Saturday, February 27, 2016

Musings: No Free Lunch

In traveling around the Islands, talking to farmers and scientists and policy-makers, I keep hearing, when people ask where I'm from: “Oh, Kauai. That's ground zero, isn't it?”

They aren't referring to GMO field trials or crops, but the hostility and hatred that has been focused against them, and by extension, any form of agriculture that doesn't pass the non-farming activist smell test.

The mention of Kauai used to elicit quite a different response around the state: old-school, charming, still Hawaiian, special. Folks had a sense that it was a little oasis preserving the most wonderful aspects of Hawaii. And now, thanks to Gary Hooser, Hawaii SEED, Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice and GMO-Free Kauai, it's viewed as the center of a shit storm.


In talking to farmers and ranchers, I am continually struck by how hard they work, and the incredible risks they take, in order to produce something that sustains others. Every initiative is an economic gamble, yet they keep at it, because they love the life, and they feel good about what they do.

I can't help but contrast these frugal, self-made folks with the heavily subsidized Kilauea ag park, which is moving forward, supported by grant money and public funds.

After getting the land at no cost, they've spent $1 million to get water to just one section of the park, while another $500,000 is needed to irrigate the rest. And what will they get for that investment?

Well, according to today's edition of The Garden Island:

The plan for the park is to allow 30 families to work together, with a six-month commitment, under the supervision of a farm manager to grow food. Those families will receive a bi-weekly, custom-made box of produce with at least seven items. Seeds, tools, fertilizers, and soil amendments will be provided to families.

Wow. Those are some super expensive veggies — if they even pull it off.

Don't get me wrong. I think it's great to teach people how to grow food. But when I hear folks like Keone Keone claim that this park “will serve thousands of residents on Kauai as a regional food hub assisting Hawaii’s shared efforts to increase food security, preserve rural character, provide viable, agriculturally based economic development with a long term vision to provide our youth with rewarding jobs and skills in agriculture” — using “traditional practices” no less — I can't help but catch a whiff of bullshit.

As farmers have repeatedly told me, the definition of sustainability is profitability. 

And that's the part of the equation that's missing in the Kilauea ag park, the Kilauea “food forest” and the activist dream of communal agriculture. It's founded on freebies and hand-outs, when we should all know by now that there is no free lunch.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Musings: Political Amnesia

The Legislature's Finance Committee has decided it's OK to allow illegal B&Bs and TVRs to flourish, so long as they're paying some taxes.

The panel — whose members include Kauai Rep. Jimmy Tokioka — yesterday passed HB 1850, which allows entities like AirBnB to serve as tax collection agencies. However, they aren't required to disclose the names and addresses of any of their operators, or verify whether they're paying general excise and transient accommodation taxes.

Kauai Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura was on HPR's “The Conversation” yesterday, mostly talking about the real property tax assessment cap the Council ended up approving for homesteads and long-term rentals. But she also weighed in on HB 1850, saying:

“We're concerned our neighborhoods will become horizontal hotels...and push out residents.”

Will become? Shoots, they already are. 

JoAnn also noted that TVRs “are what contribute greatly to the rise of real property taxes.” So why, then, was she instrumental in pushing through county bills that have allowed TVRs to flourish in residential neighborhoods, thus decreasing the availability of long-term rentals?

Is there some sort of amnesia that politicians suffer that allows them to forget their major screw ups, particularly in election years?

And even more important, why did she support a bill that allowed TVRs on ag land, which has significantly added to the rise of luxury gentleman's estates and pushed ag land prices out of the reach of farmers?

Speaking of gentleman's farms, while flying into Hilo last night, I thumbed through the Hana Hou magazine and saw this ad:
It really spoke to the mentality that is behind so much of the anti-ag movement in Hawaii: Live your dream, with none of the work. Yeah, pretend you're a farmer and rhapsodize about farming, while someone else labors.

Meanwhile, as Kauai folks await release of the Joint Fact Finding Group's report on pesticides, state campaign spending reports show that two of the panelists — Doug Wilmore and Louisa Wooten — contributed to Gary Hooser's last Council campaign. Doug gave $600, while Louisa contributed $50.

