Friday, April 29, 2016

Musings: End Goal

The Guardian has posted a new bit of fantasy about Hawaii, this time efforts to secure land redistribution through agricultural utopianism.

As I've been saying all along, this “aloha aina” movement is a thinly disguised attempt to wrest control of land, and thus power, from those who currently have it. 

Problem is, those orchestrating the movement are characterized by a striking ignorance of agriculture, no moral compass or both. And it's still unclear who is putting up the dough, and what they expect in return.

In the category of striking ignorance, we have Tiare Lawrence, a Maui fashion designer who fancies herself an “activist for farmers,” even though a piece she wrote for Civil Beat shows she knows nothing about ag. 

Tiare's featured prominently in The Guardian piece, first whining about mono-cropping — uh, hello, what do you think the Hawaiians were doing with taro? — before casting out this laughable gem:

A lot of families want to return home and farm but they need water to do that, and HC&S still keep most of the water for themselves.

Does anyone actually believe that the folks who fled the high cost of living in the Islands for Las Vegas, Portland, Cali and points beyond are really waiting to give up their mainland homes, jobs and lives so they can come back and eke out a marginal existence farming in Hawaii? Dream on.

The article then quotes Rep. Kaniela Ing, who also disses mono-cropping, while simultaneously promoting hemp, which only has a prayer economically if it's grown on an “industrial” scale, and even then, it's questionable.

The article goes on to report that “Monsanto is thought to be casting an avaricious eye on the 36,000 acres about to come up for grabs.” 

First, the land isn't “coming up for grabs.” It still belongs to A&B. And second, the seed companies are shrinking, not expanding, their footprint in the Islands. But hey, nothing works to rally the fearful and ignorant like the big Monsanto demon.

The Guardian piece is filled with the same sort of one-side fabrication and revisionism hat characterized Chris Pala's Guardian piece on how GMO agriculture had supposedly caused a “spike in birth defects” — a claim that even the biased Joint Fact-Finding report put to rest.

But it is revealing to see the true motives finally laid out there, instead of hidden behind the veneer of "saving" taro farmers, the keiki and Maui itself. The article ends with this quote from Ing:

This is is an opportunity for these historically greedy missionary families who created the sugar industry to … give back what is owed to the people of Maui.

If that's the end goal, better find another approach. Because neither the Maui Tomorrow "Malama Aina" plan nor the "Maui Community Organic Farmland" ag land condemnation initiative will achieve it.

Speaking of condemnation, it's good that people reacted so strongly against the Salt Pond monk seal attack, resulting in a speedy arrest.

Still, it's not helpful when people like Sabra Kauka offer opinions without knowing the situation:

She said sometimes this kind of aggression toward the Hawaiian Monk Seals stems from the commercial fishing community and the mindset that the seals are stealing the fish from their nets.

That's quite an aspersion to cast upon commercial fishers, especially when the perp isn't one.

I hope this incident does encourage everyone to look at the real cause for these actions: the culture of violence and substance abuse in which we live. People who abuse animals tend to abuse people, and often they have been abused, too. Drugs and alcohol make it all worse. These things don't happen in a vacuum, and they won't end unless we all decide violence simply isn't acceptable.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Musings: Resurrecting the Past

No need go Vegas. The big gamblers can be found at the Kauai County planning commission.

Coco Palms developer Tyler Green said he and his partner, Chad Waters, were required to pledge all their own assets in an effort to secure an $18.5 million demolition loan from Utah loan syndicator Private Capital Corp.

A review of the company's website shows it typically charges interest rates of 12 to 24 percent for its short-term loans. Current mortgage lending rates are about 3.1 percent.

But the developers had to accept what Green characterized as Private Capital's “very, very hard terms” when nine months of negotiations with another loan syndicator fell through after the primary deal-maker was hospitalized.

Planning commissioners, who yesterday could have begun moving to revoke Coco Palms' permits, expressed skepticism about the lending process. After all, it wasn't the first time they'd heard a shuck and jive, "check's in the mail" story from the developers. Commissioners questioned why the first deal was dependent on just one person, and whether the developers ultimately would be able to secure the $130 million required to rebuild the iconic resort once demolition is pau.

“I'm losing faith in the process,” Commissioner Louis Abrams said.

Though commissioners didn't seem convinced by the developer's assurances that the money was coming any day, they did agree to wait for an update on Monday before launching the permit revocation process.

Which gives the developers six days to rub their lucky rabbit's feet, fondle good luck charms, breathe on the dice and pray.

Meanwhile, the 24-year-old ruins of Coco Palms continue to molder.

