Friday, February 13, 2015

Musings: Story Time

Obsession: preoccupy or fill the mind of (someone) continually, intrusively, excessively, and to a troubling extent; be uppermost in someone's mind, prey on someone's mind.

Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser has accused me of having a “verifiable personal obsession” with him — his “every action, comment and even [his] body weight and facial hair or lack thereof.”

Careful, Gary. Your narcissism is showing.

Narcissism: excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one's physical appearance; extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one's own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.

It's true that I devote a lot of ink to Gary. In fact, only former Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri — another dangerous politician — has been subject to similarly relentless attention. Though Gary was applauding my efforts then, with enthusiastic exhortations to “keep it up!”

I have no personal obsession with Gary. I've never watched “The Gary Hooser Story,” say, or driven by his house or adopted a fake identify to gain access to his Facebook page, from which I'm blocked.

No, my interest in Gary is solely as a reporter covering a demagogue.

Demagog: a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.

And demagogues don't like people who see beyond the smug schtick — and repeatedly and publicly call them on it, while exposing their lies.

Which I did recently on Ian Lind's blog. Ian was worrying about similarities between the anti-vaccine and anti-GMO movements, which seem to share a “distrust of authority, and the rejection of contrary evidence.” Ian ended his post with a question that I — and many others — have frequently pondered:

How do you pursue a public debate if evidence is considered irrelevant?

Gary was quick to weigh in:

Speaking from my own perspective working on this issue within the Kauai context – the issue is “not about eating the corn” but rather about the industries [sic] impacts on the health and natural environment of our community. Excessive pesticide use, experimental pesticide use, the open air testing of experimental crops not approved for release into the environment or for human consumption, impacts on local flora and fauna and the driving up the price of agricultural lands in completion [sic] with local food production are just some of the impacts that have not been studied and are not related directly to the science of genetic modification. Debating whether or not eating the corn is healthy or not from a science perspective is not the only valid basis upon which to base ones [sic] concerns.

As I read his comment, it occurred to me that the Kauai “debate” got off on the wrong foot because it was driven by assumptions about the seed companies, most of them false. Gary, former Councilman Tim Bynum and their followers told us the companies were using 18 tons of restricted use pesticides each year, drenching thousands of acres with chemicals, spraying fields 24/7, causing birth defects and cancer clusters, contaminating streams and soil, killing off sea urchins, poisoning school kids, suing the county to avoid spraying near schools and functioning as bad, irresponsible members of the community.

But as actual studies were conducted, and the companies voluntarily disclosed their pesticide use, a very different picture emerged. There were no cancer clusters around the fields. Pesticide levels were much higher in water samples collected near urban areas than agricultural lands. Doctors publicly refuted the birth defect claims. There have been no documented cases of ag pesticide poisoning among field workers, residents or students. GMO Free Kauai's own air samples found no pesticide drift. The companies apply about 5 tons of RUPs annually, and use only a very small percentage of the land they lease. They voluntarily established buffer zones around schools and homes, and began their own process for notifying neighbors.

In short, the evidence that's been collected, though admittedly limited, has disproven pretty much everything that Tim, Gary and their followers claimed.

Yet Gary and his followers have systematically rejected all the evidence, and continued their false claims.

Which I pointed out in my comment on Ian's blog, while noting:

It would have been helpful to conduct tests to truly ascertain the industry’s impact on people and the environment BEFORE launching a fear-mongering campaign to pass a bill that has been over-turned by the courts, leaving the community anxious and polarized, with only a bit more information than they had before this started.

So to answer your question, so long as politicians find it politically valuable to spread misinformation and discount evidence when it is produced, we’re not going to have a very meaningful or satisfactory debate.

To which Gary replied:

Ian I am happy to discuss this issue with you or any interested group or thoughtful individual with an open mind. I will not engage in a tit for tat with a blogger who drops in and questions my character and intent – and who clearly for whatever reason has demonstrated a verifiable personal obsession with me and my every action, comment and even my body weight and facial hair or lack thereof.

Gary doesn't much like having a Jiminy Cricket on his shoulder. And neither did Pinocchio, who “took a hammer from the bench, and threw it with all his strength at the Talking Cricket. Perhaps he did not think he would strike it. But, sad to relate, my dear children, he did hit the Cricket, straight on its head.”