Gary, as you may recall, introduced Bill 2491, which ultimately was thrown out of court, along with its provision for an environmental and public health study. Instead, the mayor and Department of Ag funded this JFFG process.

While it's always been clear that the panel has some anti-GMO diehards, it's troubling to see that at least two are confirmed Hooser supporters.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Musings: Grab and Go

While I support the voter initiative process, I can't help but feel it was never intended to advance proposals like the Community Organic Farmlands Initiative.

Still, as one friend observed when discussing the motivations of many in the anti-GMO crowd, it's all about establishing a new world order. We're talking one that is anti-corporate, anti-free trade, anti-global and anti-capitalism, sprinkled liberally with utopianism.
Which leads us to the verbiage — excessive and revisionist as it is — driving this proposed Maui County initiative.

Stuff like this:

As the “Big Five” companies and their successors abandoned agriculture in Maui County over the last thirty years for more profitable ventures, it has become clear that their “land management” practices are not developed for the public good, nor for the long term health, stability and food-security of the community. This clarity is evidenced in the refusal of such landowners to sell their lands to entities working in the public interest. Further evidence consists in their practice of selling to land speculators who then manipulate land use laws to develop luxury “gentlemen estate” farms or highly-priced residential and hotel developments that do not grow food or other sustainable agricultural products. The pervasiveness of such practices has resulted in a serious shortage of agricultural land available for food farming in Maui County. As a consequence of Maui County’s lack of food-production, over 90% of food consumed in Maui County is imported from out of state.

Gee, if they keep talking like that, they're going to lose all their backers who are living on and/or selling those gentleman estates and high-priced residential developments.

But seriously, where did they ever get the idea that there is a “serious shortage of agricultural land available for food farming in Maui County” or anywhere else in Hawaii? The Islands are awash in unused ag land, both public and private. All that's needed are competent, willing farmers, with some financial backing.

The initiative language then morphs into the “we know best” smug rhetoric that really grates, especially on those who have been busting their asses to keep ag alive in Hawaii all these years:

To accomplish the public purpose of wisely conserving, preserving, using and managing agricultural lands in Maui County requires changing present patterns of agricultural land ownership. Changing present patterns of such landownership in Maui County by allowing the County to buy or condemn agricultural land at the request of residents or potential farmer-lessees will help to satisfy the pressing public necessity for a secure, strong and stable agricultural sector and overall economy.

It then calls on Maui County to use eminent domain to snag privately owned land, upon petition by citizens or “landless farmers,” that will then be turned into ag parks. We're talking any land classified as “interim, agricultural, rural, conservation or open space.” The acquisition and parceling out will be administered by the Farm Commons Committee. 

And enforced by the Brown Shirt Brigade.

The initiative calls upon the county to pay the owner fair market value, but makes no mention of where the county is supposed to obtain the dough to finance this massive acquisition process. But why bother with such petty details when you're plotting a grand agricultural renaissance?

In exchange for a 50-year lease, the lessee does have certain responsibilities, such as:

[Keep] premises and improvements thereon in a strictly clean, sanitary and orderly condition; not engage in any activity which may result in soil erosion; or [engage in] any improper or offensive use; utilize best management practices as [sic] all times.

And allow the Committee to come in and check on you and your operations at any time.

I do not anticipate that this will be well-received. Well, except by the starry-eyed with no stake in the current system.

But hey, Viva la revolucion! If you missed it 100 years ago, no worries. It's coming soon, to a ballot near you. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Musings: There's More

Oh, here's a news flash:

The most heavily traveled areas on Kauai are from the Kukui Grove Shopping Center to the Lihue Airport, and from Wailua to Kapaa.

Yup, Kauai County spent good money digging up that closely guarded secret, evident only to those who actually creep through that tangled traffic.

There's more:

The study found that there are too many cars on the road.

Ya don't say?

And still more:

The goal by 2035, when it comes to transit, is to increase transit trips from today’s 1 percent of travel to 4 percent, and to update fare collection technology and structures.

So the county wants to impose a ½ percent GET surcharge, which would generate $5 million annually for the bus system over the next 10 years, with the lofty goal of a 3 percent increase in ridership. Wow.