Yet another attempt to resurrect the past occurred yesterday when the KIUC board of directors tapped former member Allan Smith to assume a vacancy created when Karen Baldwin resigned. But Smith, who was elected to the Board in 2007 and stepped down in 2014 due to work demands, didn't fill Baldwin's seat.

Instead the Board appointed member Teofilo “Phil” Tacbian to finish out Baldwin's term, which expires in 2018. Smith was then appointed to Tacbian's term, which ends next year. Net result: Smith will be up for election in 2017, and Tacbian was gifted an extra year.

The Board justified its decision as wanting to give members the earliest possible opportunity to confirm Smith's appointment via an election, which is admirable. But its actions also deprived members of a say in whether they wanted to be stuck with Tacbian, one of the co-op's biggest duds, for an extra year.

And in still another effort to return to the good old days, when “water ran free, as nature intended,” a group of protestors converged on A&B headquarters in Honolulu to rail against HB 2501. The compromise bill allows A&B and others to continue diverting water under revocable permits for no more than three years while the Department of Land and Natural Resources updates the permitting process.

I understand that some East Maui taro farmers are frustrated. They've been fighting water diversions for a long time. But in their desire to stick it to A&B, they're forgetting that water users on other islands would also be impacted if all the permits were yanked. This would create hardships for many small farmers and ranchers, and their needs must be considered, too.

The protest attracted opportunists like Gary Hooser, who is always trying to latch on to other causes, especially those that involve Native Hawaiians:
And since Hooser gets to decide what constitutes “justice” — remember the "rescue game?" — you can be assured that it, and thus peace, will never be achieved.

Hmmm. “No justice, no peace; no water, no justice.”

Or here's another way to look at it: “No water, no food; no food, no activists.”

Which seems to be a good segue to this video:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Musings: Speak Easy

One thing that's long bugged me about the Hawaii anti-GMO movement is how a few people try to act as if they represent everyone.

Like Gary Hooser telling the Syngenta shareholders that he was delivering a message from his community about how “very concerned” we were with the company's activities on Kauai.

Like Phoebe Eng delivering theatrical anti-GMO testimony, supposedly on behalf of a couple dozen “well-known, long-time westside families” (who were never identified), as if they couldn't speak for themselves.

And like Ashley Lukens, director of Hawaii Center for Food Safety, pretending she is actually in the position to “share Hawaii's story” — with the help of Vandana Shiva and Pierce Brosnan, no less.
Pierce, as you may recall, endeared himself to Kauai folks by suing a now deceased Wainiha taro farmer to try and keep her water for his landscaping ponds, totally gaming the system to get a TVR permit for his house in Haena — one of two TVRs he owns on Kauai, like he really needs the extra dough — and landscaping the beach, replete with applications of chicken shit.
As for Vandana Shiva, what's with that oversized bindi? Since it's supposed to represent the third eye, the place of concealed wisdom, what does it say about her state of consciousness that she chooses one made of plastic? She's wrought nothing but trouble for the Islands and is certainly in no position to tell any story about Hawaii — except, perhaps, a fairy tale.

If those three scammers are the “heroes” of the anti-GMO movement, it speaks volumes — and none of it good — about the caliber of its membership.

Speaking of speaking, I've repeatedly dinged Hooser for using County Council resources to submit testimony on behalf of bills that benefit his nonprofit, HAPA, but have nothing to do with his Council duties. 

Turns out Councilman KipuKai Kualii has done the same thing, advocating for a state Senate bill that would “appropriate funds for the planning, design, construction, materials and equipment for the Anahola Hawaiian Homes Association (AHHA) for an East Kauai Community Recreation Center and the Anahola Pilot Agriculture Park.”

But KipuKai committed a double transgression in identifying himself only as a Councilman and failing to inform the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs that he is President of AHHA, and thus has a direct interest.

While we're on the topic of Anahola, what ever happened to the $1 million that KIUC gave the community last October, for hosting the solar project? 

Though Anahola residents gave the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands many suggestions about how to use the money, and asked for a community meeting to try and reach consensus on how to spend it, DHHL has been non-responsive. The money has apparently disappeared into the black hole that is DHHL, while the community has nothing to show for it.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Musings: Cheeky Buggahs

There's a new cheekiness emerging among agrarian romanticists. They're convinced they should dictate how A&B's Maui land is used once HC&S stops producing sugar.

On the one hand, we've got anti-GMO activists collecting some 10,000 signatures for an initiative that would allow Maui County to condemn the land, with a citizen's committee deciding who gets to farm it.

How did they collect so many, so fast? In part by lying, and telling voters that Monsanto had first right of refusal for all that acreage. I guess none of them noticed the seed companies have been shrinking their footprint in Hawaii, not expanding.

