Friday, July 31, 2015

Musings: Funnies and Follies

It's been kind of a goofy, crazy month here in the Islands.

First we had a wacky, error-ridden LeMonde article by hack writer Corine Lesnes, who described a nonexistent "agrochemicals factory" in Waimea before interviewing Klayton Kubo on biotech:

“I have no qualifications. I don’t speak like their engineers," he says. "But I do know that they’re spreading massive quantities of poison.” The activist raises his black glasses to show his reddened eyes. “And I don’t consume marijuana!” he says.

All together, the companies spray a total of 18 tons of pesticides every year in Kauai. “It’s more than a farmer [sprays] in his entire life!,” Klayton says.

Yeah, and more than all the Kauai seed companies spray, too. But why let facts intrude? Still, surely even Klayton recognizes this as fiction:

Since the 1990s, seed companies have been forcing sugar cane and pineapple plantations out of business. When they arrived, they were welcomed as they saved thousands of farm workers their jobs. But the indulgence was short-lived and turned into uproar in an archipelago where “Aloha Aina,” the love of the land, is deeply rooted in each inhabitant.

The reporter does offer a pretty good assessment of who is behind the anti-GMO movement:

From Kauai to Molokai and Maui, complaints have multiplied at the initiative of a small group of farmers, organic retailers, educators, “Moms against GMOs,” and Europeans who came to this natural paradise to establish their yoga and meditation centers.

Don't forget the high-end Realtors slathering over that vacant westside land. Corine Lesnes continues:

Kauai, also known as the “Garden Isle,” is the most rural of the archipelago, and the cradle of Hawaii’s demand of “food sovereignty” (85% of fruits and vegetables are imported) and of the right to teach again in Hawaiian to prevent the native language from disappearing.

Huh? Are you sure you're in the right archipelago, Corine? The article goes on to discuss both Bill 2491, which was overturned by a federal court, and the lawsuit that Waimea residents filed against Pioneer:

Anti-GMOs activists believe there’s little hope the federal justice system will validate a local decision that goes in the face of national legislation —especially since companies have a cast-iron defense: they don’t plant or spread anything that isn’t approved and authorized by the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Agriculture.

As is often the case in this sort of situation, nobody could prove any irrefutable scientific correlation between the inhabitants health issues (37 cancers in a neighborhood of 800 inhabitants) and the pesticides.

Uh, so what does that tell you?

Then we had the release of “Aina: That Which Feeds Us,” a film that uses footage from who knows where to portray Kauai as having open pit mining, skyscrapers, a packed Chinatown, clear-cut forests, massive cargo container ports, traffic-choked freeways, aerial pesticide spraying, dense suburbs, toxic farm soil, wheat fields, massive chemical plants and Hawaiians who arrived in six-man outriggers. 

It ends by giving special thanks to the Donovan family and Hawaiian Volcanic Beverages, a water source mined "from deep within the sacred island of Hawaii" by “green” (as in big kala) Kauai Realtor Jason Donovan. He was also a proponent of Kauai Springs, and an early investor in that company.
Oh, yeah. Aloha aina, baby. Hooponopono and malama aina, too.. Now gimme all your money.

Then I got a text from a friend: "Fern calling you out!"

Flashback to seventh grade, when Becky Covarubius wanted to beat me up because she thought, mistakenly, that I'd flipped her the bird on the bus. Only this time, it's a different tita: anti-GMO activist Fern Rosensteil. And she's looking for my home address because she doesn't like what I've written about her.  
Hmmm. I always suspected Chris D'Angelo was embedded with the anti-GMO movement when he was working for The Garden Island. And now he's doing the same thing over on the Big Island.
Sorry, Fern, but somebody already beat you to it. 
Yeah, just another uppity haole who never learned her place. Still, I'm not gonna tangle with Fern. She's way bigger. And as my dear departed Mama used to say, "Never get in a pissing match with a skunk."

I'm not sure which of these comments amused me more:

Besides laughs, the comment thread served another purpose: I became thoroughly convinced that none of these people master-minded the anti-GMO/anti-ag strategy unfolding in Hawaii. They're not bright enough. But they are chumps, with egos big enough to make them easy marks.