Meanwhile, as tourism continues to expand, the increase in rental car traffic will easily offset those paltry gains. Because Council Chair Mel Rapozo is right when he says visitors want cars because they want to explore. After all, aren't we now being marketed as “Island of Discovery?”

Hello.... Got some major disconnects going on here.

Like Councilman Gary Hooser's comments to The Garden Island on the county's proposed lobbyist registration bill:

"I am concerned about Honolulu lobbyists and these guys with big budgets behind them that go all over the state lobbying."

Oh, but it's no problem when Kauai lobbyists, like Hooser, go all over the state.

There's more:

“Why would a lobbyist give a gift to us unless it was to reward or influence? Whether it’s a lunch or a trip, a person paid to influence government shouldn’t give gifts to elected officials."

Yeah, so tell us again, Gary, why you accepted that free trip to Switzerland, and why your HAPA groups takes money from Center for Food Safety and its registered lobbyists.

And still more:

“I’d prefer you couldn’t be a lobbyist and be on any commission."

But being a lobbyist and a Councilman – well, that's A-OK, in Gary's view.

Meanwhile Gary's HAPA has launched an on-line petition “demanding” — you can never ask politely if you're an anti, you must always “demand,” like you're fricking entitled to get exactly what you want this instant and screw everyone else — that “Our Leaders Take Action to Protect Hawai`i from Pesticides Now!”

Why now? you might ask.

Well, because they already lost big on one bill at the Lege, prompting them to unleash a vicious attack on Rep. Clift Tsuji of the Big Island. And now the Kauai Joint Fact Finding Group on pesticides is preparing to —finally — release its report on March 10.

So Gary and his colleagues at Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice are ramping up their coordinated efforts to make big hay while the Legislature is still in session.

Of course, they might run into a bit of resistance with this particular “demand,” which oversteps, even for them:

Require pesticide free 'protection zones' around all schools, hospitals, and homes.

So no more ant spray, cockroach traps, weed killer, flea control, worming medication, termite control....

I love watching these guys shoot themselves in the foot.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Musings: Gaming the System

In listening to the Kauai County Council debate its proposed lobbyist registration bill, I finally understood why Councilman Gary Hooser always submits his legislative testimony on county letterhead. 

By pretending that he's acting in his “official capacity,” when he's really representing his HAPA group, he can evade state lobbying rules.

It's just so fascinating that Gary has introduced this bill, trying to make it look like he's getting tough on lobbyists, when in reality, he himself is gaming the system.

Gary kept using the phrase “to influence government” while describing the role of a lobbyist.

Isn't that what he's been doing, flying over to the Lege to submit testimony on bills that reflect the mission statement, values and political goals of his HAPA group, but have nothing to do with the county agenda?

Isn't that what he's doing with his blog, and his guest commentaries, which are replete with calls to contact lawmakers? Isn't that what he's doing with the HAPA political candidate training academy?

Heck, Hooser is even quoted in The Garden Island — along with duly registered lobbyist Ashley Lukens of Center for Food Safety — on the deferral of a House bill involving school buffer zones. Why not ask one of our state representatives for a comment? What is Gary's connection to that bill, other than he and Ashley fed TGI the story?

Yet there he is, baldly trying to influence government, with his comment:

“I think we need to replace, statewide, some of these legislators with people who are more concerned about people’s health and the environment.”

Gary has also tried to take refuge behind the fact that he doesn't get paid as president of HAPA.

Still, as Council Chair Mel Rapozo noted, without specifically referencing Hooser:

“Just because you're not on the payroll doesn't mean you're not a lobbyist.” 

Gary also wants to include a provision that would allow invited guests of the Council to evade registering as lobbyists. But Mel balked: “We could invite corporate lobbyists or attorneys and can have them up here as long as they want trying to convince the Council; he can buy us gifts, take us to dinner, etc., but because he's been invited, he's exempt from the law. That doesn't seem right.”

However, that loophole language remains in the amended bill that goes before full Council next Wednesday. It needs to be yanked.

Regardless of Gary's “official capacity,” it certainly seems that he and HAPA fit the lobbyist definition under this provision:

Each person who spends seven hundred fifty dollars ($750) or more of the person’s or any other person’s money, including, but not limited to, amounts spent on print, electronic, broadcast or other media during the reporting period for the purpose of attempting to influence legislative or administrative action or a ballot issue by communicating or urging others to communicate with with Kauai County public officials.