On the other, we've got Maui Tomorrow's new report — “Malama Aina: A Conversation about Maui’s Farming Future” — envisioning an idyllic, all-pastels landscape of cattle feeding on remnant cane amid organic veggies, poultry, pigs, and tree crops, with nary a livestock-hater in sight.
As the Star-Advertiser reports:

“Beloved Maui is at a crossroads,” the report said. “For 150 years Maui agriculture has been large-scale, mono-crop, chemical dependent, and export oriented. Can a new farming model bring both economic and biological benefits? The community has an opportunity to come together and help usher in a new era of farming on Maui.”

Gee, that's some nerve, commissioning a report from Oregon folks on what should be done with land that someone else owns. Does this mean that A&B, or any bloke on the street, should be able to dictate the activities of backyard gardeners, “yardners” and small farmers?

Of course not. It's only the big landowners who have been bad enough to warrant having non-farmers step in and tell them how things ought to be done.

Which always goes over a like a lead balloon. Especially since A&B has its own ideas, and no small amount of experience in implementing them. It's not like the company has never  considered diversified agriculture or tree crops. After all, it successfully transitioned sugar lands to coffee on Kauai, and has spent decades — and millions of dollars — trying to identify economically viable crops.

And that's key. In their push to pimp an agricultural Utopia, the dreamers always leave that really crucial economically viable part out.

The Maui farm initiative, which applies to all large ag land owners, not just A&B, flat out eschews profit-making. It offers no insights into how general obligation and revenue bonds used to buy the condemned land will ever be repaid, or the toiling farmers compensated.

The Maui Tomorrow report is equally long on fantasy and short on economic reality. As the Star-Advertiser reports:

Maui Tomorrow suggests that the regenerative farm vision in its report can yield far more profit than sugar cane farming for export while also employing more people than HC&S.

But the report does not provide any detailed financial analysis or feasibility assessments. It notes that ideas will need further research and require a large investment to carry out.

Ya don't say.

As the Star-Advertiser continues:

The nonprofit said in its report that profits for diversified agriculture are conservatively 100 times more than a sugar cane monocrop for export, or $5,000 to $7,500 per acre annually compared with $50 to $75 per acre annually. For 30,000 acres, that would amount to $150 million to $225 million compared with $1.5 million to $2.25 million.

Yet serious doubt has been expressed about profitable large-scale farming supplanting HC&S. Local economist Paul Brewbaker said recently that if significant money could be made on the thousands of acres of fallow former sugar cane land that already exist on Maui and other islands, then it would surely have already been done.

Like, maybe by A&B itself, before it lost $33 million last year alone, trying to keep sugar alive?

Here's another example of the report's pie-in-the-sky thinking:

If A&B would sell the plantation at market value, Maui Tomorrow’s report said a community farm cooperative could be formed with all Maui residents represented as either worker-members or consumer-members with voting rights and profit shares.

Never mind that even small cooperatives have failed around the Islands because people just can't get along. Getting farmers to work together has been likened to herding cats, a scenario that becomes even more challenging with the addition of “consumer-members.” Plus how, exactly, would you even ascertain the market value of a 36,000-acre plantation on Maui?

Returning to the Star-Advertiser:

One challenge the report points out is that Maui lacks skilled farmers and infrastructure for diversified farming on more than 30,000 acres.

Now there's a news flash. But hey, they've got it covered. You just tell other people how to spend their money — "The report suggests that Maui County, A&B and nonprofits will have to invest in jump-starting new farming, including providing incentives and assistance to local farmers" — and then begin “recruiting successful farmers from off-island.”

Yup. Nothing like bringing in thousands more mainlanders to help further erode local culture and shift political power to the malihini.

Are you starting to see now what this anti-ag, dreamy ag, make-believe ag, wanna-be ag, pretend ag movement is all about?

That's right. It's the newest land and power grab in Hawaii, orchestrated by the latest batch of missionaries — those worshiping at the organic altar — and colonialists convinced they can “save Paradise” by making it more like the place they left behind.

Because if this was truly about implementing new methods and models for agriculture — feeding Hawaii — they'd be on it already, using the thousands of acres of fallow land found throughout the Islands.

But they aren't. They only want what somebody else — A&B, the seed companies — has already got.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Musings: Earthy

It's Earth Day – that time of the year when we're supposed to become more conscious of how we're trashing the planet with our greed, thoughtlessness and ravenous appetites, and then do something about it.

Here's my small contribution:
Committed to eliminating food waste, Earth Day, every day.

Though many greenies have taken a stance against GMOs, the technology has numerous environmental benefits. I recently wrote about a study published by agricultural economists at Purdue University, who found that:

Eliminating GMO commodity crops in America would significantly boost greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions and have other environmental and economic impacts.

