Thursday, June 30, 2016

Musings: Trending...GMOs and TVRs

A group of Nobel laureates is the latest to call out Greenpeace, the Consumers Union and others for their fear-mongering and falsehoods around GMOs. 

So far, 107 of the world's top scientists have signed a letter calling on Greenpeace to abandon its campaign against the crop technology:

WE CALL UPON GOVERNMENTS OF THE WORLD to reject Greenpeace's campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general; and to do everything in their power to oppose Greenpeace's actions and accelerate the access of farmers to all the tools of modern biology, especially seeds improved through biotechnology. Opposition based on emotion and dogma contradicted by data must be stopped.

How many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a "crime against humanity"?
Standard issue uniform for anti-GMO activists.
As Richard Roberts, chief scientific officer of New England Biolab, told The Washington Post:

It's easy to see what Greenpeace is doing is damaging and is anti-science. Greenpeace initially, and then some of their allies, deliberately went out of their way to scare people. It was a way for them to raise money for their cause.

In other words, it's exactly what we've seen playing out in Hawaii for the past few years, when the Center for Food Safety joined Earthjustice in spreading lies about the seed crops grown in the Islands, with ignorant, opportunistic politicians like Gary Hooser and Margaret Wille piling on.

Venezuelan videographer Guido David Nuñez-Mujica saw something similar happen in his country, which in 2000 was a pioneer in biotech:

“And then we had an early sign of the dark times that would come later and of the anti intellectualism that destroyed the life of millions of people. An experimental field of GM papaya was burned by anti GM activists, and the scientists responsible for the experiments were harassed and threatened with jail.”

He's got a Kick-starter campaign to raise money for a documentary that tells the story of the scientists, as well as farmers denied the virus-resistant papaya technology that has come under attack in Hawaii.

The Laureates join the American Academy of Sciences in confirming the safety of biotech. So are you gonna believe them, or know-nothing, narcissistic nitwits like Babes Against Biotech and Dustin Barca?
Yeah, they can, and are.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders is desperately trying to retain some relevancy by fighting the newest iteration of a national GMO labeling law. The Senate is using a “gut and replace” mechanism — like the one employed by the Hawaii Lege to advance a tax credit for organic farmers — to move the measure forward. 

Sanders stirred up trouble by trying to make like it really was an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood (language in the original, gutted bill) rather than the labeling measure. Come on, Bern. Fight the bill on its merits, but don't throw up red herrings.

Opposition to this bill underscores the uncompromising rigidity of the anti-GMO movement, which has been screaming for national labeling under the guise of the public's “right to know.” But now that a bipartisan bill is moving forward, they don't want it because it doesn't accomplish their goal of making GMOs sound so scary that consumers buy higher-priced organics instead.

But what's really funny is how the antis are now savaging one another over this bill, with Food Democracy Now! publishing a list of the supposed “sell-out” companies that support the bill. Here's an example of the hyperbole: (emphasis in the original):

With this act of ultimate betrayal, Whole Foods cements its position as a poison-pushing distribution partner of Monsanto, the world's most evil corporation that produces poisonous, deadly crops laced with bt toxin [ironically, an organic pesticide] and glyphosate, a cancer-linked herbicide.

Wow. Now even Whole Foods is a shill.

In other national news with local implications, Airbnb is suing San Francisco over a law that requires the company to remove unlicensed rental units from its website, claiming it violates federal commerce laws and free expression. 

Ya, right. The only thing it violates is Airbnb's opportunity to make money. The company is valued at some $25 billion, and it thrives in part by dealing with illegal rentals.

Under the San Francisco law, the company would be fined $1,000 per day per violation.

Now that's a law that Hawaii needs to consider imposing. At least Gov. Ige vetoed the law that would have allowed  Airbnb to collect tax revenues from those listing on its site. The law required only that people "attest" to being legal — which is how so many unqualified vacation rentals on Kauai got permits.

Practically every major U.S. city is struggling with how to handle the boom of short-term rentals. Most have enacted or are considering regulations for services like Airbnb.

Los Angeles started to take action against rent-controlled apartments that have been illegally converted into short-term rentals. "I think short-term rentals pose a serious threat to affordable housing," said attorney Randy Renick, who represents the Los Angeles tenants. "And in Los Angeles, the platform most widely used by landlords to evade the law is Airbnb."