And certainly Gary could not accept another free trip to Switzerland, or Grateful Dead tickets, under this provision:

No elected official or official of an administrative agency shall solicit, accept, or receive, directly or indirectly, any gift, whether in the form of money, service, loan, travel, entertainment, hospitality, thing, or promise or in any other form, under circumstances in which it can be reasonably be inferred that the gift is intended to influence the elected official or official of an administrative agency in the performance of the elected official’s or official of an administrative agency’s official duties or is intended as a reward for any official action on the elected official’s... part.

In other political news, it's election time at KIUC, with three spots open and five candidates running. It's easy to identify the best three: Jan TenBruggencate, the current Board chair who made a career of science journalism and is now devoting his retirement to community service; Mina Morita, the former PUC Chair who brings a wealth of experience to the position; and incumbent Calvin Murashige, the retired judge who is thoughtful, akamai and well-versed in utility matters.

Coop members would be lucky to have these three people on the Board.

At the recent candidate's forum, failed KIUC candidate Jonathan Jay tried to make a big deal out of KIUC's hydro projects in Wailua, claiming those diversions were “stealing water" from taro farmers downstream.

Per usual for the KKCR kooks, he's woefully misinformed. The only taro farmer down there is Adam Asquith, and he gets his water from another diversion, the East County Water Users Cooperative, which serves numerous small farms and the Hindu monastery – the one place on Kauai that is truly self-sufficient.

Jonathan and his fellow KKCR dj Felicia Cowden were all huhu about Jan's supposedly “aggressive” response to Jonathan's bogus claim. Yeah, anytime you call them on their bullshit, you're aggressive, angry, brain damaged or mean.

Nope, just tired of people who willfully misinform the public. 

As for Felicia, she's obviously gearing up for another Council run, having elbowed poor Glenn Mickens out of his usual spot in the Council chambers so she can be the one who shows up on the TV camera. 

She needs to give up her show, as it's a clear conflict of interest, just like Gary's presidency of HAPA while he's being paid as a Councilman. (Note I did not say "serving" on the Council.)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Musings: Go Figure

It's pretty easy to rally support when you're pitting them poor little east Maui taro farmers against big bad A&B and its “theft of native water rights.”

Which is why the Senate Water, Land and Ag (WLA) committee yesterday deferred SB 3001. The bill would have allowed entities that have existing month-to-month revocable water leases — and have applied for long-term leases — to continue operating under a holdover permit while the pending disposition of water rights is settled, even if that takes more than the one year specified by law.

Though bill opponents are gleefully chortling about sticking it to A&B, they seem to have forgotten the many small farmers, ranchers and even homeowners who will be adversely affected when the overdue revocable water permits are yanked.

KIUC rate payers also could be impacted, since the two diversions that support the utility's upper and lower Waiahi hydroelectric plants are managed under revocable permits. KIUC noted in its testimony that it applied for a long-term lease in 2004.

Yet that application is still pending, 12 years later, because the state functions as slow as molasses. So what are short-term permit holders to do in the interim? Nothing involving water is resolved within a year in Hawaii, especially when every decision is subjected to litigation.

Indeed, it was a Hawaii Circuit Court decision that invalidated the present diversion of Maui streams on the grounds that the holdover status of the permits exceed the applicable time limit.

As an aside, I find it humorous that activists applaud the courts as “upholding justice” when they issue a decision like this. But when they rule against the anti-GMO initiatives, groups like Babes Against Biotech launch personal attacks against judges on social media, deriding them as unethical stooges in the pay of corporations. 

There's no question that the revocable permit system for land and water needs some serious revamping, both to protect the environment and traditional uses, and also to give farmers and ranchers a level of security that will allow them to invest the time and money that's required to succeed. But something has to be done to protect the little guys while it's being hashed out.

A&B has private wells and ample financial resources to weather this storm. Small farmers and ranchers do not. They're being thrown under the bus in the drive to wrest water away from A&B. It's the same short-term, vindictive thinking that has people going after the seed companies, without a thought as to what will happen to agriculture and that land if they disappear.

