Thursday, March 31, 2016

Musings: False Claims

So the state Department of Health says Hawaii Dairy Farms didn't cause the high enterococci bacteria counts at Waiopili ditch in Mahaulepu:

Currently, there is no significant impact to the Waiopili Ditch from any activity that can be attributed to the proposed dairy.

But we've heard no apology from Bridget Hammerquist or Carl Berg for smearing the dairy all these months with false accusations, or intentionally mischaracterizing a ditch as a natural stream:

What some call Waiopili Stream is actually a man-made drainage ditch at the terminus of the Mahaulepu Valley irrigation system which was constructed to drain the former Kapunakea Pond and connects to the Mahaulepu Drain. No sewer lines, injection wells or cesspools discharge directly into Waiopili Ditch; however, a healthy population of feral pigs, chickens, ducks, and sheep were observed in the area. Waiopili Ditch is on private land with limited public access and there was no evidence of recreational activity occurring within the Waiopili Ditch.

In other words, no keiki are playing there, as Bridget and Carl have claimed. The DOH report also pisses on Carl's contention that Kauai waters are constantly polluted with sewage, offering a very interesting review of the problems associated with using enterococci alone as an indicator (see page 9)

But then, there's no money or publicity to be had in rational discussions, only hysterical fear-mongering.

Curiously, it turns out the real problem may be the doo doo produced by Bridget, the Hyatt and its guests and other anti-ag agitators on the southshore:

DOH is concerned that the large number of injection wells and cesspools in the adjacent Poipu/Koloa watershed may adversely impact the waters of the Waiopili Ditch. The geological and hydrological composition of the watershed indicate that these facilities may contribute to the high levels of enterococci detected in the Waiopili Ditch via the groundwater.

A portion of the injection wells and cesspools in the Poipu/Koloa watershed are located very close to the ocean, further leading to concerns that the beach fronting the Mahaulepu watershed may also be adversely impacted by the adjacent watershed.

In other words, tourists themselves may be polluting what Councilman Gary Hooser termed the “crown jewel of our visitor industry” while blasting the dairy. Oh, the irony. But hey, let's blame the dairy, even though it has yet to bring in a single cow.

Moving on to other news (and resisting the snarky segue), anti-GMO activist Fern Anuenue Rosenstiel pulled papers to run for the 14th District House seat now held by Derek Kawakami.

Fern's legislative experience is thus far limited to holding a SHAME banner at the state Capitol. But she's boning up as a student in the supposedly non-partisan Kuleana Academy candidate training program sponsored by Hooser's anti-GMO group, HAPA. Oh, what a surprise, that they're graduating one of their own.

Fern, a bartender and waitress at Tahiti Nui in Hanalei, also boasts that she directs the anti-GMO 'Ohana O Kaua'i, along with Dustin Barca, who two years ago made a failed bid for mayor. Hey, maybe he can connect her with the New York developers and Hawaii Life Realtors who financed his campaign. He might even have some surf swag left for handouts.

I'm hearing reports that Council Chair Mel Rapozo and mayoral assistant Nadine Nakamura may also be eying the 14th District seat, since Derek plans to run for Council instead. 

Now let's see, who should we vote for? Nadine, a thoughtful, intelligent, experienced lawmaker who seeks to bring people together, or Fern, a loudmouthed bully and serial liar who has ripped our community apart?

No contest. Literally and figuratively.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Musings: Kooky

Ever get the feeling the Islands have gotten kinda kooky?

Over on the Big Island, telescope technician Tony Sylvester posted this Facebook account of a frightening incident that occurred yesterday morning at the Very Long Baseline Array, just below the Mauna Kea summit:

Attacked and assaulted today just because we work at one of the telescopes on Mauna Kea. The suspect gained entry by ramming our gates then used his vehicle to ram our outer steel doors multiple times and proceed to beat on our inner doors so much that we had to barricade the doors with desks and chairs till the police arrived.
The suspect was so full of hate as he peered through the crack between the doors. What a horrible and terrifying experience. Tomorrow is a special event held at the Mauna Kea visitors center to celebrate the one year anniversary of the TMT protest. It is so sad to see what Hawaii has become.
Here is the vehicle used to break down our doors. Lucky, we were able to get out of the way before getting crushed by this action. We were terrorized for one and a half hours before help arrived. The suspect destroyed our communications box so we were trapped and lost contact with the police dispatch. Our vehicles were also damaged by the suspect."
James Coleman — a haole guy from Kona — was arrested on suspicion of criminal property damage. He may also face charges of burglary and terroristic threatening, according to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

Meanwhile, it's nothing but “love and collaboration” over on Maui, where they're plotting the seizure of the HC&S sugar cane land.

“This is something we're doing out of love, not out of anger,” said Bruce Douglas, co-founder of SHAKA, the group that pushed the Maui anti-GMO moratorium that got thrown out of court. 