Meanwhile, their colleagues, the chem trail conspirators, are gearing up. Alarmingly, their ranks include Dr. Lorrin Pang, the state health officer for Maui County, as captured in this eye-popping video. Though Pang was giving an anti-GMO talk, the topic drifted to chem trails, with Pang paranoiacally speaking of tapped phones and how when “they catch wind of you monitoring, they spray the seawater” to cover their tracks.

Those devious buggahs. But he did hear of one pilot who “forgot to turn off the chem trail emitter and landed. Wow, talk about the smoking gun.” Sadly, it's tough to convince others because “it's so easy to disprove everything.”

Yeah, there's that.

“They” aren't gonna fool failed mayoral candidate Dustin Barca, though. He's way too smart for that:
Still, you'll be relieved to learn that, according to Pang, “they” are using chem trails to “cool the Earth”  and not for “mind control.”

Actually, it's not needed for that purpose, which has already been achieved through social media.

The month wrapped up with a giant pu fest that, as predicted, successfully stopped the secret TPP talks at Kaanapali, thus saving activists from being forced to buy more cheap crap from China: 
As one friend noted, "And what about the hundreds of conch shells they they think they just washed up on the beach, in perfect condition, with no animal inside?" Which was similar to an observation by another friend, “I'm sure they were all sustainably harvested.”
Yup. Nothing like a red shirt with a pu in his/her fist to make the world's corporate leaders tremble in fear.

Even Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser got in the act. Though he couldn't make it to Lihue for the premiere of “Aina,” he managed to fly to Maui for a global photo op meaningful social protest. Hmm. Has he changed his mantra from “bite me” to "blow me"?
As a friend commented, "You can't make this shit up."

Nope. But you can laugh!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Musings: High Stakes

Anti-GMO propaganda frequently came up in conversation while I was traveling in India last spring on assignment for the Cornell Alliance for Science.

It didn't matter whether I was talking with farmers, scientists, politicians, seed dealers, business owners, journalists, taxi drivers or average citizens. They'd all been exposed to it, and rejected its claims, based on their own personal experience with the technology, independent research or a healthy skepticism.

Yet they still marveled, as I did, at how effectively it had influenced politicians and the general public.

It's a topic that's fascinated me since I began watching the same phenomenon unfold in Hawaii, starting with the Vandana Shiva rally back in January 2013. After doing exhaustive research into biotechnology, and the groups that oppose it, my own views on the topic shifted dramatically, and I began chronicling and debunking the anti-GMO movement in the Islands.

So it was with great interest that I interviewed my better-educated, and far more devoted, Indian counterpart — Dr. C. Kameswara Rao. 
Cornell videographer Jeremy Veverka and I climbed the narrow stairway to his home in Bangalore, a fast-growing small city that can best be described as a swirl of traffic. His house was a quiet respite from the hot pandemonium of the streets. He served us cold mango juice and said we should call him Kam.
Kam is a retired academic and plant biologist who now spends his days refuting anti-GMO propaganda and writing about biotechnology. He and other Indian scientists started the Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education as a self-funded public service, providing a credible source of information about biotech.

Kam sees activism against agricultural technology as driven primarily by economic special interests, whether its European pesticide companies who lost significant business when India adopted Bt cotton, which requires fewer pesticide applications, or the organic industry.

“It is their livelihood, not a calling,” he said. “In fact, all these activists, they are registered lobbyists on European Commission records. Europe is the major funding agency for all these activities here in India.”

He believes the stakes in the GMO battle are high, with anti-biotech activism posing the greatest threat to India's food security.

"It's a question of affordability," he said. "That is the basic issue here. People are hungry because they don't have money to buy the food that is available. Food will become cheaper if your production is more."

I thought of the similar high stakes in Hawaii, not only for the future of agriculture, since seeds are its biggest sector, but for the global seed industry, since the Islands are a hub for international plant breeding. That's the dreaded “research” that Don Heacock referenced ominously in the propaganda film “Aina.” They aren't doing any pesticide experiments here, either. That work is done in confined facilities, on the mainland.