The Cricket returns as a ghost, and continues to serve as a conscience to the puppet. But Pinocchio is slow to learn his karmic lessons. First, his feet got burned off on the stove, and ultimately he was hanged by the very same people who had misled him. But even then, he got another chance: and finally saw the light:

You are right, little Cricket, you are more than right, and I shall remember the lesson you have taught me…”

That's how that particular story concludes. I'm not at all convinced Gary's will have such a happy ending.


Anonymous said...

Ya know, Gary...if you do not care any longer for being a public figure, and all that it entails, the council will no doubt accept your resignation, so you can go on, without the advantage of that bully pulpit ,to fight the good fight on behalf of your followers and the special interest groups you represent. Oh, and don't let the door hit you in the ass in the way out!

Dawson said...

"He really is in love with himself. I thought it was just a summer thing."
- Twister (1996)

Anonymous said...

Joan, you know you are spot-on when Gary won't directly address your valid points. He has never cited sources, and has never personally demonstrated transparent behavior, but which he will demand that others display. He and his cohorts are likely getting more desparate as they see their support crumbling here and elsewhere on the islands. Oh, but wait, he doesn't put the interests of all of the people on the islands first, only some of them, and some of the people in Washington D.C.

Allan Parachini said...

The parallel between the anti-vaccine movement and anti-GMO movement is, indeed, striking since both are based in the main on non-science or specious science. An excellent example in the anti-GMO realm is the allegation that pesticide exposure on the Westside was responsible for birth of a number of babies with gastroschisis--where the intestines are outside of the body. I did a little literature search, starting with the CDC's own gastroschisis page, and it turns out that this rare, seemingly random, birth defect has unknown etiology, though the vast bulk of research suggests an association (but causation, per se, remains to be discovered) betweem gastroschisis and maternal tobacco,drug or alcohol use. Race seems mildly involved, with rates among younger white teenagers higher than among African-American teenagers. No other racial group has been cited(see the CDC page). What I found, too, was that there is ONLY ONE paragraph, IN ONE STUDY, that speculates blindly, based on not data from the study itself, about any role of pesticide exposure and suggests that future research might try to take up that question, though there is no evidence of such an association now. It's telling because so much has been made of this alleged birth defect cluster, when it turns out that this is a birth defect that turns up seemingly at random and whose causation is unknown but thought to relate to tobacco, alcohol and drug use. If this had been made clear early in the Kauai debate (I blame myself for not raising it then since I hadn't done the literature review), perhaps the anti-GMO propaganda could have moderated, at least as it regards gastroschisis. It's a shame that did not happen.

Anonymous said...

I could use a happy ending

Anonymous said...

The CDC page also states that teen pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of gastroschisis in the baby, and provides a reference to a study that found teen mothers to have a six-fold increased risk of having a baby with gastroschisis, compared with older maternal age groups.

Although the public health data have not indicated an increased risk of any birth defect in any area of Kauai yet, the teen pregnancy rate on the west side of Kauai has been a matter of public health concern for many years.

Anonymous said...

“driving up the price of agricultural lands in completion [sic] with local food production”

This is one of Hooser’s biggest bullshit claims (i.e., lies). We own extensive ag land and after sugar died, the lands went wanting of viable farmer tenants. Most small farmers wanted the land to be virtually given to them. They only wanted to pay the ag dedicated level property taxes (if that) and even getting insurance coverage was a challenge for them. So who would transfer control of their valuable land asset to a bunch of entitled wannabe farmers who can’t afford to be in the business they desire and who can’t even manage to pay a decent rent. “Sustainable farming” in the Anti’s mind is free land and government subsidies to what else: “sustain them”….unless one has their own trust fund to finance it which only some of these hippie transplants are gifted with. You know…the ones that got shuttled here by their mainland families to get them out of their sight.

So when Hooser speaks, he speaks bullshit because he doesn’t know business. When he tried it he failed horribly and cheated us taxpayers by pocketing the G.E. taxes he collected from his customers to spend on himself trying to keep his failure alive. It died anyway even with his tax cheating. So when he speaks, we know from his record that he hasn’t a clue. And I really think he doesn’t give damn. He’s only out for himself as his past actions have demonstrated. There’s some facts for you Gary Cheat.