Now he's peddling an initiative that would condemn the sugar lands so they could be turned into “regenerative agriculture,” instead of gentleman's estates. You know, like the ones sold by SHAKA co-founder and Realtor Mark Sheehan.

Lorin Pang, the anti-GMO activist who moonlights as the Maui state health officer, admitted the idea came about because the antis ran out of ammo when their enduring enemy, HC&S, announced its closure:

“Now we're a little bit stuck, yeah. We can't say, stop those bad things. They say, we did.”

So instead of just being against everything, they had to find something they could be for. 

Their solution: Condemn A&B's sugar cane land, using money from general revenue bonds, so it can be turned over to all the wanna-bee farmers who are currently being denied, according to Douglas, their constitutional right to “agriculturally suitable lands.”

“It's for the public good,” Pang said. “It's not for profit.”

Meanwhile, Douglas was promising “full employment” for the island with this profit-less venture, which no doubt will be embraced by all the altruistic farmers who want to toil in the fields solely for the love of the aina and their fellow human beings.

And that was just the tip of the bullshit iceberg. Among Douglas' other wrong claims: Maui is the only county that elects Council members at large (hello, what about Kauai?); HC&S brought in and burned coal so its sugar ships didn't have to return empty from the mainland (uh, those ships came back empty 80% of the time); Maui sea turtle tumors are caused by “pesticides and nutrients from chemical fertilizers” (last I heard, sewage injection wells were to blame; Correx: there is no documented cause ); “Oahu has already developed all their prime ag land (well, except for the acreage that's growing more food than anywhere in the state); the Important Ag Land designation can be “changed with the stroke of a pen” (no, a two-thirds vote is required.)

Then there was that big whopper, where Douglas lied to HPR on Monday and claimed they weren't targeting the HC&S land, which he said is "dead and lifeless" — though somehow growing cane — and will require several years of remediation. No word on who is going to pay for that.

I'm sure there were more fibs, but I have to admit I kind of zoned out while listening when I Googled Bruce Douglas and learned he's a big chem trail activist, which may be how he and Pang got together.

My ears pricked, though, when I heard Pang say the Maui activists are different than A&B because “we're transparent.”

Oh, so that explains the email thread I saw on the activists' political strategy to end A&B's Maui water rights, where Sandra Ann Kauionalani Pratt says:

“We don't want to tell the community too much or we will confuse them.”

Yes, God forbid people should actually start thinking for themselves. And if they ask any questions, borrow a move from the awesomely transparent anti-GMO movement and attack, ostracize and silence them immediately. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Musings: Magical and Not

In timing that couldn't be better for the Bernie-Donald campaigns, we learn that unicorns actually did once exist. Magical thinkers of America unite!
Ye unicorn of olde actually looked more like a wooly mammoth-sized rhinoceros than the oft-depicted white horse, and it's unlikely to have possessed special powers. But hey, don't let reality impinge on a good fantasy.

Until it slaps you upside the head.

Now that they've found unicorns, scientists are turning their attention to Mahaulepu, where they're busily hunting for shit. Literally. Actually, they're searching for a smoking gun, some proof that Hawaii Diary Farms forever fouled the aina with Enterococcus when it widened a ditch back in 2014. Not sure how, exactly, that would happen, unless they dug up an ancient kukae deposit. But ya never know.

So how much do you suppose it cost to fly in these “independent scientists from around the nation,” and who is footing the bill. There sure is a lot of dough floating around for activist causes. Maybe the council could slap a tax on agitation. At any rate, I hope the Hyatt was kind enough to comp rooms, since it's suing to stop the dairy.

Of course, they don't actually know nuttin' fer shure yet, but that's no reason why Councilman Gary Hooser shouldn't try, convict and execute the dairy in the press. After all, that strategy worked so well with the seed farms:

Hooser said water contamination is just the tip of the iceberg. He said the proposed dairy puts water aquifers at risk, jeopardizes coastal resources, and risks “serious negative impacts to the crown jewel of our visitor industry.”

Hell, yeah! Who needs local food production? Let them eat tourists. Or chickens. Or cats.

Actually, I find it rather amusing that the dairy — funded by Pierre Omidyar — is getting so much heat from the anti-ag activists he has helped to fund. Yes, Pierre, they will bite the hand that feeds them, so long as it's organic. And you are, right?

Speaking of Pierre, his publication, Civil Beat, has a column today lecturing KHON about its lapse of journalistic ethics in re-hiring Nestor Garcia. I couldn't resist leaving a comment asking whether the columnist planned to also examine Civil Beat's lapses, such as allowing Pierre to provide editorial direction when he's also bankrolling CB and numerous “nonprofit” advocacy groups, including some that are favorably covered in CB.

See, I'm prone to my own magical thinking.

Getting back to that elusive kukae, it really is serious stuff, especially when it comes from cats. As an article in Scientific American points out:

Uncontrollable, explosive bouts of anger such as road rage might be the result of an earlier brain infection from the toxoplasmosis parasite, an organism found in cat feces, a new study finds.