“Over here, we're all about keeping the plants alive,” said Dr. Sarah Styan, a horticulturalist and senior research manager at the Dupont Pioneer facilities in Hawaii.

That's because plant breeders around the world are awaiting the timely arrival of healthy seeds, for which they pay handsomely.

I'll be writing more about what I learned by visiting the Kauai seed operations. I hear a similar invitation was extended to the Sproats, and I hope they and the rest of the Waipa Foundation board will accept. It's quite amazing to contrast reality against the propaganda that's been disseminated so aggressively.

In the meantime, you can read my profile of Dr. Rao here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Musings: Smatterings

After watching “Aina: That Which Feeds,” a friend emailed to ask: “Did you notice that the 'Documentary' started with a disclaimer?”

I did indeed. And it made me wonder why filmmakers and producers would be involved in a “documentary” that didn't reflect their views. So what, were they hired guns, paid in part by Joan Porter of Kauai Rising? Or just covering their asses against libel?

KKCR host Felicia Cowden was lamenting on-air that local politicians weren't in attendance at the movie premiere, like it was something important. Heck, even anti-GMO Councilman Gary Hooser didn't show, nor did he attend the anti-Roundup talk in Waimea. Could even he be sick of all the BS and drama? Or is he just smarting because he wasn't given a starring role?

Gary will be at Big Island Sen. Russell Ruderman's fundraiser this Friday night, where he's billed as speaking on “Taking Back Our Government: the Why, the How and the Hope.” Gee, do you suppose he might cover how we can take back our government from self-serving ideologues who have wreaked extreme havoc, for no clear purpose or public gain?
Or rescue it from nonprofits that function as paid lobbyists, at taxpayer expense and without disclosing their funding, while they simultaneously demand full disclosure from agricultural companies? At any rate, it's hard to imagine anyone would pay $50 to $100 to hear Gary, even with dinner included.

Speaking of disclosure, or more specifically, the lack thereof, Rhonda Stoltzfus has a good blog post on how Dr. Lorrin Pang has failed to turn in the financial disclosures required of some state employees. Lorrin's day job is state health officer for Maui County, though he spends extensive time campaigning against GMOs. Indeed, he's on Kauai this week, delivering anti-Roundup lectures.

Rhonda writes:

Now why should we even care about this little lapse in ethics? Perhaps because Lorrin Pang has made “disclosure” his battle cry this past year. I can’t tell you how many times I sat in Maui council chambers during testimony about the GMO moratorium and heard Lorrin Pang testify about disclosure and transparency from the seed companies on our islands.

Funny, how the seed companies disclosed, but Lorrin did not.

Meanwhile, Maui folks are using the silliest strategy yet for an anti-GMO protest: a Guinness world record attempt at conch shell (pu) blowing outside the “secret” TPP meetings under way at Kaanapali. Maui activists have elevated the TPP talks to “emergency alert” status, claiming:

if TPP passes,12 major countries with 40% of the global GDP will be handing over almost all forms of protection for citizens including our rights to regulate Monsanto!!! Monsanto is a part of this deal they want to make it so even COUNTRIES cannot ban or regulate GMOs or pesticides.
Oh, no doubt the pu blowing will prove decisive in turning those TPP talks on their ear.

Here's something far more fascinating taking place on Maui: Ae'o chicks and Akekeke (Ruddy Turnstones) feeding near the Kealia coastal boardwalk in North Kihei. The photos were taken by Walter Enomoto, and emailed over with the subject line: Something to make you smile.
And they did. Thanks, Walter!

Something else that made me smile, or actually, laugh out loud, was this gofundme appeal from failed mayoral candidate turned failing farmer Dustin Barca:
There's something sort of poignant about his hopeful hashtags: #bealeader; #beafarmer; #feedthepeople; #bethesolution. 

Except he forgot the ones that reflect reality: #gimmemoney; #beggarboy; #needhandouts; #nevahdidabusinessplan; #wayovermyhead; #farmerwannabee, and most important, #notaseasyasitlooks.

All I could think was, those poor animals.....

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Musings: Yeah, Well….

OK, so I watched “Aina: That Which Feeds,” paying $3.99 to download the 22-minute film, which was less painful than it would've been to spend $10 to sit with the deluded true-believers at the Kauai Performing Arts Center.