Anonymous said...

Reading your blog today, I note that Gary Hooser's response stated: " Excessive pesticide use, experimental pesticide use, the open air testing of experimental crops not approved for release into the environment or for human y."

Leaving aside the question of who determines "excessive" pesticide use, what really caught my eye was the part about open air testing. A USDA/APHIS permit allows the open air testing of experimental GMO crops. That's why, from a regulatory standpoint, it's such a hard-earned approval. So what is Gary talking about?

Robin Clark said...


Can't tell you how much I enjoy your blog. I think you and Jan T. should start a newspaper. The GI means well but when was the last time they published a real investigative article. One could have an absolute field day with Gary's claims.

Speaking of which, you may have seen the study (last year I think) which showed that many people with deeply held beliefs would not change their mind even in the face of incontrovertible evidence, for example DNA and fossil evidence for evolution. This same phenomenon clearly applies to the anti-GMO and anti-Ag crowd on this island!

I appreciate Allan Parachini's (please include him on your editorial board for the new paper) comments on gastroschisis. The claim of "rare heart defects" can be similarly addressed. As one with experience in cardiovascular medicine (I invented a drug for angina) I can say that there are not enough subjects on the Westside to make a claim for statistical significance on any rare condition. Nor is there even a cardiologist on the Westside (and only one at Wilcox). I wish someone would explain to me exactly what the rare defect is and how it was diagnosed- what imaging techniques were used for example and where were the diagnostic studies done?

I am sure the new task force will sort all of this out. I briefly thought of applying but I am now glad I did not as I would have a hard time dealing with a smart-meter denier and a member who has previously claimed that "GMO's are poison." I am sure they on the other hand would rather not deal with a real scientist.

Anonymous said...

Can We Believe Any Medical data At All?
Thought provoking, at the very least!

Anonymous said...

Gary is besting Tim Bynum in the crybaby category.
The BS Council meeting on Gary's Anti-Imu bill was heart wrenching. Some of the high school student's testimony reached deep.
For Gary to preface the meeting with the announcement that the Anti-Imu bill as presented was NOT the one he wanted. Huh? So all of the testimony was given with the backdrop that "you are testifying on something that really isn't". One testifier zapped the truth from Gary. The Bill as presented could become law and Imus would be illegal.
But really folks, if Gary can submit a flawed bill that even he don't like, HOW IN THE F*ck did the rest of the Council allow the bill to proceed? It should have been killed at first reading.
It was funny to see Gary get all huhu on the "race" subject...and Joan you were spot on, by quoting the victim of Gary's ire with his "it is MIND SET, not race".
Ms McDonald came across as a real b^tch. Sure she is frustrated and angry, but to expect an entire island to be stomped down because of her situation is a joke. Shit happens. We all have big stuff in our lives. Deal with it.
This bill, hopefully will be kicked out next week. No amendments, no "only smoky fireplace" lingo- just kicked out.
Hard to believe that Gary continues to polarize the public...and really hard to believe that Mel and the others let this go on.. Y'all let a Bill go to the table that would make Kauai families criminals for just broiling a hot dog in their backyard...C'mon you guys, deal with more important issues.
Somehow Joan, the oblique shadowed vision of you and Gary nudging or canoodling in the moonlight brings shudders. Gary would be more at home with a full blown Fistee type.
....Gary, you are smart and you have an acceptable obsequiousness while you looked down at your testifiers....but these Niihau kids were genuine and honest. Two traits you should aspire towards.
Narcissus drowned attempting to fulfill his love.
BTW Joan- You are great and disagree or agree- you is one fine writer and a really smart gal.
Happy Valentine's Day.

Anonymous said...

..."that in this world of ours we must be kind and courteous to others, if we want to find kindness and courtesy in our own days of trouble.” so chirped the talking cricket

Anonymous said...