Well, some people have given it more than a thought....
While this has been billed as supporting east Maui taro farmers, I wonder if taro production actually will increase with the allocation of more water. We've seen a drop in taro farming on Kauai because it's hard work, for not much dough. It's hard to imagine the dynamics are any different on Maui, given the associated economic pressures of the gentrification that's occurring in Keanae and Hana.

The contorted belief systems around these complex issues were expressed in this bit of testimony from a woman living on Hawaiian Homelands in Anahola:


Yeah, go figure. Because I sure as hell can't follow this logic, which does not factor in how much water the visitor industry uses, nor the fact that most of the food is being produced by small farms that depend on the irrigation systems and diversions that began with sugar.

In a similar disconnect, anti-GMO activists repeatedly reference the lack of human feeding studies to bolster their claims that GMO foods are unsafe. Yet attempts to conduct human feeding studies on a banana fortified with Vitamin A were met with serious blowback from University of Iowa students, who collected 57,309 petition signatures in opposition.

So the foods are unsafe because they haven't done feeding trials, but they can't do feeding trials because those are unsafe.

It's just like all the newbies and dreamers who are screaming for more local food, even as they repeatedly — and apparently, for some of these twits, unknowingly — screw over the small ranchers and farmers who are trying to produce it.

You just can't have it both ways. 

Which is why some of us see this anti-ag activism as merely the latest attempt to gain control of land and water, and thus power, in Hawaii. But given the fear-mongering, short-sightedness, self-serving agendas and ignorance of some of the major players, it's hard to imagine they'd be any better stewards than the Big 5.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Musings: Maui Dreamin'

A&B needn't worry about what to do with all its Maui land once HC&S stops cultivating sugar. The cyber farmers have it all figured out:

Ah, yes, so much easier to dream, than actually do the hard work of farming. That's where the "we" comes in. As in you — someone else — do it.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Musings: I Spy with My Little Eye

I spy a homeless guy, holding a sign that reads: Looking for investment capital.

Hmmm. As in beg enough to buy an eight-ball of junk/ice/coke and split it up for smaller sales? No, thanks.

I spy an article in Beach Grit about Dustin Barca, Lucifer and guns — a creepy combo, to be sure.
As Rory Parker writes:

I may not love all his rhetoric, but I’m on board with most of his goals. I believe he truly cares, that his activism springs from a place of selfless regard for his fellow man.

I have no idea what Dustin's goals really are — other than to promote Dustin. And it's pretty much impossible for a full-blown narcissist to have selfless regard for anyone. Still, I do believe that Dustin truly does care, as do many of his followers.

Problem is, their activism is so often grounded in entrenched ignorance, smug self-righteousness, short-term thinking and an inability to see the big picture that it becomes a caricature.

As I've said before, it doesn't matter if your heart is in the right place if you're talking out of your ass.

And in the case of Dustin and others, it's exacerbated by the aforementioned narcissism, pathological levels of grandiosity and a messianic complex.

Those 644 “likes” may think they're being cool, and getting down with Dustin, but they're just pushing him closer to the edge. It's harmful, not helpful, to feed a person's delusions, especially when they're teetering on the brink of sanity.

Also on Beach Grit, I spy a video of dumb asses — apparently filmed (by Terry Lilley) because they're young shapely asses — frolicking in killer shorebreak at Lumahai, even as the jet ski rescues a guy who got washed out.

And they wonder why so many people drown. Truly, there's no regulating stupid.

I spy yet another crybaby going to The Garden Island — waa, I was in Mahaulepu after the gate closed and I had to pay the fine, waa — and getting a write up followed by the usual crybaby entitlement comments — “I never understood why Grove Farm installed the gate.  How many yeas [sic] did we all use that road. It was fine when they were growing sugar and had no choice but to leave it open. Trash or parties on the beach is no excuse. If it's in need of cleaning make the state or county come clean it up." — that show no grasp of reality.

Yeah, a lot of things were fine when they growing sugar, but in case you hadn't noticed, it's a different world now. If the gate was open all night, that place would be tweaker central and a homeless haven. And how, pray tell, is a private landowner going to “make the state or county come clean it up”? 