The film was part Hawaiian romanticism, part anti-GMO apocalypso, part tourism promo and pretty much all bullshit, starting with how, according to Stacy Sproat-Beck, the Hawaiians “established a relationship with nature and the environment” when they arrived that allowed them to “live sustainably for over a thousand years.”

Yeah, well, except for all the birds they drove to extinction, and the lowland forests they slashed and burned and the streams they diverted to grow vast monocrops of taro.

Kawika Winter, one of those sitting on the supposedly objective Joint Pesticide Fact-Finding Group, waxed nostalgic about the good old days when his ancestors ignored short-term profits to think five to seven generations ahead.

Yeah, well, except for the time that Liholiho ordered the maka'ainana to harvest 1 million pounds of sandalwood so he could buy the luxury yacht that a drunken crew later ran aground at Hanalei Bay.

David Sproat, filmed while making poi deliveries, dissed the seed companies, saying, “We don't need these chemicals in our lives, among our families, in our communities.”

Yeah, well, except it apparently wasn't a problem when David was spraying pesticides and herbicides at Waipa when he was still one of the Hawaiian Farmers of Hanalei, before the Sproats grabbed control.

Sabra Kauka, in discussing pesticides, asked, “Does it cause death to one organism or death to a whole community?” before going on to say, “We're all related to this and we have to see it.”

Yeah, well, except let's not notice that the same person who was criticizing "industrial ag" one day was blessing the new Jack-in-the-Box the next.

I'm not disputing that the Hawaiians of old did some amazing things. But they weren't entirely benign, and that lifestyle is not going to replicated in 21st Century Hawaii, anyway. So why even pretend?

If you're going to preach that everything will be good if we just return to traditional practices, be prepared to demonstrate that. Start by ditching the tractors and mowers at Waipa, then grow enough food to supply at least your own farmer's market and poi customers. Oh, and do it without depending on $1 million each year in donations and grants to keep you going.

Otherwise it starts to sound like a lot of "do as I say" wishful thinking. 

As the Hawaiians are filmed paddling canoe, planting taro and otherwise looking noble and wise, state aquatic biologist Don Heacock and Bob Yuhnke, an air quality lawyer who is now passing himself off as biotech expert, keep up a steady patter of anti-biotech rhetoric: 

“If you're eating corn, you're eating Roundup; when you apply Roundup you kill most of the beneficial organisms in the soil; Roundup destroys bacteria in the gut and binds calcium, iron and minerals, making them nutritionally unavailable; we don't know what they may do, what residues they'll leave behind; with these GMO crops, they're putting poisons right into the food; you can spray these crops with Roundup every day; the chemicals they use are neurotoxins and they're blowing right into the schools; we've found Roundup in mother's milk.”

Yeah, well, except no fields are being cultivated anywhere near Kauai schools, and an actual peer-reviewed study found that Moms Across America “flat out got it wrong,” when they claimed Roundup accumulates in mother's milk.

Don goes on to proclaim: 

“We can teach a whole new generation about holistic thinking, critical thinking and the truth.”

Yeah, well, except if you're showing keiki this film, having Felicia Cowden instruct them at Waipa or engaging them in the anti-science, anti-critical thinking, anti-fact, anti-GMO movement.

The film ends with Sabra saying we must show love and respect to one another — “that's all I ask” — which is fine. Except why don't the anti-GMO activists show more love and respect to the scientists and field crew whose labors and professional passion they are constantly mischaracterizing and belittling?

One of the main things that turned me against the anti-GMO movement — aside from its self-serving politicians, ties to high-end Realtors and general disregard for the truth — was its treatment of seed company workers, who told me they've felt frightened, harassed, hurt, misunderstood, marginalized, vilified and demonized by rabid activists.

I've always believed that respect must be earned, and then kept. So truly, how do you maintain respect for people who have intentionally caused so much pilikia in our community, and who continue to do so? 

