that we pass no law at all, that mutual respect and consideration be the norm among neighbors, and that the golden rule prevails without the need for bills, public hearings or other such nonsense.

And our preference, Gary, is that you begin to practice what you preach.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Musings: Reader Interactions

Two comments were left on the last post that deserve a bit of follow-up. The first:

On another topic..David Ige DLNR?

Yes, Gov. Ige has appointed two men from the development sector — Carleton Ching and Kekoa Kaluhiwa — to serve as director and deputy director, respectively, of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

It's certainly troubling, though not surprising, to see Ige pick people who have far more experience developing land than protecting it to lead an agency that manages thousands of acres of public resources. This is yet another example of the continuing blow-back against progressive politics in the wake of the anti-GMO movement.

But what I find especially fascinating is that both men are currently serving as developer flacks. Ching is vice president of community and government relations for Castle & Cooke Hawaii, while Kaluhiwa, after a PR stint with First Wind, is now a principal of Kuanoo Communications, “where he helps clients understand the unique cultural and environmental challenges of doing business in Hawaii,” according to the governor's press release.

In other words, Ige has picked men who are excel at spin and sell — both to the public and to the Lege. Which raises the question: what does Ige have in mind for DLNR and its assets that will require this particular expertise?

The second comment was apparently left in response to this graphic:
It states:

Please use facts and don't be misleading as you accuse others of so often. While the agro-chem companies may lease 14,500 acres on Kauai they do not use anywhere near that many acres in their testing. I would be surprised if they even use 1/10 of that acreage from the looks of it while driving through the west side. Go take a look for yourself - they include large buffer zones between their test fields to eliminate the potential of cross contamination and drift from one field to another. Try find out how many acres are actually in testing or tilled at any one time - good luck because our "good neighbors" won't share that data with us.

The Kauai Agricultural Good Neighbor Program data base does provide information about how much land is being treated with restricted use pesticides. It references “total area applied to” and “field area applied to.” So we do know exactly how much land receives pesticide applications. But since the fields aren't identified by tax map key, we don't know how many fields are given repeated applications, and how many fields get nothing.

The seed companies themselves have said they don't use all the acreage they lease, and they do indeed have land in buffer zones — both between crops, and also now between their fields and schools and some houses.

It is clear from the data that not all the land is sprayed all the time. In December 2014, for example, restricted use pesticides were applied to 1,993 field acres, or less than one-tenth of the acreage the seed companies control.

Which means the companies aren't spraying everything 24/7, as some anti-GMO activists claim, nor is any one neighborhood subject to constant exposure.

It also means it's not really accurate to use the comparison floated by the seed companies, which likened their overall pesticide use to applying one soda of stuff evenly to a football field.

Still, I think it is important to recognize that the disclosure under the Good Neighbor Program, which was entirely volunteer, has provided us with meaningful data on the types and quantity of RUP being sprayed on Kauai fields.

And the total is not what was presented by Councilman Gary Hooser and former Councilman Tim Bynum when they were drumming up support for Bill 2491. If their claims about pesticide quantity were exaggerated three-fold, isn't it reasonable to think their other claims were similarly inflated?

Which is not to say I think it's OK to apply 5.15 tons of restricted use pesticides to Kauai soil. Only that we need to move this debate into the realm of facts and reality, and the data base is a good place to start.

Since the program was due to be assessed after one year, which is now, this is the time to discuss how that reporting could be more meaningful in terms of addressing community concerns. We also need to encourage the companies to keep participating. Because so long as the court ruling on Bill 2491/Ordinance 960 stands, voluntary compliance is all we've got.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Musings: Fools and Fanatics

After losing her 21012 Senate bid, former Gov. Linda Lingle has found a new job as special adviser to Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a fellow Republican. The Illinois State Journal-Register reports:

Rauner describes the 61-year-old Lingle as a "superstar" former governor who served eight years in office.

Well, superstar may be a bit of stretch, but if he ever needs a “Unified Command,” she'll be right on it.

Hard to believe it's been seven years since Lingle created an unprecedented “unified command” of state, county and federal law enforcement agencies to control anti-Superferry demonstrators through a federal “security zone” at the harbor.

As Mina Morita, who was then a Kauai state Representative, observed at the time:

It’s so political. You’re using military force, police force, to enforce strictly a political decision, and that’s when government is really scary.