Joan - despite the fact that most of your articles are seemingly coming from an angry, unhappy person (you), I'm glad someone has the intestinal fortitude to call a spade a spade. This is more of an indication of the lack of true journalism at the watered-down tgi. It's appropriate that the Oahu elitists chose to change the logo to lower case letters. It's a lower version of a real newspaper. PLEASE, periodically include some uplifting news (something we won't find from the damp tgi) and give the Gary-bashing a rest (for a couple of weeks). I did not and would never vote for Gary. He's a polarizing figure. You're primarily speaking to the choir when you continually rant about him. But, I've lost interest in your blog as it seems (in appearance only - I'll take you at your word) its intent is to run down one or two politicians. You have an important platform and a fair following of readers. Here's to some news from you that is informative, useful but not bashing. Maybe once a week? I do appreciate your investigative pieces on the illegal TVRs. Heck, if you really wanted to, you could probably solve one of the unsolved murders. Amber and Sandy deserve justice.

Dawson said...

6:55 AM wrote
Here's to some news from you that is informative, useful but not bashing.

Here's to the chutzpah of a reader who whines about the taste of the wine he guzzles for free.

If the bouquet offends your delicate nose, how about you go grow your own grapes, hm?

Anonymous said...

@6:55- I agree 100%. There are so many issues with our island and so many approaches to writing articles. I also am so tired of the seemingly constant and obsessive focus on one local politician. No solutions are offered , just complaints. Why doesnʻt this blog offer solutions to provide balance to all the complaints? What can protect neighbors from neighboring practices which cause harm and suffering, such as the fireplace burning which resulted in this flawed bill? Come on Joan, enough is enough. How about some inspiration and ideas for solving all these problems instead of focusing on personalities so much?

Anonymous said...

4:57 If you lived next to someone who burned rubbish all the time and had to breath toxic smoke you would be bitchy too. And it's not just her. Did you hear Mrs. Ornellas? She was being poisoned by the same a--hole.

Anonymous said...

"here are so many issues with our island and so many approaches to writing articles. I also am so tired of the seemingly constant and obsessive focus on one local politician. No solutions are offered, just complaints."

HERE'S A SOLUTION. Drive that liar and fake Hooser off this island. Let him be ugly somewhere else. He is destroying Kauai's beauty and peace.

Anonymous said...

Holy Smoking Cowpies Batman, I think I'll send Joan a few buckareenies.

She writes a fine blog, she gets blasted for not directing her influence as directed by the "free whine-guzzlers" (thank you, Dawson) she puts her reputation on the line every time she blogs, she spends a lot of time on her subjects, she provides news before the Garden Island Paper.
Her words are interesting and provoking.
Somehow her Kauai Eclectic has become a "news" story in itself and Joan is singled out by certain powerful people. Yumpin' Yiminy. One woman, one pen.
So, how does one reward a person who you do not know? Someone who injects, inspires, infuriates and thinks? But most of all, how do you reward someone that has found a unique a place in Kauai politics...everyone in the Round Building fears Joan's pen.
This has never been done before. The Kauai Times was joke, The GI is a fluff seems that KE may be the only vehicle to perhaps get some change at the County.
I disagree with KE most of the time...but I think a little reward in the form of some greenbacks will be directed to Joan.
Money, as a gesture to thank you, Ms Joan.
Please keep writing on any subject you want. Nail the hypocrites.

Joan Conrow said...

Thank you Robin Clark, 4:57 and 7:07! It means a lot to read your words of praise and appreciation for my blog.

Anonymous said...

I read that McDonald testified she smelt wood smoke. I read here it was garbage.
Joan, do you what this guy was burning?

Joan Conrow said...

He contends he has burned only wood, but some neighbors have privately said they smelled plastic.

Anonymous said...

The funny thing is that I made Kauai Eclectic gain its popularity on Kauai and elsewhere and now she wants to censor the person that has given notoriety to a former bland and nonexistent haole hippie rant site.

Hahaha I laugh at all of you syndicate bitch ass slaves.

Fuck the Kauai Mafia and all who serve them as gudots.

I am a King and yes I did Conquer Kauai. Kauai is not unconquered-you fools.

Manawai said...

12:26PM. What are you 12?

Anonymous said...

no, he is schizophrenic

Anonymous said...

^ totally! @ 6:24
The McDonalds have had the DOH out to inspect air quality more than once.. unfortunately for them, the DOH never uncovered their neighbor's burning anything prohibited. (See "Lurker in the Sky"
I'm sure the smell is a pain in the butt, however this sounds more like a civil case. No need for more attempts at bad legislation.
And yes, thanks for your blog Joan, it's much more informative than TGI.