I spy Councilman Gary Hooser — a narcissist on the order of Barca — once again doing the wild spin, using his fourth-grade writing skills to present his lobbyist registration bill as a boon for Kauai even as he uses his own piddling little office to lobby for HAPA.

And — get this — blasting Jan TenBruggencate for "significantly misrepresenting both the facts and the intent" of the lobbying bill. Yup, that bit of projection is coming from Gary, the master of misrepresentation and mischaracterization.

Then Gary, proving he's also mastered the art of hypocrisy, goes on to pontificate:

It is the “after hours” lobbying, the lunches, the dinners, the trips, the first-class travel upgrades and the one-on-one meetings behind closed doors that are for the most part invisible to the public eye that deserve full transparency.

Yeah, so why are you hiding the funding sources for HAPA, Gary? Why are you running a candidate training program with similarly undisclosed funds? Why don't you disclose how HAPA, Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice co-mingle monies to make it seem like these groups have more clout than they do? Why won't you reveal who paid for your trip to Switzerland?  

Come on, Gary. Go ahead and model that full transparency. Lead by example, instead of ignorance and fear-mongering. I dare you. 

I spy a Civil Beat editorial promoting a citizen's initiative bill. Which is great, in concept. But seriously suspect when it's introduced by anti-GMO legislators like Sen. Ruderman and Thielen. And fucking dangerous you have people like Hooser and Barca and their cult-like followers eager to manipulate the political process for their own narrow, perverse ends.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Musings: On Love

Sick, heartbroken, anchored in safe harbor after a period of being lost, I got the message — from that little voice in my head/heart — go to the shelter and see who's there.

The minute I spotted her, clinging to one side of the wire kennel, face and ears akin to a fruit bat, every fiber screaming “pick me," I knew she was the one. Coco, they'd named her, a stray found wandering in Kapaa. Koko, I called her, and took her home.
We were both sick a lot that first year — even the taro that grew alongside my bedroom wall was listless, languid — but we all kept pulling through. Her company brought comfort on those long, feverish afternoons, watching the strawberry guava leaves tremble in the breeze, wondering when I'd feel like lying beneath them on the grass again.

She'd been abused, and was afraid of everything, except children and local men. The rustle of a newspaper, the clang of a pan, the snap-snap of ti leaves plucked from their stem, sent her running, cowering. But I just kept on being loving, gentle, calm, until one day I saw the smallest smile at the corner of her lips. She was coming out of her shell, and I knew then she'd be OK. Ten years later, she still is.

Paele grew up in a meth house, where he was liked, even loved, but seriously messed with by a boy who had a number of developmental disabilities. Paele was un-neutered, aggressive, not house trained, a little barbarian with no manners who operated on the premise that the best defense is a good offense. But something about him called out to me the day I saw him running alone through a parking lot in Lihue, and as sometimes happens in this inexplicable process called life, a series of events unfolded that found his mom in jail, the boy with relatives and Paele riding home with me.
Little macho man, my neighbor called him. Psycho chimp, declared a friend. Lawsuit waiting to happen, said another. Fierce little temple dog, was the description from the vet. The canine version of your bad-boy boyfriends, one sister opined. Neophobe, diagnosed the dog trainer who taught me how to understand and help this troubled, but deeply loving, being find peace.

These little poi dogs, cast-offs from society, have taught me so much about myself, imparted the gifts of acceptance, compassion, patience and unconditional love.

We never know what we're signing up for when we open our hearts to love. But though it often hurts, and inevitably shifts, even ends, it pulls us out of ourselves, makes us bigger, better, richer.

I'd like to share a sonnet from one of my favorite poets, Edna St. Vincent Millay: 

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

Happy Valentine's Day. May love bloom in your hearts today and every day.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Musings: Stinky

It's hard to believe Donald Trump's candidacy endures. But as we've seen time and again, never underestimate the stupidity — and gullibility — of the easily led.

While on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Trump blamed Mexicans — such a convenient scapegoat — for the heroin problem there. Never mind that health officials say most people get started with over-prescribed, ready available painkillers like Percocet, OxyContin and Vicodin, then move on to junk. As the CDC reports:

Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills. The Northeast, especially Maine and New Hampshire, had the most prescriptions per person for long-acting and high-dose painkillers.