The Purdue researchers found that yields of soy, corn, and cotton would decrease, requiring some 252,047 acres of U.S. forest and pasture lands to be converted to crop production to offset the shortfall. A reduction in the export of U.S. commodity crops would also increase demand for cropland in other nations.

Though Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser recently pooh-poohed the contribution of GMO corn at a UH law school forum on GMOs — “you can't feed the world on Sugar Pops and candy bars” — he doesn't seem to realize that maize, as it's called elsewhere, is a major food staple across the globe. South Africa alone is needing to import 1.5 million tonnes this year due to drought. Fortunately, we've got enough to send.

GM crops that resist insect infestations, like like Bt cotton, Bt corn and Bt eggplant, have also reduced the use of pesticides, especially in developing nations. 

Yet the chronically befuddled, like Hooser and Lihue resident Linda Boethe, continue to insist that seed companies are “drenching” Kauai with pesticides. In a letter to the editor today, Boethe tries to bolster her drenching claim with a revelation about seed company pesticide use in December 2013:

Syngenta applied 13 RUP’s (restricted use pesticides) totaling 213 gallons and 366 pounds to 1,200 acres. 81 gallons of product contained Chlorpyrifos and 245 pounds contained Atrazine. Dow Agro-Science applied 10 RUPs totaling 139 gallons to 873 acres. Dupont/Pioneer applied 13 RUPs totaling 66 gallons and 13 pounds to 1,000 acres.

If you look at the raw numbers, yeah, it's kind of scary. But if you do the math —assuming her figures are correct — we're talking roughly a pint per acre. The seed companies have offered the analogy of one soda can of product applied to a football field. Is that being "drenched?" As a friend noted:

Overall, there's no common understanding of what these figures represent. Until there is, the numbers spur chaos in a public argument. And that's another failing of the Joint Fact Finding report: It doesn't put the numbers into the context of generally accepted agricultural practices to promote broader understanding of what the seed companies, and other farmers, actually do.

What some Kauai County Councilmembers do, on the other hand, is pull strings to help friends. At the last Council meeting, JoAnn Yukimura disclosed that she's "crafting" an amendment to one of the two homestay/B&B bills before the Council, as outlined in this dialogue with her colleagues:

JY: I have an amendment, a rough draft, but I would prefer, because it is a tricky amendment, I mean it's taken a lot of thought and conferencing with the legal staff we have. I'd like to work on it further before introducing it.

Is this amendment you are working on related to grandfathering?

JY: No. I don't think "grandfathering" is an appropriate context. The amendment is to create a class based on a rationale basis that is a legitimate class under the law.

So you are working on an amendment to create a class, a specific class that would allow for the planning commission to review applications for B&Bs outside of the VDA (visitor destination areas)?

JY: For a very small number of people that have been paying taxes since 2008, and have -- and have applied for home-stays.

You said it's not about grandfathering.

JY: Yes, because grandfathering... requires that the use was legal prior to being made illegal. That is not the circumstance we have here.

JoAnn is correct. The circumstance we have here is that a number of persons have been operating illegal B&Bs for more than a decade. The planning department has shut them down, and some are about to be hit with criminal charges. But JoAnn wants to let the scofflaws off the hook, give them preferential treatment, let them go on while others are denied the opportunity to operate.

As another friend observed:

Is this crafted or crafty legislation?

I'd go with crafty. Sleazy. And really inappropriate. Hasn't JoAnn learned anything from her earlier vote to legitimize all the illegal TVR owners, while burning those who had obeyed the law? 

Still, I imagine the amendment would come in really handy for Alexis Boilini — one of the aforementioned scofflaws who is now trying to sell her property for a cool $2.35 million. Perhaps so she'll have more time to spend at her Costa Rica B&B?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Musings: Crazy Women

As has been noted in comments recently, former Kauai Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri is threatening to expose the corruption of a Kauai County Councilmember.

In a letter to Councilman KipuKai Kualii, Shay wrote (click on image to enlarge):
Though her target isn't identified, there's been some discussion that it's Council Chair Mel Rapozo. It appears, from some emotional posts on Shay's Facebook page, that the two recently had a falling out.

Still, as one observer noted, what could Shay possibly say about Mel that wouldn't also incriminate her?
It's shaping up to be a rather interesting election year....

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Musings: Games People Play

Gee, I'm so glad that Fern Rosenstiel, now running for the 14th House District, has finally started noticing what's actually happening in her 'hood:
Gosh, and we've only been raising this alarm for how long now? Couple of decades? Too bad Fern and the other fistees couldn't have rallied themselves to actually speak up when the County Council allowed vacation rentals on ag land, which gave these McMansions a steady revenue stream.