Which leads us to the latest installment in anti-GMO-financed fear-mongering: This week's lectures on Roundup featuring Judy Carman and Stephanie Seneff. Judy claims she's not a GMO activist, though her website is named She became the darling of the anti-GMO movement after producing a paper claiming that pigs fed GMOs suffered stomach inflammation at a higher rate than those that weren't, which she then extrapolated to human beings and all manner of digestive problems.

Judy's paper has been thoroughly debunked by numerous scientists, including a study that looked at the records of 100 billion farm animals, starting before the introduction of GM feed. It found no “unfavorable or perturbed trends in livestock health and productivity" over that period. 

Stephanie, meanwhile, is a computer modeling and artificial intelligence researcher at MIT who is anti-GMO and anti-vaccines. She's know for proclaiming that “At today’s rate, by 2025, one in two children will be autistic.” She blames Roundup, citing a correlation between GM crops and autism.
Of course, a similar claim could be made about the correlation between autism and organic food sales — unless you're a credible scientist:
Like I said, it's hard to have respect or aloha for folks who are running an active disinformation campaign aimed at spreading fear and ignorance via junk science and propaganda films.

Pesticides are dangerous, especially if they're misused. That's an undisputed fact. But unless your goal is to keep people stupid, why use not use credible scientists, and a vigorous debate, to explore the issue in a meaningful way? 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Musings: In the News

Cats and dogs have been often in the Kauai news lately, what with a possible repeal of the barking dog ordinance, and the feral cat people — and most recently, horse therapist Karin Stoll — cruelly attacking the Kauai Humane Society for performing the unpleasant task of euthanizing unwanted animals. Of course, the critics have no plans of their own for housing all those poor discarded critters....

It's always interesting to place such topics in some sort of context, starting with this historical account of Lihiliho's return to Oahu in the 1820s, as described by Rev. Bingham:

The shouting of the noisy natives, and the voice of the crier demanding hogs, dogs, poi, etc., to be gathered for the reception of his majesty (who was in his cups), formed a combination of the sublime and ludicrous not soon to be forgotten by the missionaries . . . which was now increased by the yelping and crying dogs, tied on poles, and brought in for slaughter.

Meanwhile, Australia is moving forward with an aggressive plan to kill 2 million feral cats by 2020 in order to save endangered native wildlife there. As The Guardian reports:

[Federal environment minister, Greg] Hunt said that all of the states and territories have agreed to list the feral cat as a harmful pest, with the animal targeted through baiting, shooting and poisoning.

Also oft in the local news is the GMO debate, with the House of Representatives voting yesterday to approve HR 1599, which addresses labeling for GMO, non-GMO and natural foods.

Both Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and the mainland-based Center for Food Safety (CFS) used the legislation as an opportunity to raise funds. Both also decried a “lack of transparency,” though Tulsi's emails, while giving constituents three links to sign petitions, failed to provide folks with a link to the bill so they could read it themselves, rather than accepting her interpretation.

And Tulsi, in her floor speech opposing the bill, cited Bill 2491 as an example of a local ordinance that could be pre-empted by the federal measure — without mentioning it had already been overturned by a federal judge because it was pre-empted by state law.

CFS, meanwhile, denounces the bill's sponsor for getting contributions from the Koch brothers, but never does name its own “generous donor” who provided funds to match donations up to $50,000. Because transparency is always for the other guys....

Also in the news has been the topic of repealing term limits for Kauai Councilmembers, with Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. saying he'd like to see limits repealed for the mayor's office, too. As in he might want to run again, rather than make way for Nadine Nakamura, who is already doing all the mayoral work, aside from the singing.

The prospect of a third term for Bernard is alarming, though still not as alarming as the possible alternative: any term by Dustin Barca.

Lest you have doubts, consider Dustin's recent Instagram post:
Gosh, Kauai's own Dustin Barca, providing the world with irrefutable proof of this international conspiracy. 

I'm so proud.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Musings: Con Job Too

Continuing with yesterday's “con job” theme, I wanted to draw attention to Ian Lind's commentary on Civil Beat, where he skewers the “kingdom defense” being used by some of the anti-TMT protestors.

It caught my attention because I have a young friend who has been similarly conned into believing that Dayne Aipoalani and the Kingdom of Atooi can protect him from the recurring charges of driving without a Hawaii license or license plates that recently landed him in jail.