But that reality interferes with Trump's brilliant plan to wall off the border with Mexico, so he just ignores it. I wonder, is he planning a similar approach to end the ice epidemic in Hawaii? But if the Islands are sealed off, how will the food get in?

Speaking of walls, and bordering nations, Canada has again declared its candidacy for POTUS. My favorite part of its platform:

We'll open one free day care for every closed Planned Parenthood clinic.

Shoots, they got my vote.

Though Trump won't shut up, the state Department of Health is all mum. As in, it won't tell us who is awarding those lucrative medical marijuana licenses or even who picked the power-wielding panelists.

Civil Beat quotes Gov. Ige as saying it's important to keep it all secret “to ensure they can properly do their jobs.” Ya mean like award licenses to their friends before folks can cry foul?

Yet in the perverse world of politics, Ige's spokeswoman actually sees the secrecy as ensuring that the process “is perceived to be fair and objective.”

Oh, yes, I've always found secrecy, and the inability to scrutinize the qualifications of those doling out valuable contracts, as part and parcel of “fair and objective.”

From where I sit, it's all kinda stinky, especially when you see folks who are well-connected politically, like Charles Kawakami, Sen. Kalani English and former Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, submitting applications as principles or investors. It's really hard to believe it's going to be solely merit-based, especially given the minimalist application process.

Speaking of stinky, The Garden Island reports there was a fish kill at Sunrise Capital, the Kauai shrimp farm. It reports, too, that Carl Berg of Surfrider was out there, gagging at the smell. But also salivating at the prospect of being able to shut them down. Seems Surfrider fought the company's permit, just like it's fighting the proposed dairy at Mahaulepu. the seed fields on the westside, cattle most anywhere and Roundup everywhere.

But no, they aren't anti-ag. They fully support gentlemanly farms and the odd “yarden” or two, where bees are kept not for honey, but meditative purposes.

Meanwhile, Surfrider is running an anti-pesticide radio spot, and one of its members (and former Kauai mayoral candidate), Diana LaBedz, is doing the voice-over for GMO-Free Kauai's latest fear-fest.

Apparently, they aren't getting enough traction in the free echo chamber at KKCR, so they're actually buying 30-second ad spots to take their message of “Be afraid. Be very very very afraid, so fucking afraid you can't sleep at night” out to the rest of the island.

In one spot, she tells farm, landscape and government workers they should be “very concerned” about their health. “Your illness could be caused by the pesticides you are spraying.”

In another spot, she claims we're being “poisoned by Roundup” and then goes on to state, as it it were fact, that Alzheimers, Parkinsons, autism, miscarriages and brain, breast, lung and prostate cancer “are illnesses tied to Roundup.”

Curiously, this particular anti-Roundup propaganda campaign was preceded by the Surfrider-funded and directed study that found glyphosate (Roundup ) in honey. And it will be followed by release of the Joint Fact Finding Group's report on pesticides, which has a special section on glyphosate. My, what a set of coincidences!

As the liberal website Alternet reports:

What’s going on is Americans are endlessly being bombarded with media messages that are fearful and deceitful. The result not only affects our politics and policies, as we are insistently told to fear and respond to exaggerated or fake threats. But, going deeper, this onslaught literally shapes how brains work and what people end up believing, [linguist and author George] Lakoff and other astute observers have said. The result is many small problems get undue attention while widespread problems go unacknowledged and unanswered.

You know, like focusing on Roundup while ignoring the very real threats of meth, hunger, homelessness and poverty. But hey, “GMO-Free Kauai cares about your health.” That's why it feeds you a steady diet of fear. Because it's so good for you.

The article continues:

Repetition of fear-based messaging—without a steady counterpoint or context to stop that drumbeat—has been shown to affect the brain patterns that determine how people think.

Indeed. As I've pointed out repeatedly, the anti-GMO movement in Hawaii is predicated on fear-mongering. And in that, they have an ally in Donald Trump. 
[S]ince love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved. —Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, 1513

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Musings: As My Mama Used to Say

The state Legislature today will take up the topic of genetically engineered fish, considering a bill that would ban their cultivation, propagation or farming in state marine waters.