The study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that toxoplasmosis — usually a mild or nonsymptomatic infection from a protozoan parasite called Toxoplasma gondii — may somehow alter people's brain chemistry to cause long-term behavior problems. Previous studies have linked toxoplasmosis to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, impulsivity and suicidal behavior.

OK. So Kauai has tens of thousands of defecating wild cats. Is it a stretch to think that their doo-doo is making people here all wild and pissed off and nuts? Suicide is the number one cause of death among the island's young people. Surely there has to be just one thing we can blame.

I mean, if we're going to accept that agricultural pesticides are poisoning the water, why not kitty poo?

In the meantime, you know something's going on when the mainland lawyers start circlin' and a-lickin' their chops:
I love how TGI labels it "paid advertisement." Because it is kind of hard to tell it apart from its usual sensationalistic news coverage.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Musings: Improper Influence

Though the Joint Fact Finding Group was supposed to be independent as it evaluated agricultural pesticide use on Kauai, its final report and recommendations were unduly influenced by anti-GMO/anti-pesticide activists.

Their influence includes reviewing scientific reports, serving as consultants to the JFFG, providing the JFFG with unpublished studies and even crafting language for the report. To wit:

Three of the four persons selected to serve as “Liaisons and Resources” to the JFFG are anti-GMO/anti-pesticide activists, yet they are never identified in the report as such. 

They include: Carl Berg, who is president of Surfrider, one of the groups that is appealing the judge's decision on Bill 2491/Ordinance 960; Milt Clark, a part-time Princeville resident who penned letters to the editor opposing pesticides and supporting Ordinance 960; and Malia Nobriga-Olivera, who signed on to an anti-GMO seafood campaign run by Friends of the Earth.

Berg also provided the JFFG with Surfrider water sampling reports and data on gylphosate in honey, which the group accepted and cited, even though none of that work has been written up for the rest of us to read, much less published and peer-reviewed.

Clark, meanwhile, was asked to review the state's air sampling study, which concluded the odiferous stinkweed was to blame for sickening students at Waimea Canyon Middle School. Clark claimed the symptoms were “far more likely related to pesticide exposures than from exposure to stinkweed organics,” which is not surprising, given his anti-pesticide bias. Yet despite that bias, his review is listed in the JFFG report appendix as “Independent Commentary on Pesticide Analysis Study.” Indeed, he specifically asked that it be appended to the JFFG report, and they obliged.

Really? They couldn't find any “liaisons and resources” who didn't have dogs in the fight? Who chose these people for these roles? And what other influence did they exert that isn't specifically outlined in the report?

The JFFG report also noted: “Several local residents on the Westside have reported what they believe may be an unusual number of dead or sick owls but no samples of blood or tissues for pesticide residues appear to have been taken to date.” It then cited a “Map of Dead or Injured Owls found on the Westside” for this unsubstantiated, anecdotal finding, with no mention that the man who provided it, Howard Hurst, is one of the WCMS teachers who has been actively fighting the seed companies.

Similarly, the group accepted data from pesticide “drift catcher” samples collected by the anti-GMO/anti-pesticide groups Hawaii SEED and Pesticide Action Network. Again, these findings have not been written up for public review, much less published. Yet the JFFG not only accepted a verbal account of the sampling, it cited one result of this totally unscientific effort as “indicat[ing] the need for additional monitoring to determine the status of drift from agricultural operations in the Westside.”

And as I've previously reported, the JFFG report references the honey in glyphosate study, which again we can't review because it hasn't been written up or published, without mentioning it was funded by Surfrider.

Meanwhile, language taken nearly verbatim from a June 18, 2015 intent to sue letter filed by the Center for Food Safety — one of the groups appealing the ruling on Ordinance 960 — and the Center for Biological Diversity is included in the appendix to bolster the report's findings on atrazine. It presents as fact conclusions drawn by these two anti-GMO groups, and never references the letter as the source:

2. Surface Waters and Aquatic Ecosystems
Atrazine is now known to be a highly potent endocrine disruptor and persists in the environment after its use. Extensive scientific research has demonstrated that atrazine causes substantial negative reproductive effects in a variety of taxa when exposure occurs, even at concentrations as low as 0.1 ppb. Impairing reproduction through endocrine disruption, lowering reproductive output, chemical castration, disrupting development and immunosuppresion are among the types of harms that atrazine causes, all of which represent significant sublethal effects not considered by the EPA.

If the shoe were on the other foot, and seed company supporters had similarly influenced the report and its recommendations, the activists would be screaming bloody murder. But since it's them doing the manipulating, it's no problem. Indeed, they're using the dirty data to bolster their claim that the report vindicates all their fear-mongering.