But then, perhaps that's because so many fistees actually operate TVRs on ag land, or are busy selling expensive ag land to non-farmers. Who the heck does Fern think is funding the anti-GMO movement in Hawaii, Gary Hooser's re-election campaign, Dustin Barca's failed mayoral bid? Yes, it's the same “ridiculously rich arrogant people” she's moaning about.

And no, Fern, rezoning was not required to achieve this travesty. Instead, it's all about failing to enforce the agricultural dwelling agreement. Which is how so many of the North Shore “red shirts,” as well as former Coucilman Tim Bynum, one of of the co-sponsors of Bill 2491, were able to build houses on ag land, despite doing no farming.

While you guys are busily trying to destroy true farming because it doesn't fit your romanticized ideal of pure and pastoral, hundreds of acres of Kauai ag land have been lost forever to gentrification. So maybe you could go knock on their doors and ask why they aren't producing any food, instead of attacking the farmers who are.

Fern, you really need to bone up on land use laws, the financing of the anti-GMO movement and so much more before you run for office and start embarrassing yourself with inane pronouncements and hash tags.

Until that happens, here's one for you: #STFU!

But then, Fern's followers are equally misinformed, so they aren't gonna notice.

The rest of us, however, continue to hold out hope that Fern and her ilk will #wakeup and #wiseup before they try to #riseup and tell us how things should be.

Which leads to an interesting “game” that a friend told me about. It's called the Rescue Game, and I'm sure you'll recognize how it's being played by the anti-GMO/anti-ag folks on Kauai, and elsewhere around the state.

Each group of players is assigned one of three roles: Victim, Persecutor or Rescuer. The first two roles are allowed one move each: the Victim’s move is to suffer, and the Persecutor’s move is to make the Victim suffer. The Rescuer is allowed two moves: to sympathize with the Victim and to punish the Persecutor. No other moves are allowed, and no player is allowed to make a move that belongs to a different role.

In the Rescue Game, in other words, whatever a Victim does must be interpreted as a cry of pain. Whatever a Persecutor does is treated as something that’s intended to cause pain to a Victim, and whatever a Rescuer does, by definition, either expresses sympathy for a Victim or inflicts well-deserved punishment on a Persecutor. This is true even when the actions performed by the three people in question happen to be identical.

What’s more, the roles are collective, not individual. Each Victim is equal to every other Victim, and is expected to feel and resent all the suffering ever inflicted on every other Victim in the same game. Each Persecutor is equal to every other Persecutor, and so is personally to blame for every suffering inflicted by every other Persecutor in the same game. Each Rescuer, in turn, is equal to every other Rescuer, and so may take personal credit for the actions of every other Rescuer in the same game. This allows the range of potential moves to expand to infinity without ever leaving the narrow confines of the game.

It’s only fair to note that each of the three roles gets certain benefits, though these are distributed in a very unequal fashion. The only thing the people who are assigned the role of Persecutor get out of it is plenty of negative attention. Sometimes that’s enough—it’s a curious fact that hating and being hated can function as an intoxicant for some people—but this is rarely enough of an incentive to keep those assigned the Persecutor’s role willing to play the game for long.

The benefits that go to people who are assigned the role of Victim are somewhat more substantial. Victims get to air their grievances in public, which is a rare event for the underprivileged, and they also get to engage in socially sanctioned bullying of people they don’t like, which is an equally rare treat.

The vast majority of the benefits of the game, rather, go to the Rescuers. They’re the ones who decide which team of Victims will get enough attention from Rescuers to be able to start a game. They’re the ones who enforce the rules, and thus see to it that Victims keep on being victimized and Persecutors keep on persecuting.  Nor is it accidental that in every Rescue Game, the people who get the role of Rescuers are considerably higher on the ladder of social privilege than the people who get given the roles of Victims and Persecutors.

[A]ffluent white people [are] always in the role of Rescuers.

There’s one other rule: the game must go on forever. The Victim must continue to suffer, the Persecutor must continue to persecute, and the Rescuer must continue to sympathize and punish. Anything that might end the game—for example, any actual change in the condition of the Victim, or any actual change in the behavior of the Persecutor—is therefore out of bounds. 

The Rescuer also functions as a referee, and so it’s primarily his or her job to see that nothing gets in the way of the continuation of the game.

Which is why it doesn't matter how much monitoring is done, how many tests are run, how much disclosure is required. Gary Hooser, Earthjustice, Center for Food Safety, Surfrider, HAPA and all the others who fancy themselves Rescuers will never give up the game.