Mina always got it. I'm gonna miss her now that she's left public service, a victim of the dirty politics she eschewed.

Meanwhile, Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser was missing an audience at Wednesday's opening of the state Legislature, where he gave a — yawn — anti-GMO speech. Wow. Is the anti-GMO movement that dead? Or is it just Gary?
So do you think we can bury some of the bullshit now that we've got a full year's worth of restricted use pesticide application data from the Good Neighbor Program? Here's what the usage actually looks like, despite all the overblown, hyperbolic claims to the contrary:
I've always wondered why it's so, so hard to just deal with the facts when it comes to this issue. But it seems to make folks go Pinocchio, and they just can't stop lying once they start.

Bronson Kaahui, a Maui resident who was banished from the anti-GMO movement for asking questions and challenging group speak, also got kicked out of Vandana Shiva's $15-per-head cocktail party on Wednesday evening. Center for Food Safety didn't want him doing any filming, either, though they consistently demand more transparency from everyone else. 

Guests were invited to talk story with Vandana and ask her questions, but certain topics were obviously off limits, as Bronson discovered when he got booted after raising the issue of golden rice” — genetically engineered to produce more Vitamin A.

I especially liked Bronson's recent blog post on the “reasoning” typically used by anti-GMO activists, which included this handy guide:
Though Kauai is called the Garden Island, many residents don't realize just how little true food is grown here. And it ain't because the seed companies are using all the land. A woman here who offers food tours recently told me:

We’ve had guests from all over the world, but the comments we get from Oahu residents are what I recall most. They are captivated by the amount of farms and fresh food available here. It’s like what you see growing vibrant on the hillsides is reflected on the plate at many of our restaurants.

Mmm, what's growing on Kauai hillsides is not reflected on the plate at any restaurant, unless they're serving up uluhe fern and albezzia. As for Oahu folks going gaga, that's rather curious, considering their own island has many more farms growing far more diverse crops than Kauai, and produces way more food than we do. Maybe they just need to get out of the city and take a look?

Also curious was TGI's front-page coverage today of a small anti-abortion protest. I know editor Bill Buley is a born-again, and it's almost always a slow news day on Kauai, but really? Front page? Careful, Bill. Your own biases are showing. 

Even more curious was how the reporter couldn't find any opposing viewpoint, other than a statement from Sen. Mazie Hirono, who still supports a woman's right to a safe choice, god love her. Because as any thinking person knows, the debate is not for or against abortion, but for or against a safe, medically supervised abortion. 

Not so surprising were the hypocrites in the House who passed a bill denying the use of any federal funds, not even insurance premium discounts, for abortion. Still, it is odd how they have no problem spending taxpayer money to execute prisoners and kill innocent civilians — including babies and fetuses overseas — but draw the line at unborn American fetuses.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Musings: Odd Little World

I was reading an article about how the low cost of oil is prompting people to drive more and buy less fuel-efficient cars when it hit me: by using the remains of all these extinct plants and animals, we're causing the climate change that will result in a whole new round of extinctions. 

And the associated sea level rise is happening faster than expected, as Jan TenBruggencate reports on Raising Islands blog.

Such an odd little world we've created....

Speaking of which, a funny thing happened in the Kauai District Court last week: all the cases were decided not by a judge, but a regular citizen wearing a black robe.  Yes, there is a very fine line between the two. 

Seems the Judiciary had delayed the reappointment papers of Per Diem Judge Joanthan Chun, so he wasn't actually certified when he presided over court last Thursday. Oops. Big do-over.

Prosecutor Justin Kollar doesn't plan to retry the cases, though, so citizens are spared having to cast their fate upon the court a second time.

How many people, do you suppose, get fined, arrested, even imprisoned, for missing court deadlines. But when the Judiciary does it, oh, well, nevah mind.

One big winner that day was the the kanaka maoli who was acquitted of soliciting at a state park after he allowed tourists to give him donations for taking his picture in a helmet and malo. Turns out Punohu Kekaualua,  who claimed religious and cultural rights, was actually right when he said Chun had no jurisdiction over him. But ironically, because this is America he won't have to go through another trial.

Question now is whether charges willl be filed against the police officer who struck a young man who had already been hit by a car while responding to that call for help. Tragic.  Details haven't been released, but the prosecutor's office has been consistently filing felony and misdemeanor charges against motorists who cause accidents involving injuries. 