We were all waiting for the JFFG report to shed some light on the true situation regarding agricultural pesticides on Kauai. Instead, we've gotten a document that is long on bias and speculation and short on impartiality and facts.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Musings: Listen UP

Hear that, Super Delegates? It's Hooser talking. No, not Hoosier. That's a resident of Indiana. You know, Gary Hooser, the guy who turned to fear-mongering, the last bastion of every failed politician. Oh, never heard of him? Well, then, never mind.

Where did the concept of superdelegates come from?

Democrats first introduced superdelegates in 1984 as a safety net — they wanted to give the party elders a voice in choosing the nominee. The goal: to prevent the Democrats from repeating what many viewed as a mistake when they nominated Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota in 1972. McGovern went on to lose 49 states that year.

Similarly, former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter won the nomination in 1976, against the wishes of many in the party establishment. We should note, however, that their support for former Vice President Walter Mondale, the choice of the Democratic establishment, in 1984 is widely credited with putting him over the top against challenger Gary Hart. Mondale went on to lose 49 states that November.

Like I said, listen up.

Hey, while I've got your attention, check this out. Those Cornell scientists are at it again, with our "last, best hope":

In an ambitious attempt to revive a population long considered to be on the brink of extinction, scientists announced Friday they have slowly begun to reintroduce normal, well-adjusted human beings back into society.
“There are a lot of unknown variables, and we realize we’re taking a big risk here. But this program is our last, best hope of ensuring that people who are willing to go out of their way to help someone who can’t immediately offer them anything in return remain a part of our world.”

Top researchers confirmed that it was already far too late to halt the country’s dominant breed of humans—assholes—from spreading uncontrollably to every region on earth."

Spose we could get a few of those endangered humans released on Kauai? In some safe spot far from the North Shore....

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Musings: Political Ploys

It's the Democrat's caucus day in Hawaii, which no doubt explains the new Youtube ad that has Rep. Tulsi Gabbard supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Not so easily explained is the message of the ad itself. As Tulsi duck dives with her surfboard, she intones:

Being a warrior is about believing in what you are fighting for and holding strong to those convictions.

Then she gets all teary-eyed, quavery-voiced as she says she “couldn't in good conscience stay back in beautiful Hawaii and watch my brothers and sisters in uniform go off to combat” before telling us:

Bernie Sanders voted against the Iraq war. He understands the cost of war. Bernie Sanders will defend our country and take the trillions of dollars that are spent on these interventionist, regime-change unnecessary wars...”

So is Tulsi admitting that the Iraq war was a colossal waste of lives and money? And that she participated only to support National Guard colleagues? Then how, exactly, does that fit the description of a warrior “believing in what you are fighting for?”

It's all so confusing. Like Dylan Hooser's letter to the editor, in which writes:

Sen. Sanders has spoken out time and time again about reigning in the corporations ruining our great nation and the planet, in pursuit of profit. His average contribution is $27, from millions of individual, working-class people — not from Wall Street or the 1 percent billionaire-class ruling America.

Yes, down with the evil corporations and the greedy rich. Well, except for those corporations and 1 percent billionaire-class ruling Americans supporting the anti-GMO fight. They and their profits are perfectly OK. In fact, best keep the kala coming, because these supposed “grassroots” groups would collapse without it.

Dylan wraps up with:

Bernie Sanders is a refreshing breath of truth and honesty in the crooked world of politics and needs our help this Saturday.

"Truth and honesty in the crooked world of politics,” eh. Must be tough him to look Daddy Gary Hooser in the eye.

Speaking of which, Gary and Hawaii SEED are already trying to co-opt the April 4 public meeting of the Joint Fact Finding Group, with The Garden Island informing us they will be at the forum, and giving them more ink than facilitator Peter Adler. 

Gary comes out with both barrels blazing, blasting the “agrochemical industry on Kauai and their partners at the State Department of Agriculture.” Mmm, if you believe they're in cahoots, why would you believe DOA would effectively implement the proposed regulations and studies?  Then Hawaii SEED's Jeri Di Pietro chimes in with "'the biotech industry was a part of this balanced committee' and Hawaii SEED expects the fact-finding group to stand up for their recommendations."

First, this was not a “balanced committee.” As I've pointed out previously, a majority of its members were supporters of of the anti-GMO/pesticide regulatory Bill 2491/Ordinance 960, which spawned the JFFG. And as I'll document in an upcoming post, anti-GMO activists had a very strong influence on the JFFG's recommendations.

Second, is anyone else tired of hearing what Hawaii SEED demands and expects? Just recently they were screaming for Gov. Ige to immediately adopt all the recommendations. Yeah, screw everyone who might want to submit comments on the report. They want it NOW, so do it.