Though the Civil Beat editors displayed their bias in the headline — “No GMO Fish in Hawaii, Please” — reporter Chad Blair was even-handed in his brief coverage, noting:

HB 686 does not explain why GMO fish need to be banned from local waters.

That's because, as one commenter noted, “there isn't a good scientific reason. It's just a general fear of technology coupled with nostalgia for 'the good old days.'”

Guess sales of the cheesy chicks calendar haven't gone too well, as Babes Against Biotech admitted it doesn't have the dough to fund a fulltime fearmongerer lobbyist this year.

But no worries, since activism has always been second to self-promotion among the anti-GMO crowd. Which is why BAB's Nomi Carmona didn't post any testimony on the BAB Facebook page, just a selfie at the Capitol:
Uh, might wanna close your mouth before the flies get in, as my Mama used to say. Or as Mr. Rogers used to say, "Can you spell narcissist?" 

Nomi was very upset that Alicia Maluafiti, a woman who spends her free time and money rescuing abandoned animals, yet is nonetheless regularly maligned by the antis because she lobbies for Crop Life America, called out the anti-GMO movement in Hawaii for what it is: 

“Mainland activists trying to save us from ourselves” and “21st Century missionaries.”

Oh, such race-baiting, huffed Nomi, who hails from California. Nope. Just the truth. Which is why none of the anti-GMO groups can actually survive on local funding.

Alicia was testifying against HB 2564, which would establish a pilot project requiring certain agricultural entities to plant vegetative buffer zones around five as yet undesignated schools, one on each island. Though not Lanai, because apparently the activists don't give a shit about the keiki there.  

But then the bill goes on to specifically exempts treatments by termite companies.

So you can't spray ag pesticides in a field a mile from a school, but you can use pesticides directly on school grounds and buildings. But this is not about agriculture, it's about keiki health. OK, got it.

Speaking of keiki, Malia Chun – sister of Kauai Councilman Mason Chock and one of those suing to keep Bill 2491 alive – sent her mom to allege that Malia's kids are sick from pesticides. As "proof," she cited hair samples that showed exposure to 36 pesticides, eight of them restricted use.

Curious, I did a bit of research, and found this paper:

In order to identify associations between indoor air contamination and human exposure to pesticides, hair samples from 14 persons (9 adults and 5 children below 12 years) were collected simultaneously with the air of their 5 contrasted houses. Three houses were situated in Alsace (France), one in Lorraine (France) and one in Luxembourg (Luxembourg). Houses were located in urban (n=3), semi-urban (n=1) and rural areas (n=1). Twenty five (25) pesticides were detected at least once in indoor air samples and 20 pesticides were detected at least once in hair samples. The comparison between hair and air samples for the same sampling periods shows that pesticides detected in the two matrices were not necessarily associated. Exposure profiles varied from one home to another but also between inhabitants of the same home, suggesting that exposure can be different between inhabitants of the same home.

I hate to break it to folks, but pesticides are ubiquitous. You can pick them up even when you don't live anywhere near an agricultural field. Why, they're even found in — gasp — organic food. As Forbes reported, using the latest USDA-PDP (Pesticide Data Program) information as a source (emphasis in the original):

What that transparent source of tax payer-supported research indicates is that 40 different synthetic pesticide residues were detected on organic food samples at levels similar to what was seen for the comparable conventional food samples. In both cases the amounts are too small to be a health/safety concern.

For organic advocates and organic marketers this sort of information leaves one of two possibilities. They can agree with the EPA and other responsible agencies that consumers need not be concerned about the low-level pesticide residues found in either conventional and organic food. Alternatively they could choose not to believe those authorities and be forced to conclude that organic food is unsafe.

But then, that would require logic.

One of the things that irritates me most about the anti-GMO movement, especially now that it's broadening its message to include pesticides, is its total disconnect from the reality that many GM crops actually reduce pesticide use. This has been documented in Bt cotton, corn, brinjal (eggplant) and papaya.

Heck, even the anti-corporate spiel is turning out to be a crock, now that so many pure, altruistic, consumer-minded organic companies have opted for the big bucks and sold out to large corporations:
Yeah, that's the problem with the real world. Things just aren't so black-and-white, so cut-and-dried, as a Facebook meme.