There's way too much money, power and sanctimony in it for them.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Musings: Euphoric

A reader recently sent me a very nice email, in which he wrote, among other things:

I know you have previously mentioned you're not excited about any of the presidential candidates. Can you let me (or "us", if you're willing to put more on your blog) know more about your perspective on Bernie Sanders - specifically, what you don't (and do) like about him? I'm hoping your insights will help temper my current (uncomfortably high) level of enthusiasm for him.

Hmm. I hope that doesn't mean I'm viewed as one of those people who's good at popping balloons. Euphoria is a wonderful sensation, and let's face facts: it's damn rare in politics. So believe me, I understand the enthusiasm that folks feel toward Bernie.

Still, it does rather astound me that he's so popular with young people. Like Grampa is going to fix everything?

I support a lot of what Bernie stands for: peace, greater economic equality, environmental protection, health care, decent-paying jobs, women's rights, election reform, cleaning up Wall Street, taking care of veterans.

Heck, what's not to like in that line-up?

But things get kind of fuzzy when we start talking about delivering on those promises. And that's where I find it impossible, from a practical perspective, to support Bernie. It's all well and good to “demand” this and that, but exactly how will he get his proposals through Congress, especially if it's under Republican control?

Bernie seems somewhat oblivious to this dilemma, paying scant attention to helping like-minded “down ballot” politicians in their own bids for the House and Senate. So who is going to help him bring his promises to fruition? As the Boston Globe noted:

As Sanders, who has been in Washington for decades surely must know, Congress today is a dysfunctional mess, one in which Republicans block pretty much every single reform effort proposed by Democrats. Why would President Sanders be successful in overcoming Republican obstructionism? If he believes the key to creating a political revolution would come through overturning Citizen United or ending the influence of super PACS or moving toward public funding of elections or ending redistricting, how exactly would he accomplish that?

If, by some outside chance, Sanders became president, his agenda would be dead on arrival. We’d see four more years of gridlock and four more years of dysfunction.

Now that does not sound good.
Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis
Speaking of super PACs, Civil Beat/Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar has contributed $100,000 to one that is seeking to defeat Donald Trump. I guess those bad super PACs become good when they fit your ideological bent.

I was rather amused by this comment from Omidyar spokeswoman Sarah Steven, who told Civil Beat:

“Pierre donated to #NeverTrump because he wanted to support the courage of a small group of people, who are standing up to the demagoguery and dangerous rhetoric currently happening in the presidential election.”

Meanwhile, Pierre is funding Center for Food Safety, a group known for its demagoguery and dangerous rhetoric in fighting against GMOs.

Guess those bad demagogues become good when they fit your ideological bent.

Turning to local elections, Kauai Sen. Ron Kouchi told me this morning that he has had no conversation with Jan Kimura regarding a run for the 14th District House. I incorrectly wrote last Friday that Ron and Rep. Jimmy Tokioka had been pushing Jan to run against Nadine Nakamura. Ron said Nadine is amply-qualified, and likely to win the election.

Ron also said that he, state Agriculture Director Scott Enright and Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler had decided to pursue additional air quality monitoring on the westside following a March 1 meeting that all three attended in Waimea.

Though Peter Adler, facilitator of the Joint Fact Finding Group recently credited his panel's draft recommendations with securing a funding commitment from the Kauai delegation for more studies, Ron said he, Enright and Pressler were "moving in that direction long before the fact-finding report came out."

If the air-monitoring studies indicate more research is needed, they'll have the evidence to justify it, Ron said. If they find no elevated levels of pesticide in the air, "then hopefully we can ease the concerns of west Kauai residents," he said. "Information is the best thing you can give them."

Friday, April 15, 2016

Musings: Friday Follow Ups

It's Friday, which seems like a good time to follow up on a few things.

First, Kauai County is continuing to move forward in controlling vacation rentals.

The planning department has asked the prosecutor's office to pursue criminal charges against several homestay and TVR properties, with more details forthcoming as soon as the charges are filed.

Meanwhile, the planning commission will soon decide whether to revoke a TVR permit and levy a $25,000 fine, as recommended by a hearings officer. The $3.7 million dwelling in question is owned by Rene Campos Jr. of Dallas and located in Kilauea's Seacliff Plantation.

The planning department first revoked the nonconforming use certificate in December 2011 after determining the property's guest house had been converted to a single family dwelling without the proper permits. The owner asked the planning commission to review the revocation last November, and it's finally moving toward resolution now.

Wonder how much rent the owner brought in during those five ensuing years? Surely far more than $25,000....

Meanwhile, a TVR owner got in a snit – claiming he/she was being “harassed” and “picked on” because planner Mike Laureta sent out an email informing permit-holders of the county's new zero-tolerance policy for late and incomplete applications. Mike wrote:

I'm giving fair warning – Ordinance No. 950, Sec. 8-17-10 (h)(1) removed the ability to reapply for renewal if you failed to timely renew. This means – from here going forward, if you’re 1 day late, the Department will issue you a forfeiture notice. If you don’t run your business in a professional manner and forget to timely renew, no excuse will be good enough.