Bernie is playing heavily to the anti-GMO and Native Hawaiian vote, combining them into one handy-dandy platform plank:

As a Senator from a small rural state, Bernie has been a strong supporter of small family farms. Hawai’i, which imports more than 80% of its food, can move away from this dependence, and take advantage of its year-round growing season. As president, Bernie will fight to support sustainable and culturally appropriate agricultural programs for Native Hawaiians.  He also recognizes the right of people to know what is in their food, and he has been a leader in the movement to label GMOs.  Bernie believes we must stand up to the demands of Monsanto and other multi-national corporations and support local small-scale agriculture.

What demands are those, exactly? And what are these “sustainable and culturally appropriate agricultural programs for Native Hawaiians?” Subsidies for taro, sweet potato, ulu and pig production? Does that mean only kanaka will get farming assistance under a Sanders regime? And apparently no one told him there is choke farm land available in Hawaii, despite the corporate presence. What we need are skilled and willing farmers.

It's not that I'm against Bernie. I agree with many of his positions. But I'm skeptical of the hype, and even more of his ability to deliver if he is elected. Unless he's got a Congress of Bernie clones, all of his proposals are guaranteed to meet fierce resistance and death.

That's why I kind of cringed when Councilman Mason Chock described Bernie as “our last, best hope.” Last? Best? Shoots. Might as well get out the razor blades right now.

Or course, supporting Bernie primarily gave Mason a chance to plug himself. Just like Tulsi. Because that's politics. Still, it's hard not to raise an eyebrow when Mason, who was brought onto the Council under duplicitous means, asks, “have we had enough of … mistrust in our government processes?”
Yeah, Mason, we have. But somehow, you just don't think that means you.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Musings: Poisons and Toxins

Dustin Barca , the anti-GMO activist and defeated Kauai mayoral candidate, was arrested Tuesday night for driving under the influence and having an open container in his car.

But he didn't get charged with DWI because his breath test was reportedly just within the legal limits.

Drinking while driving. Gee, such a great role model for the keiki.

So often it seems the same people who are loudly proclaiming we're being poisoned by pesticides and GMOs are engaged themselves in unhealthy habits. Dustin was observed smoking cigarettes, and now drinking while driving. And his anti-GMO cronies, Gary Hooser, Fern Rosensteil and Malia Chun, are packing a lot of extra weight, which is a well-documented health risk.

Is it too much to ask that they work on their own issues before telling the rest of us how to live and what to worry about? 

Of course, nothing freaks them out more than seeing ag workers in hazmat suits. Though as  the Iowa Meets Maui blog notes, in this case it's an organic farmer, applying a "natural soap spray."
So often it's about fears, rather than facts, as this meme makes clear:
Meanwhile, the local paper carried stories this week of a guy caught trying to steal a safe on a skateboard, and another guy driving crazy on Kuhio Highway. One look at their mug shots tells you all you need to know about their state-of-mind and motivation: tweakers.

Crystal meth is a toxic substance that is clearly harming people on Kauai right now, destroying lives, families, fortunes, bodies and souls. Yet the self-proclaimed health watchdogs totally ignore that known deadly toxin, and instead focus on the bogeyman of possible low-level pesticide exposure. But then, there's a lot more money to be had fear-mongering about GMOs than helping people kick the shit.

Speaking of toxins, nothing pulls out the haters and crybabies like a post on illegal vacation rentals, and last week's piece on the Wainiha B&B contested case hearing was no exception. But the rigorous reality of a hearing may have had an effect on other homestay hopefuls, with one applicant — Realtor Susan Gailey — withdrawing and two more saying they were going to, though they haven't yet submitted formal letters. When it comes down to it, not everybody wants to show their tax returns and be subjected to intensive questioning.

And finally, remember this?
Yes, the Hawaii Superferry, obtained by the U.S. Navy and renamed USNS Puerto Rico, has moved to the East Coast.  Under a lease agreement with the Navy, it will become the new high-speed ferry to run between Maine and Nova Scotiastarting this summer.

Proving the adage “one man's meat is another man's poison.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Musings: Planet in Peril

As an island state, Hawaii needs to take heed of the newest paper published by Dr. James Hansen, the NASA scientist who first warned Congress of global climate change back in 1988.

Twenty-eight years later, his warnings are more dire than ever, based upon better computer modeling, an improved understanding of climate and observations in nature. “Effects seem to be showing one or two decades earlier in the real world than in our model,” he said.

As Honolulu developers pour millions into building up the low-lying Kakaako neighborhood, and Kauai County pushes for the reconstruction of Coco Palms and expensive road projects within the Kapaa flood zone, Hansen is warning of increasingly dangerous superstorms and the prospect of “a sea level rise of several meters [causing] the loss of all coastal cities” within the next 50 years.

The paper identifies a specific mechanism that the scientists say they believe could help cause such an abrupt climate shift.

Their idea is that the initial melting of the great ice sheets will put a cap of relatively fresh water on the ocean surfaces near Antarctica and Greenland. That, they think, will slow or even shut down the system of ocean currents that redistributes heat around the planet and allows some of it to escape into space. Warmth will then accumulate in the deeper parts of the ocean, the scientists think, speeding the melting of parts of the ice sheets that sit below sea level.