Speaking of police, two recent retirements may help to ease tensions at KPD. Assistant Chief Ale Qubilan, source of the complaint that prompted the mayor to suspend the chief, is now gone. So is Hank Barriga, who has been on medical leave for the past couple years, ever since he sided with Mark Begley, also still out on leave, in refusing to let the chief back  in upon orders of the police commission, but not the mayor.

And like sands in the hourglass, so go the days of our lives in this odd little world we've created.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Musings: Slick Shtick

Right on cue, and just in time for Vandana Shiva's big shtick at the opening of the Lege tomorrow, Civil Beat has a long piece today on a bill that would require pesticide buffer zones and disclosure around schools.

The story is way premature, considering that Big Island Sen. Josh Green's bill hasn't even been drafted yet, much less introduced. So it's unclear just what it hopes to accomplish, or who may be affected. But then, Center for Food Safety has gotten adept at manipulating local media, and the timing suits CFS.

Still, the nagging question remains: Why, if the goal is to protect keiki from pesticide exposure, are only the seed companies being targeted? Especially when every case of documented pesticide poisoning in Hawaii has occurred in the child's home?

Though much has been alleged about westside students and teachers getting sick from pesticides, as best as I can recall, the only time such exposure has been documented was at Wilcox School in Lihue, where a nearby resident's use of pesticides caused a strong, nauseating odor. Similarly, Kahuku High and Intermediate students got sick from pesticides sprayed by a turf company, not a seed farm.

Which is not to say that school buffer zones, or even disclosure, is bad, only that it seems odd to single out seed companies, especially since some are already doing both voluntarily. Though CFS provides data on how many schools are within a mile of seed fields, how many are near golf courses, or even freeways, which also generate emissions proven to be toxic? 

What sort of pesticides, and in what quantities, are sprayed by DOE on school facilities? It's hard to believe that DOE has no data on that, as Civil Beat claims. DOE is either buying the pesticides itself or paying a contractor. In either case, invoices should include that information. 

Before the Lege starts crafting any laws, shouldn't it ascertain whether a problem exists, and if so, identify the culprits? But Green is going on the same assumptions perpetuated by the anti groups: pesticide drift from the seed companies is poisoning people. Never mind that GMO Free Kauai never actually found any drift in its own studies. That's the  party line, and they're sticking to it.

The article also includes some revealing delusions by CFS Hawaii Director Ashley Lukens:

[Lukens] says that by now, Hawaii’s movement against GMO farming is no longer a fringe issue. She said the debate has been reframed from questioning the cultivation and testing of genetically modified seeds to investigating the health and environmental impacts of such farming — essentially, pesticide exposure.

She also thinks that recent victories in Maui and with county council races on Kauai have shown lawmakers that the movement can deliver the votes.

Because we’re growing, we have a lot more middle-grounders at the table that are pounding the halls at the legislators [sic] right now,” she said.

Ashley Lukens is dreaming. If anything, the movement has gotten even fringier. It's been fascinating to watch the comment sections on GMO/pesticide stories over the past six months, as those who oppose the anti-GMO movement have been registering their views in larger numbers, while the antis have dwindled. The climate of intimidation is over, and those who oppose the anti- movement are no longer hesitant to speak up.

As for the movement being able to “deliver the votes,” the Maui vote was extremely close. Meanwhile, the two Kauai Councilmen who opposed Bill 2491 came in first and second, while bill sponsor Gary Hooser barely squeaked in last and his co-hort, Tim Bynum, was soundly defeated, along with the rest of the anti-GMO candidates. And all the incumbent state legislators — the only place where delivering the votes matter — were returned to office.

In short, the idea that the anti-GMO movement is a powerful voting bloc in Hawaii was disproven in the last election.

The article also includes comments from westside Kauai resident Malia Chun, who is appealing the ruling that overturned Bill 2491/Ordinance 960. Malia perfectly articulates the mentality shared by many in the movement, which is they're not going to be happy or satisfied until the seed fields are shut down:

Chun supports the idea of buffer zones around schools and hospitals, as well as more disclosure. But even if Green’s bill passes, she’s still skeptical about whether it would help.

It doesn’t take a scientist to know that when you spray things in the air and there’s winds, it’s going to carry,” she said.