If the renewal packet is incomplete beyond the renewal date, the Department will issue a Forfeiture notice. It’s incumbent on the certificate holders to provide all the documents listed on the renewal form – we will no longer chase you for missing documents. At the time you submit your packet, it had better be complete. I will be sending this email to all, in groups of maybe 25. So if you get this more than once, you really better not miss a renewal date……

Instead of whining, TVR owners should be grateful for the heads-up. The crackdown is totally warranted, as I saw a list showing some TVR owners hadn't renewed their permits for years. Two who forgot to renew are now appealing the forfeiture, which costs the county time and money.

TVR permits are a privilege, not an entitlement, and if folks can't get it together to renew on time, tough. Lawmakers promised us that the number of legal TVRs would slowly be reduced through attrition, and failing to follow the rules is part of that mechanism.

Meanwhile, the Council next week will again consider the bill defining and regulating homestays. But it's deferred until May 11 a bill that would limit homestays to the visitor destination area.

Moving on to other news, domestic violence coordinator Gina Kaulukukui has filed a lawsuit against Kauai Police Department and Assistant Chief Roy Asher, alleging sex discrimination and retaliation. Or in other words, the usual....

If Councilman Mason Chock has his way, KPD will need to enforce a new law, one that bans smoking in a motor vehicle whenever it's occupied by someone under 18. I guess when you can't come up with something grand in an election year, you go for the manini.

Speaking of elections, the race for the 14th District House seat vacated by Derek Kawakami continues to attract attention, with Kauai Sen. Ron Kouchi and Rep. Jimmy Tokioka reportedly urging former planning commission Jan Kimura of Kilauea to run. Guess Nadine Nakamura, who is far more qualified, doesn't meet the gender requirements for their Good Old Boys club.

And neophyte candidate Fern Rosenstiel is all upset because her strident Facebook posts, like the one I published Wednesday, are coming back to haunt her:
After it was reposted on the Pro GMO Hawaii page, Fern claimed it had been "taken out of context," though it's unclear in what context such sentiments would be acceptable. She then went on try and talk her way out of it:
Oh, yes, Fern, you've learned your lessons well: Always blame the corporations. They're the ones pitting us against each other, not you and your misinformed fistee friends, like the one who helpfully chimed in to remind us again of the condescending attitudes toward farm workers:
Mice, eh?

Meanwhile, Joni Kamiya wrote a poignant blog post about her father's brown hands. It was prompted by a meeting of the Kahuluu Neighborhood Board, where Center for Food Safety Director Ashley Lukens came to share her outrageous propaganda about pesticides. Joni's father and brother, who grow papayas, also showed up, along with another farmer.
Joni's dad, Ken Kamiya, stood up and told of how farmers are highly regulated in their use of pesticides and must also comply with the food safety regulations:

If we continue to harass the farmers, we're gonna quit. You're not gonna have any small farmers in Hawaii. Small farmers are the guys who grow papayas and cucumbers and anything else you guys like. Be careful and check your information and make sure it's legit. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Musings: No Pay Dirt

Many years ago, I wanted out of a lease and felt my landlord shouldn't be unhappy because I'd lined up a new tenant so he wouldn't lose any rent. But as he told me, “It isn't always and only about the money.”

Truer words were never spoken, and they've certainly guided my life and career decisions.

Yet to hear the anti-GMO activists talk, it's always and only about the money. As in, anyone who speaks in favor of GMOs, and/or questions the antics of the anti-GMO crowd, is in the pay of the agrochemical industry.

Just yesterday, Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff used the comment section of Civil Beat to maliciously lodge that baseless claim against Dr. Harold Keyser, whowrites so eloquently and informatively about pesticides and GMOs. Harold is retired from the UH, and gets no money from industry. But he often corrects misinformation when he sees it, which makes him a threat — and thus a shill — to die-hard ideologues like Paul.

Councilman Gary Hooser often uses that accusation to try and discredit me, since he'd love to have me stop calling him on his bullshit. Just the other day, he left a comment on his Facebook campaign page — which falsely lists me as one of his supporters — referencing me as “a notorious local blogger who is paid by the industry and whose blog is rife with lies, rumor and innuendo.”

This was followed by the semi-literate Celeste Harvel bleeting: “well she is paid handsomely by filthy corporations! old saying she has sold her soul” — a comment that Gary liked.