Ian cites State of Hawaii v. Harry Fergerstrom, in which the court ruled the state “has lawful jurisdiction over all persons operating motor vehicles on public roads or highways within the State of Hawai`i. Persons claiming to be citizens of the Kingdom of Hawai`i and not of the State of Hawai`i are not exempt from the laws of the State of Hawaii applicable to all persons (citizens and non-citizens) operating motor vehicles on public roads and highways within the State of Hawaii.”

Ian goes on to write:

[T]here have been 41 cases brought before Hawaii’s Intermediate Court of Appeals and six cases before the Hawaii Supreme Court over the last two decades in which the courts rejected the argument that the state lacks jurisdiction because the Kingdom still exists.

Asserting the jurisdiction of the Kingdom may make for lively political theater, but as a legal argument, it’s clearly a loser.

And there’s a hidden benefit here for attorneys who pursue this line of argument. When the legal argument fails in court, those enthralled by its “obvious” validity can blame the bias of the courts, the power of the occupiers, and a continuing non-native conspiracy for the outcome while keeping their beliefs, and the reputations of their attorneys, intact.

Meanwhile, Hector Valenzuela, a College of Tropical Ag professor, and The Hawaii Independent are perpetuating another con job, one in which they agree that poor Hector has been hectored by the University of Hawaii for his anti-biotech stance.

As proof, they reference an article written by Paul Koberstein — one of those paid by the Media Consortium to write anti-GMO articles in Hawaii — and printed in the misnamed Independent, whose publisher, Ikaika Hussey, is on the board of Gary Hooser's anti-GMO HAPA group.

Koberstein quotes Hector as saying:

I am not an anti-GMO person, and I have never served as a spokesman for any anti-GMO group.

Yeah, I guess it's just a coincidence that for years Hector has been a prominent presence at just about every anti-GMO rally, meeting and march in the state; never missed an opportunity to utter anti-GMO quotes to the media, and offered “expert” testimony against biotech to both the Hawaii County Council and as a witness for SHAKA's anti-GMO moratorium.

The real problem with Hector is he has a tendency to play fast and loose with the truth, which doesn't endear to him to colleagues who value objectivity and scientific credibility. As a recent article in Slate reported:

Hector Valenzuela, a University of Hawaii crop specialist who also testified as an expert, said the same thing [as anti-GMO activist Jeffrey Smith]: that scientists hadn’t “conducted a single study” to assess the safety of GE papaya. Neither man mentioned the Chinese papaya feeding study in rats—published two months before the theoretical paper Smith had cited—which had found none of the harms Smith alleged.

As for Japan’s approval of the papaya, Valenzuela advised the council to look at U.S. government cables released by WikiLeaks. He said the cables showed “the lengths that the State Department goes to twist arms behind the scenes.” This was a clear insinuation that U.S. officials had coerced Japan’s decision. Smith mentioned the cables, too. But the cables showed no conspiracy. Nearly 6,000 of the leaked cables had been sent from U.S. embassies and consulates in Japan. They covered the years 2005 to 2010, during which Japanese regulators had debated and approved the GE papaya. Food & Water Watch, an environmental group, had searched the cables for references to pressure or lobbying by U.S. officials on behalf of GMOs. The group’s report, issued in May 2013, cited no cables that indicated any such activity in Japan.

Sadly, some 60 faculty members have bought into Hector's claim that his academic freedoms are being violated. After reading Koberstein's obviously biased article, they penned a letter to UH administrators, condemning the "academic freedom violations." Let's hope they employ a bit more discernment and critical thinking in their own classrooms, research and publications. I mean, really, you guys. Serious con.

And finally, I recently linked to a Facebook post with a video clip of baby sloths being bathed in an animal sanctuary. But the adorable clip soon drew fire from a spate of no-nothing know-it-alls:

I read elsewhere that sloths do not need baths unless it is for medical reasons. Please confirm 

I also heard that they should not be rubbed, it scares them...but idk for sure.

I lived in Panama a few years and I was told sloths have a natural oily skin and they stink to make them less prone to predator attacks since they can't defend themselves.