But for some reason, she's not at all concerned about the restricted use pesticides that are similarly released into the air every time the tent is removed from a house that's been treated for termites.  

It's especially curious to read Ashley saying the issue has been “reframed” from anti-GMO to questioning the impacts of seed cultivation, including pesticide use. Curious, because at least on Kauai, it was supposedly all about pesticides from the start. Over and over, all we heard was how the pesticides were destroying the health of westsiders.

When I spoke with Ashley last month, she claimed the issue had been driven initially by a desire to protect students from pesticides. So why, I asked, hadn't they started with a bill that would impose buffer zones around schools? Certainly that would have been more palatable, and far less divisive. She said they were working up to it, and apparently that's where they are now, though I am perplexed by their poor strategy. Because in the meantime, they've alienated legislators and much of the voting public.

Though most people likely wouldn't have opposed pesticide buffer zones around schools two years ago, before the shit hit the fan, I think the sentiment now is you can't give the antis an inch, because then they'll take a mile. We're suspicious of them now, and with good cause.

In doing a bit of research on this post, I was reminded of how the state and county spent $150,000 on the “stinkweed” air study in Waimea, which didn't satisfy any of the critics, and now they're putting another $100,000 toward the joint fact-finding group, which is likely to meet similar resistance from the true believers.

Before the county spends any more money, or the state adopts any new laws, it might be worthwhile for policy-makers to delve into the over-arching strategy and ultimate goals of CFS, Gary Hooser's HAPA and the other anti-GMO groups. Otherwise, they may just find that none of their concessions or attempts to placate make any difference at the end of the day to those whose primary intent is destroying the seed companies.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Musings: Forfeiting Assets

Attorney General Eric Holder has restricted the use of federal law to seize cars, money, property and other assets without criminal charges and warrants.

The controversial asset forfeiture program was launched three decades ago, allowing law enforcement to seize assets from suspected drug dealers and others in the "war on drugs." But the program has been rife with abuse, and an investigation by the Washington Post revealed that federal agencies and police trainers were encouraging cops to seize cash from motorists in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks.

The paper learned that since Sept. 11. 2001, local and state police made 61,998 seizures worth nearly $2.5 billion — all without search warrants or indictments. As the Post reports:

The Post found that local and state police routinely pulled over drivers for minor traffic infractions, pressed them to agree to warrantless searches and seized large amounts of cash without evidence of wrongdoing. The law forces the owners to prove their property was legally acquired in order to get it back.

Regional police typically shared the proceeds in an 80-20 split with federal agencies, a practice now mostly barred under Holder's order. But states are free to conduct their own asset forfeiture programs.

I checked in with Kauai Prosecutor Justin Kollar and Police Chief Darryl Perry to find out how Holder's decision will affect asset forfeiture on the Garden Island. It appears that Hawaii law doesn't allow some of the same abuses that plagued the federal program.

As Justin noted:

We have to be able to show that the assets in question actually are tied to a criminal enterprise. If we can't do that, the [state Attorney General's] office won't allow the forfeiture.

Chief Perry said he had been watching the issue closely, anticipating some changes:

The new policy does not apply to seizures by state and local authorities working together with federal authorities in a joint task force and/or seizures made on a federal seizure warrant from a federal court directing law enforcement to take custody of assets seized under state law. It appears that this policy applies only to cases adopted in its entirety by the feds.

At KPD we are using the asset forfeiture funds for training, purchase of new equipment, assist special community programs, etc., but we have to be very frugal and careful not to supplant its use.  By that, I mean we cannot pay for existing positions, equipment, programs, etc., that are already funded by the County.  We’ve been asked to use the funds to pick up the budgetary slack, but we can’t otherwise we would be in violation and we would be fined and possibly, the funds would be taken away.

Some of the things we’re looking at is a one time partial support for the 6 new police officer positions we received from the COPS grant and body cameras.

While the Chief agreed “that from time to time, the law must be scrutinized to be assured that law enforcement is not abusing the statute,” he feels asset seizure can be useful in shutting down illegal activities, such as Silkroad 2.0, “the underbelly of the internet where illegal transactions were taking place involving guns, drugs, human and sex trafficking, terrorist communications, child porn, and the like...involving millions of dollars. This is a good example where seizing assets would be critical to shutting them down.”