The climate change ramifications for Hawaii are potentially huge, considering how much infrastructure — ports, refineries, power plants, highways, resorts, cities, homes, airports — are built on the coast. Then there's the impact on tourism — the state's main economic driver — and agriculture.

I recently interviewed Dr. Chip Fletcher, a UH-Manoa geology professor and associate dean who has done extensive research on climate change in Hawaii. Frankly, the situation as he outlined it is rather bleak.

“Hawaii is experiencing already, and will continue to experience, several forms of climate change,” he said. These include a warmer atmosphere, with the subsequent possibility of dangerous heat waves, such as those that have killed people 140,000 around the world since 2000. “Now we're seeing changes in wind patterns, increased temperatures and record-setting daily temperatures” in the Islands, he said, and "2015 saw an almost total collapse of the trade winds."

“We have seen a decline in rainfall over the past century, and over the past 30 years, an acceleration of the rate of decline,” he said. Models predict less rain in the winter season, and an expanded dry season. And rainfall is likely to be more intense, which increases the possibility of urban flooding and soil erosion, which results in more sedimentation of reefs and estuaries.

Hawaii is also seeing a decline in stream flow fed by ground water, which is “probably related to the decline in precipitation at higher elevations,” he said. This has serious implications for agriculture and ecosystems, which are more susceptible to invasive species when stressed.

Then there's storminess. “As we move into a warmer future, we're going to see more El Ninos taking place, and they'll be stronger," he said. "With stronger El Ninos, we are increasingly vulnerable to tropical cyclones and hurricanes.”

"These climate change factors of increased precipitation, increased tropical cyclones, sea level rise, warming atmosphere – they really sort of thread their way through every aspect of our lives, from food production to urban living to transportation," Fletcher continued. "The problem is very detailed and very deep."

"There's a lot to do, it's going to be expensive and we need to prepare ourselves. This does paint an extremely grim picture, and unfortunately, people don't get it," he continued.

"If we fail to successfully achieve the Paris accord and keep our global temperatures below 2 degrees C, we're looking at a failure of the planet. This is a very grim situation and for some reason the message just has not translated out of the scientific research world into the world of politics and economics and human society."

And now Hansen is saying even a 2-degree increase may be too much.

Meanwhile, data from NASA show that February 2016 was the warmest month since global temperature-keeping began — beating a record set in January 2016. 

The annual growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide measured at Mauna Loa Observatory also jumped by 3.05 parts per million during 2015, the largest year-to-year increase in 56 years of research.

NASA reports Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA's Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, as saying:

Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years. It’s explosive compared to natural processes.”

So now what?

“I doubt we have passed the point of no return, but frankly, we are not certain of that,” Hansen says in a video.

I have hope," Fletcher said. "I have to have hope. I've got a family and I love Hawaii and I love our society. But I despair at the same time that we are moving into a future that's so potentially dark. The world's changing. Let's try and do what we can to make that change as  painless and rapid as possible. It's going to be a different world. Wherever we can, let's make it a better world."

Monday, March 21, 2016

Hilario Murder Conviction Vacated

The Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals has overturned the murder conviction of Vicente Hilario, who was sentenced to life without parole for gunning down Aureo Moore at Anahola Beach Park.

The ICA  — with Judge Lisa Ginoza dissenting — remanded the case back to the Fifth Circuit Court, which must dismiss charges against Hilario either with or without prejudice. If the former, then Hilario walks on Moore's death. If the latter, he must be re-tried on charges of first degree murder and bribing, intimidating and retaliating against witnesses.

The high-profile case began under then-Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri and her deputy, Jake Delaplane, and concluded with the guilty verdict early in the term of newly-elected Prosecutor Justin Kollar.

Evidence presented at the trial indicated Hilario killed Moore to prevent him from testifying against one of Hilario's friends after Moore was robbed of drugs at gunpoint in the Safeway parking lot.

It appears from the ICA decision that the errors occurred under Iseri. 

The ICA vacated the conviction because the former prosecutor attempted to prevent Jens Kiler Hansen-Loo from testifying, arguing that he was an alibi witness the state hadn't been notified of. That attempt failed, pushing back Hilario's trial date and preventing him from going to trial within the six months required by state law. 

Prosecutor Kollar said it is “highly likely” his office will ask the Hawaii Supreme Court to review the ICA ruling.

In any case, Hilario isn't likely to be free any time soon. He is currently serving a 10-year sentence on a separate weapons charge that Kollar's office successfully prosecuted, subsequent to the murder conviction.

Musings: Keep the Faith

Back when the anti-GMO/pesticide regulatory Bill 2491 was snaking its way through the  Kauai County Council, a woman named Jen Ruggles came to my attention.