Which therefore suggests that they shouldn't be bathed "clean" right? This video makes sloths "pet-like" but instead National Geographic should be educating us on how they naturally live and survive. Stinky and oily and all!

When I saw the green solution she was putting them in I thought great she's gonna "re-stink" them! But she said a herbal mixture of tea and leaves?!? Wow was I wrong...I just shook my head!

I think they're wild animals and need to be left alone.

A sanctuary is fine to rehabilitate them but they should try to let them live as naturally as possible.

It wasn't "necessary" for them to bathe the sloths clean, surely their natural oils protect them from parasites in the wild.

Sloth's grow algae on their bodies that protect them in the wild by way of camouflage. These baths are making them more susceptible to predators.

Finally, someone from the sloth sanctuary weighed in:

Hi all, these sloths were bathed because they had a skin condition. It's generally not good for their natural pH balance unless it's absolutely necessary. Sloths do not smell. Or have any kind of odor to protect them against predators. The male Bradypus secret an oily substance from their patch only. This is musky smelling but certainly not bad in anyway. Hope this helps

I couldn't resist adding my own two cents:

This comment thread is a great example of how people make assumptions and pass judgment w/o knowing anything about what they've just seen! And next thing you know they're all fired up about Natl Geo mistreating sloths! The serious downside of FB and social media!

Because how many times has this same stupid scenario been repeated on just about every topic under the sun, breeding ever more ignorance and tilling fertile soil for the next con job.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Musings: Con Job

noun, derogatory
information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.

The latest round of agricultural propaganda is about to be unleashed on the Islands. It starts Wednesday night with the first in a statewide lecture series on glyphosate (Roundup) and “the implications of genetically engineered foods on our health.”

“Inform yourself and make educated choices” urges the flyer. Though it's hard to see how that is possible with a program that presents just one strident point of view and features a “scientist” who outlandishly claims her research has shown that glyphosate causes autism. Gee, and all this time I thought vaccines were the culprit.
The propaganda punch gets an extra squeeze of juice Saturday night with the premiere screening of “Aina: That Which Feeds Us,” a slick, big-budget film that ramps up the fear about Kauai's seed companies and romanticizes agriculture.

Ironically, it's presented by Waipa Foundation, an organization that has been unable to produce any significant amount of food, even with free land [correction: a below-market lease] and a steady infusion of volunteer labor and money from private foundations, donors and public funds.

Last year, you may recall, the hype was all about atrazine, with Tyrone Hayes making the rounds in the spring, followed by anti-glyphosate speaker Don Huber in the fall.

Because it's not just enough to plant the seeds of paranoia. They must be carefully tended with steady applications of fertilizer. As in bullshit.

Meanwhile, I noticed that tonight, Civil Beat is hosting a screening of “Merchants of Doubt,” a documentary film that claims to reveal propaganda by outing “the pundits-for-hire who sway public opinion on issues of importance.”

Gosh, could they be pulling back the curtain on the anti-GMO/anti-ag activists? No such luck. Watching the trailer, I saw the film instead focuses on the traditional bad guys: Tobacco and chemical lobbyists, climate change deniers.

A few sample snippets of dialogue:

Keep it simple. People will fill in the blanks with their own, I hate to say biases, but perceptions.

We're the negative force. We're just trying to stop stuff.

It's kind of an amazing accomplishment. Such a small group of people have had such a tremendous impact on public opinion.

All of that could be applied just as well to the alarmists, extremists and dilettantes — many of them paid lobbyists — who have hijacked the left in Hawaii. Yet I have no doubt that the majority of the "progressive" folks who will be watching that film — including Civil Beat, which often builds stories around fake experts like Ashley Lukens and Nomi Carmona — have no clue that they're either part of or supporting the exact same style of propaganda on the left.

What struck me, though, was this comment explaining the smoke and mirrors technique used by propagandists:

“It's all about preventing you from looking where the action really is, which is to say the science.”

In Hawaii, the anti-GMO movement is busily distracting people from so many real issues — gentrification, displacement of locals, a lopsided economy, the scourges of tourism, poverty, hunger, low-paying jobs, homelessness, sea level rise, ice.