Critics of the practice note that even in Hawaii, citizens must bear the burden of proof if they believe their assets were wrongly seized. And if cash or other property has been seized, people often have a hard time funding an expensive legal challenge against the government. The Post found such challenges can take a year or more, and most seizures aren't challenged.

Critics also point out that law enforcement agencies also have strong incentive to seize assets, since they get to keep the money and property.

report to the Legislature shows that Kauai law enforcement seized cars, cash and other property valued at $187,646 in 2011-12, which represented 35 percent of the statewide total.

And while Hawaii law usually requires a felony offense for asset forfeiture — though it is sometimes used to seize assets in misdemeanor marijuana cases — the state Senate introduced a bill in the 2013 session allowing forfeiture for petty misdemeanors, such as harassment or possession of less than an ounce of cannabis. The bill ultimately failed, but not before chilling civil libertarians and even some county prosecutors.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Musings: Getting Burned

In regards to Councilman Gary Hooser's anti-burning bill, Assistant Police Chief Roy Asher summed it up perfectly: “It all comes down to us spinning our wheels here.”

Councilman Ross Kagawa similarly nailed it: “I have heard every department we are counting on to enforce this bill...and all of them are telling us it's not reasonable, not doable, it doesn't make sense, it doesn't solve the problem.”

But the Council is going to hash it out anyway, let the public weigh in, try and hold the state Department of Health's feet to the fire, go through the process. That's their choice, even if it is a terrific waste of time and money.

At least it's clear that Gary's previous histrionics about how Council Chair Mel Rapozo was going to keep his bills off the agenda, stymie public participation, were totally off base and overblown.

And given the Council comments, it appears unlikely the bill will survive.

What bothers me, though, are three things: Gary's total denial about the possible cultural and community impacts of his bill; his misrepresentations about a similar ordinance on Maui; and his use of this bill as a backdoor attempt to achieve some of the goals he failed to secure with Bill 2491.

Let's start with the last first. Gary spoke repeatedly yesterday of his real reason for the anti-burning bill: “If my neighbor is doing something that harms my health, or my mother's health, it should be against the law.”

Sound familiar? It should. Because that's the same language and reasoning he was using to push through Bill 2491 – if you're spraying, or tilling and making dust, or experimenting with crops, and somebody thinks it's harming them, they should be able to shut you down.

Even if it's difficult or impossible to prove that the activity is causing a health problem, having such a law on the books still allows people to fuck with you — call the cops, maybe get you arrested, force you to hire an attorney to protect yourself, make you paranoid every time you light a fire. Gary also spoke about citizens gathering their own “evidence,” such as video recordings and affidavits from doctors, which is a bit chilling.

And farmers are worried, with one farmer friend observing:

How long do you think it will take once this bill is passed before farmers start feeling the heat? We can now legally burn crop residues with a permit to get rid of diseased plants but once this ordnance is in place all of that ends, same with dust caused by tillage.

While Gary claims the bill “has nothing to do with agriculture,” it does reference “poisonous gases, dirt, dust and debris of any kind,” which is very curious, when it's supposedly only about smoke.

Though Gary has grown a beard to hide his jowls — he's very sensitive about them, you know — he can't disguise his raison d'être nor his raison d'état: to get rid of the seed companies and conventional agriculture. And he's gonna do it any way he can

Then there's the Maui ordinance, which has been on the books since 1949. Gary claims that since it hasn't been a problem there, in terms of shutting down hulihuli chicken stands, it shouldn't be a problem here. And when Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura asked about him enforcement issues on Maui, Gary replied, “We haven't heard anything.”

First, he most certainly has heard something. Just the other day, the mayor's office released a statement saying Maui was not enforcing the bill. Then Asher, the fire chief and Prosecutor Justin Kollar all got up and said they'd contacted their counterparts on Maui, and not only were they not enforcing the bill, they didn't even know it was on the books.

If Gary truly was working on this issue for two years, and using Maui as a model, wouldn't you think he'd have checked to see how it was working there? If he didn't, he should have. If he did, he was lying to JoAnn. In any case, Maui is a moot point, because the law isn't being used there.

Gary then made like he couldn't fathom how this bill could create divisiveness or lead to complaints about cooking fires. “I would encourage people not to go down the path of this is newcomers vs local residents. This is about harming health.” People should “focus on the bill,” he admonished, “not spreading fear about changing our lifestyle.”