I wrote about her because she claimed she saw Beth Tokioka, then county spokeswoman, texting two Councilwoman in a supposed attempt to orchestrate a take down of Bill 2491.The bill, as you may recall, was ultimately passed by the Council, vetoed by the mayor, upheld by the Council and then overturned by the courts. It's now on appeal.

Councilman Gary Hooser piled on, referencing Jen's claims in a memo to the mayor, in which he demanded to know whether his administration was improperly influence the vote. In my post, I challenged their account, maintaining that Jen was a paid political activist with the Pesticide Action Network who was engaged in a dirty tricks campaign with Hooser.

Sen. Russell Ruderman rushed to her defense in comments:

I will say that Jennifer Ruggles has the highest personal integrity, and I will swear by that. She is a respected activist with clear morals and the best intent.

Jen came to my attention again today, posed here with her friend, patron and co-conspirator, Gary Hooser, whom she praised for “responsible leadership” after he donated to her Big Island County Council race.
Curious, I went to Jen's campaign website, which features a banner photo of the Bill 2491 victory crowd. I was quite interested to find she had listed this job as part of her experience:

Pesticide Action Network North America Community Organizer (2013 KAUAI, HI)
Built coalition, core team, facilitated meetings, recruited 60 endorsers, engaged over 50 volunteers into action teams, worked with and lobbied council members and organized largest march in Kauai history. Coordinated campaign that successfully passed a bill to protect community from irresponsible GMO pesticide spray.

Ah, so the woman of “highest personal integrity” and "clear morals" finally admits she was working as a paid lobbyist when she and Gary orchestrated their little charade. But Jen never, ever identified herself as such at the time, even in a 2013 letter to The Garden Island:

I live in Kauai and recently participated in the democratic process for the first time. I sat through over 65 hours of testimony and deliberation. For all you elected officials out there, I hope that one day you will remember what it’s like to be a citizen engaged in the democratic process for the first time. Do you remember thinking the public’s testimony actually affected your representative’s decision? Uphold the people’s faith in the democratic process.

Only now are we able to confirm — through her own admission — that this virgin of the democratic process was actually a paid lobbyist who had worked on Sen. Ruderman's campaign and a number of other Big Island initiatives when she penned her phony letter.

And only now are we able to confirm that PAN, a mainland-based advocacy group, was building the coalition, running meetings, recruiting volunteers, lobbying politicians, even organizing the big march on Rice Street — in short, orchestrating every move and tactic of a movement that was being passed off as grassroots, Kauai-based, a spontaneous uprising of the island's truly concerned citizenry.

What a crock! 

As Jen herself admits, while working for PAN she:

Coordinated campaign that successfully passed a bill to protect community from irresponsible GMO pesticide spray.

Yet even as Jen was actively engaged in political advocacy work, neither she nor PAN had registered in Hawaii as lobbyists. Instead, they maintained the charade that they were involved in 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational work.

And now we're seeing the Joint Fact Finding Group reference pesticide drift tests that were paid for by PAN, and conducted by Hawaii SEED, as evidence that drift occurs and reason to impose buffer zones, disclosure and other requirements on the seed industry.

Yes, Jen, let's let's "uphold the people's faith in a democratic process" where undisclosed and unregistered lobbyists are paid by mainland groups to influence politics on Hawaii, working in tandem with elected officials who claim to be leading a grassroots campaign.

Yes, Jen, let's "uphold the people’s faith in the democratic process" even as your very actions reveal it as a total sham.

Oh, and Jen is also featured prominently — along with Fern Rosensteil, Malia Chun, Andrea Brower and others — in this disturbing video of the screaming-crying theatrics that accompanied the mayor's veto.

It's worth another look, just in case you forgot the ugly insanity of that time — and the folks behind it.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Musings: Kawakami's Political Shift

Here's a scoop: Rep. Derek Kawakami is strongly considering a run for Kauai County Council.

Since he's a shoo-in for Council, this would perfectly position Derek for a 2018 mayoral run. It would also put the re-election of certain low-ranking Councilmembers in doubt, while opening the race for his House seat to folks who might otherwise have been entertaining a Council run.

Suddenly, things are getting interesting. [Note: This post was revised to reflect that his decision is not yet definite.]

Civil Beat's Errors and Conflict of Interest

A Civil Beat editorial calling for heightened agricultural pesticide controls is based on faulty assumptions and made without disclosing its own conflict of interest on this topic.

First, the conflict: Civil Beat founder, funder and editorial board member Pierre Omidyar has donated money to the pesticide advocacy group Center for Food Safety.

What a "coincidence" that its editorial coincides with today's press conference at the Capitol, where several groups — including CFS and Gary Hooser's HAPA — will demand that Gov. Ige adopt the very same controls that Civil Beat endorses. 
When I brought this conflict to the attention of Civil Beat Editor Patti Epler last week, she initially denied it:

Your comment was a surprise to me and so I double-checked and am told by both Ashley [Lukens, director of CFS] and the Omidyar people that they in fact give no money -- and never have -- to this organization.