In truth, I'm still in full possession of my soul. I don't get any money from the agrochemical industry, and no one pays me to write this blog. As I have publicly stated previously, I do write for the Cornell Alliance for Science, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and focuses on public sector biotech work. We get no money from industry, but sometimes our paths do cross, as in the case of the transgenic papaya. Though it was developed by public sector scientists from Cornell University and UH, it used some technology owned by Monsanto, which released the patent to keep seeds low-cost for farmers.

I began speaking up on behalf of the seed companies primarily because I was appalled at the way their employees were being treated by members of this community. It sickened me to hear ignorant people accusing the workers of poisoning their neighbors and the land. I recall letters to the editor from people saying they didn't even want to stand next to field workers in Waimea Big-Save for fear of being contaminated with poisons and GMOs.

The witch hunt mentality totally turned me off, and as I began looking into how the seed companies operated, and how GMOs actually function, I came to understand the depth and breadth of misinformation that has been willfully spread about both the technology and the industry's activities in Hawaii.

Though it's easy to rally folks against the chemical corporate bogeyman, these companies are staffed by real people with real feelings — many of them locals — who send their kids to the same schools and enjoy the same natural resources as anyone else. They have no interest in fouling their nest, even for a paycheck.

But invariably, they've been demonized and dismissed as lackeys, stooges, pawns of their employers or, worse, patronized as those poor ignorant brown folk:
Most recently, Gary and others have directed this enmity toward Sarah Styan and Gerardo Rojas, the two seed company employees who volunteered their time to serve on the Joint Fact Finding Group, but resigned due to concerns about the process:
Meanwhile an anonymous commenter enjoined: "They'll be rewarded handsomely for their loyalty."

It's apparently inconceivable to the antis that Sarah, Gerardo or any of us could be motivated by principles, values, a sense of justice, a love for the truth, a hatred for propaganda and fear-mongering. It's not always and only about money — even for the antis. Though I have documented that groups like HAPA, Center for Food Safety, Hawaii SEED and Earthjustice profit from fanning the flames around GMOs — most recently under the guise of pesticide protection — I'm sure that many in the rank and file are motivated by their own ideals, and not cash.

The ever-addled Felicia Cowden, who disseminates so much misinformation on KKCR, which has never reported accurately about GMOs, recently weighed in on the resignations and JFFG recommendations:

The implementation of these recommendations is likely to destroy the remaining profitability of these companies, thus the jobs of their employees. Their markets are drying up, as well. I get that the whole experience is difficult and demoralizing for the staff of these companies. My suggestion is to shift their business strategy to a more life-affirming method of growing plants. It can be done and would be welcomed by the world. They could be heroes. I encourage that transition. All of us would thrive as a team.

No, what's difficult and demoralizing is having people like Gary, Marghee, Fern and Felicia, none of whom know anything about agriculture, weigh in so heavily about what farmers should and shouldn't do.

Though their regulatory efforts are currently directed at the seed companies, we're already hearing calls for pesticide disclosure from the taro farmers, and soon other small farmers who cannot afford more regulations will be called to task for their operations — even when they are operating legally in agriculturally-zoned lands, as the seed companies are. These recommendations may seem benign on surface, or just desserts for those dirty, genocidal chem companies. But they have far-reaching implications for all farmers at a time when Hawaii ag is already on the ropes.

And while I like and respect Peter Adler, who facilitated the JFFG, I was concerned when I read this comment from him in today's paper:

Adler pointed out “much has already been accomplished,” by the preliminary draft. Monday, a house bill relating to the state agricultural budget included a $500,000 readjustment in the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s 2016-2017 budget.

The recommendation suggests the money, in general funds, be used to “address concerns related to pesticide use,” according to the bill. The funds would be used to increase pesticide regulations and to strengthen data collection, as well as establish new standards for chronic, low-level exposure to pesticides.

In my opinion, the facilitator shouldn't be invested in the outcome, or deliver judgments on the effect of the recommendations, particularly at the draft stage. It's his job to shepherd the group to create a factual, impartial report that the community can use to inform its next steps.

I'm quite certain Peter came into this project wanting to do the right thing for the community, and I know he's not motivated by the money. But I think he did underestimate the very low road that some people are willing to take to advance the anti-GMO platform, and thus themselves. Those of us on the front lines have been experiencing the ugliness of that dynamic for a few years now. As one commenter so astutely observed on yesterday's post:

Trying to work with social justice warriors on the new left is like trying to wash your hands with crap.

I'm still hoping Peter can pull a rabbit out of a hat and turn this process around so that it isn't totally co-opted by the likes of Hooser and Achitoff. Because many of us deeply care about our communities, and we don't want these folks to set the moral tone.

And no, we're not getting paid to say that. It isn't always, and only, about the money.