It's not at all far-fetched to think people would complain about their neighbors' imu, smoke houses, pulehu or what have you, especially since the guy who has been getting dinged for his fireplace smoke said he also got complaints when he cooked on his hibachi. And face it, newcomers are a lot more likely than locals to call the cops on their neighbors.

Fears about the changing local lifestyle are valid, and they're currently fanning a flame of anti-haole, anti-newcomer sentiment that one local described as hotter than he'd ever observed on Kauai. This bill literally adds fuel to that fire.

Gary may be so out of touch with the local community that he truly doesn't see it. But as an elected official, he shouldn't blithely dismiss the legitimate concerns of those who see his bill as yet another attack on the local lifestyle.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Musings: Still SMH

Lately, I've read a few things that left me SMH.....

Like this Instagram posted by defeated Kauai mayoral candidate, MMA fighter and anti-GMO activist Dustin Barca:
OMG. Now the poor guy actually believes he's kanaka. I've heard of “Hawaiian by injection,” but I don't think even that would explain Dustin's transformation.

I especially liked the comment by nicoblue: "not even a Native and I feel your pain."
That's OK, nico. Dustin isn't a Native either. Not that he bothered to correct the misperception, since he's actually trying to foster it. Because this way he gets way more likes than when he writes something "ill," but real:
Then there was Richard L. Turner's asinine guest commentary in today's The Garden Island, where he writes about the dinner he would host with Pierre Omidyar, Jeff Stone and Mark Zuckerberg if he were mayor, which thankfully he is not:

Pierre here are 100 letters to The Garden Island and many studies about the effects the [Mahaulepu] dairy farm you propose will have on the land and people of Kauai. The island is against it, as it will cause pollution of the land and ocean. The smells will be terrible and cause people and business to move, land prices to drop, and tourism to be hurt badly. Please move it to Oahu.

Ah yes. Here we have an example of an echo-chamber existence and NIMBY-ism at its worst. From a Princeville resident, no less. It reminds me of a woman who posted an article recently on Facebook about the damage that 700 dairy farms in Washington are supposedly causing to the coast there in order to justify her opposition to one dairy here.

So are you against all dairies, I asked her, or only the one at Mahaulepu? Oh, only that one, she replied.

Because it's perfectly OK if other places get messed up, so long as Kauai remains pristine (though it actually hasn't been that for centuries now). Just make sure to keep shipping over all those dairy products and everything else, though.

And then there was the Surfrider member who was miffed that Hawaii Dairy Farms and Grove Farm made no effort to stop some guys from wearing tee-shirts that others found offensive: 
It's perfectly all right for the anti-dairy folks to talk complete shit, even make stuff up, but the minute their opponents exercise their own First Amendment rights, why it's hate speech, racist slurs that must be stifled and stopped.

Sorry, but it doesn't work that way.

Speaking of talking shit, I was dismayed at TGI's piece on Mina Morita's resignation as PUC Chair, which played up her illegal B&B, even though that actually had nothing to do with her decision to leave her post. I and many others are grateful for your years of service, Mina.

We're not so grateful for Councilman Gary Hooser's idiotic smoke-banning billProsecutor Justin Kollar, in testimony he'll be presenting to the Council today, points out that enforcement could be tough:

The Draft Bill criminalizes the release of smoke or particulate matter into the atmosphere when that release causes harm to the health of another. Therefore, three separate facts must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to achieve a conviction; first, that the smoke or particulate matter was knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly released from a particular source, second, that it was inhaled by another person, and third, that the smoke or particulate matter caused harm to the health of another.

As to the inhalation and resultant damage to the health of the purported victim of the offense, it would be necessary to engage medical and health experts to prove the element of causation.

Poor Justin. Still enslaved to the archaic rule of law, when in the world of Gary Hooser and his fistee followers, no facts or elements of causation must be proven in order to convict. You just point and blame and bam, they're guilty. 

It worked in Gary's campaign against the seed companies, with hundreds, if not thousands, of dolts willing to sacrifice due process in order to destroy what they consider evil.

Get with it, Justin. Proof is passe. Allegations are sufficient, cost is no issue and enforcement isn't important.

Donchaknow the only thing that matters is getting the bill passed, and Gary's name in print?