When I provided documentation — a PDF showing that CFS received a FLEX grant from Hawaii Community Foundation and a link showing that Omidyar funds the FLEX grant — Patti dismissed it:

As you well know, the FLEX grant is funded by 20 different HCF funds, the Omidyar Ohana fund being one of them. There are hundreds of recipients, many of which we write about frequently. It's HCF, not Omidyar, that control [sic] who gets that mnoney [sic] (I wrote about this in my piece on the Omidyars in Hawaii, linked above). So I could put a disclaimer on every story that says "The Omidyars give millions of dollars in grants and one of the hundreds of recipients may be mentioned in this story." So it is truly disingenous [sic] of you to assert that CFS is funded by the Omidyar family.

Patti absolves from Omidyar from responsibility by claiming that HCF decides where the money goes, not Omidyar, and asserts we should take it on faith that it's not a "donor-advised" grant. Nonetheless, Omidyar money is going to CFS — the most outspoken group on pesticides in Hawaii and a frequent source for Civil Beat articles (including one press release reprint).

Under Patti's reasoning, if money is laundered through a foundation, the donor need not disclose any conflicts and can disavow any connection to the recipients. Ironically, the very same day that Patti issued her disavowal, Civil Beat published an article that criticized the billionaire Koch Brothers for doing exactly that. It's also a reviled tactic of the oil and coal industries. But it's apparently OK when it's her boss.

Despite its supposed commitment to “investigative journalism,” and its much ballyhooed support for transparency and disclosure, Civil Beat has shown a decided disinterest in exploring the lack of transparency among Hawaii nonprofits, many of which — including Center for Food Safety — are engaging in direct political advocacy under the guise of education. In other words, they're actively working to influence the political process without revealing their funding sources.

Perhaps Civil Beat could start with the dismal lack of transparency by Hawaii Community Foundation, a tax-exempt charity that is the source of most nonprofit funding in the Islands and a recipient of Omidyar money. Years ago, donor-advised grant-making was identified on HCF tax returns. As their 1998 tax return shows, various donors and their donor-advised grants are clearly identified, beginning on page 14. And as recently as 2013, HCF's tax return furnished a roster of all grants it had awarded.

But HCF's 2014 990 return — scanned by Guidestar in December 2015 — discloses neither donor-advised grants nor a list of organizations that received grants totaling some $30 million. Instead, HCF supplied the following statement:

Hawaii Community Foundation through its grantmaking and program services has assisted 830 organizations ad others... Grant making occurs in eighteen different program areas as described on the attached statement. See Statement #2.

However, no statement is shown on the 990 form posted by Guidestar, leaving the public in the dark as to the recipients of HCF grant-making. Doesn't the public deserve greater transparency from a Foundation that plays such an influential role in the Islands? Especially when one of its funders has also started a “news site” that directly seeks to influence policy.

Which brings me back to today's editorial supporting all the recommendations of the Joint Fact Finding Group, convened to review agricultural pesticide on Kauai. The Civil Beat editorial reiterates this oft-repeated lie:

But from the beginning, the report was destined to add fuel to the fire, due to a huge, fundamental problem: Pesticide use data isn’t being collected.

Without knowing how much, how often and what kinds of pesticides are being applied, it’s hard for anyone to draw credible scientific conclusions regarding health and environmental impacts.

Take a look at the Kauai Agricultural Good Neighbor Program website. It clearly shows how much, how often and what kinds of restricted use pesticides are being applied to each company's fields. For example, in January 2016, Pioneer Du-Pont applied three different pesticides, which are identified both by product name and active ingredient. The report also shows the total amount used of both the product and its active ingredient, as well as the total area where the pesticide was applied.

Civil Beat also failed to note that the seed companies engage in pre-spraying disclosure to all nearby residents who have requested such notification, as well as to schools and hospitals. So those most likely to be affected do indeed enjoy a very high level of disclosure.

Civil Beat then dinged Hawaii Agriculture Director Scott Enright for saying he would be likely to impose buffer zones, based on what CB considers “confounding reasoning:” The report found no statistically significant evidence that pesticide use by Big Ag is harming Kauai’s environment or public health.

What Civil Beat again failed to report is that Scott said he would support “increasing monitoring of surface water and beehives," both of which would provide valuable information about whether pesticides are migrating off-site. The surface water testing also responds to the one and only area where the state's own water sampling — and not the JFFG's, as incorrectly reported by Civil Beat — "exceeded EPA environmental benchmarks."

Civil Beat concludes by saying:

Community fears, concerns and discord won’t be solved taking an approach to pesticide data that more resemble Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First?” routine than a proper scientific discussion.

Civil Beat might want to look at the role it plays in fanning community fears and discord with its inaccurate and inflammatory reporting on this complex issue. 

I have no problem with starting “a proper scientific discussion” on this topic. But for some reason, neither Civil Beat nor the activists want to start with that.