And all the money that is being spent on anti-GMO/anti-ag propaganda — flying in Vandana Shiva and the other ideologues, producing slick films, staging "shame" protests at the state Capitol, etc. — could have been used to conduct health studies or actually help people.

So what is it really costing us to be conned by the anti-GMO/anti-ag movement in Hawaii?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Musings: Local Courtesy

Local courtesy is coming under fire on the North Shore of Kauai.

Seems some folks are getting irked waiting at the one-lane bridges that have been carefully preserved all these years precisely to slow down traffic and support the region's rural character. The Hanalei Roads Committee began its work in 1976, and the historic Hanalei Bridge was placed on the state and national historic registers in 2004
Photo from Ivy's Place website.
But for some, the wait at the Hanalei Bridge is apparently unacceptable. Felicia Cowden, who resides in Kilauea, sent the Council this email:

A number of years ago helpful signs were placed at both sides of Hanalei bridge that states [sic] "local courtesy 5-7 cars" or something to that effect.

In the past few years, particularly in peak visitor season, the road can back up [sic] more than 100 cars in either direction, sometimes as far as into the center of Hanalei town. This 5-7 car number is part of the problem. 

Community discussion is vivid on Facebook and casual dialog to remove this sign. An exception is Makaala Ka`aumoana likes the sign. Beyond that, I hear angry or frustrated discussion. It is my sense this would be easy to change and have suggested the county be contacted.

You may have heard from the community on this topic. I have copied the leaders of the community associations for Kilauea, Princeville and Hanalei on this e-mail so that they may weigh in.

Councilman Mason Chock was the first to respond:

Is there an alternative solution? Maybe between certain times of the day it should be a different count? We need to understand this better.

Mmm, it all seems pretty clear: There are too many fricking people and cars down there in the valley. Add up the daytrippers, Hanalei workers who can't find housing west of the bridge, TVRs equal to several large resorts and construction traffic, and what do you get? A traffic jam that bottlenecks at Hanalei Bridge.

It's yet another example of how Kauai has become a victim of poor planning and its own popularity.

Though Felicia seems to think “this 5-7 car number is part of the problem” and that only Makaala likes it, there's a reason why that number was picked. The Roads Committee, of which Felicia has never been a member, did a survey in 2008, asking residents how many cars should be allowed over the bridge before the other side gets a turn. 

A solid majority wanted a small number, with 53 percent choosing 5-7 cars and 28 percent opting for 3-5 cars. Only 19 percent said 7-9 cars, with a very few opting for “drain the lane.”

The committee chose 5-7, as the majority desired, and it's worked pretty well, except between about 2-4 p.m. The problem seems to be primarily people driving out of, and not into, Hanalei.

So what do you do? Take down the signs and create a free-for-all, with fisticuffs and road rage at the bridge as a long stream of vehicles, many of them rental cars, fly past the folks who are patiently waiting?

Sacrifice yet another bit of “local courtesy?” Pound another hammer in the coffin of local culture? And for what? A band-aid solution?

This local courtesy has even become part of the visitor experience, with TVR owners like Brysone's Nishimoto counseling guests on his website:

When approaching the one-lane bridges, yield signs and white lines indicate where cars need to stop to allow on-coming traffic to pass safely. Driving beyond these white lines, without noticing if there are on-coming cars leads to traffic jams, accidents and locals giving you stink eye.

If you are in a short line of traffic and someone is waiting to cross from the other side, it is OK to go if you are the second or third car. However, somewhere after the fourth or fifth car it is polite to stop and allow those on the other side to proceed across. You’ll know you gauged this right if a local gives you the shaka sign for waiting.

Lastly, if you and another car appear to be approaching the bridges at the same time, it is better to stop than race to get over first. There’s “no hurries, no worries” here, besides its your vacation, relax and enjoy.

One thing's for certain: Hanalei Bridge is not going to become two lanes. Such a project would cost some $20 million, and no doubt folks at one of the island's other bottlenecks, like Kapaa town, would prefer to see the money spent there first.

So maybe chillax then? Remember: 

There’s “no hurries, no worries” here.

Which is a good time to direct you to this charming little video. Enjoy!!