New York state and San Francisco are also close to cracking down on short-term rental sites with hefty new fines.

NYC hosts violating the ban would face fines of $7,500, with Airbnb saying some 40,000 hosts would be affected. 

One can only hope this is the start of a trend. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Musings: I'm (Not) With Stupid

Though major Hawaii issues are routinely ignored, the Zuckerberg wall has caught international media attention. Both CNN and the New York Times contacted me, with the NYT reporter astutely noting, “This mostly seems overblown.”

Ya think? Cause nobody's said nothing about all the walls built by the non-billionaires — including the ones illegally erected along public beach accesses:
Dang. Where are the whining, complaining cranks — like the Chantaras — when you really need 'em?

One of the silliest reports was in — no surprise —Huffington Post:

However, since all beaches in Hawaii are public, Zuckerberg won’t be able to extend his wall all the way to the beach, thus eliminating any chance he had of making his stretch of sand exclusive.

Well, that would have been pretty much impossible, anyway, since the wall runs parallel to the coast, on the mauka side of the property. Stupid.

Others were dinging Zuckerberg because he'd quite rightly criticized Trump's proposal for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Really? People can't see any difference between using taxpayer money to block off an entire country, and building a wall fronting a road on your own land? Super stupid.

Speaking of which, the anti-GMO crowd is now using Putin as its poster boy:
So says the tyrannical leader of a nation with one of the world's highest alcohol-related death rates. Triple shot of stupid.

Still speaking of which, our own Dustin Barca weighed in on Gov. Ige signing Bill 2501, which gives the state more time to work out the revocable permit process for water leases, against the wishes of some East Maui taro farmers:
Gee, wouldn't he have made a fine and thoughtful mayor? We dodged a bullet on that one, folks.

In another post, Barca rails against a number of things (except, sadly, his own illiteracy):
Then he runs a proud Daddy picture of his kid holding these giant Palau taro hybrids they're cultivating. I wonder if he even knows it's a hybrid, which means — and I'll spell it out, in case he's reading — that it's not “God-sown.”

I wish that were the limit of Kauai stupidity. But alas, we've still got Terry Lilley, and with the Rimpac war games starting today, he's been cranking up the volume:
Billions of watts of electromagnetic energy beamed 24/7? So what electrical source is powering this alleged beam bombardment? Consider that 1 gigawatt (GW) = 1 billion watts, and just 2.3 gigawatts of electricity are produced statewide. So if Lilley's assertion were true, Hawaii's entire electrical output would have to be diverted to the production of military electromagnetic energy. Yet, the power's still on, so it can't be that.

Sonar is powered by shipboard generators, which have a maximum rating of about 6 MW. And they're powering the entire ship, not just sonar. Again, the numbers don’t add up — can't add up. Because it's all bullshit. And it keeps on coming:
Oh, now we're up to 900 billion watts of microwaves being generated on Kauai alone. That's quite a feat, considering the entire island of Kauai, including PMRF, uses about 50 megawatts. Come on, Capt. Hay. Where are you hiding all those secret power plants? Let me guess: You're using cloaking technology to render them invisible. Actually, I shouldn't even joke, as some doofus will take it as Gospel.

As for the “cancer clusters,” how many more times are folks gonna trot that one out? Once again, Kauai doesn't have any. Not only that, our overall cancer rates are significantly lower than the rest of the state. All we've got is a slightly elevated rate of melanoma on the North Shore, where the population is predominantly haole.

There's been lots of crap published about how we're “ground zero for GMOs, ground zero for experimental pesticides, ground zero for military microwaves.” But all those claims are lacking meaningful context: we're ground zero for ignoramuses on soap boxes.

Not to be outdone is Kauai landowner Joe Brescia, who has dropped the price on his oceanfront Wainiha house — the one built atop burials. Yeah, it's marked down from $5.5 million to $5.25 million. Or to use the verbiage in the listing, “PRICED FOR A QUICK SALE.”

As you may recall, it first went on the market in October 2014. But then it was pulled, and now it's back on, advertising a “private beach trail” — uh, do you mean the public access next door? — and its “private and secluded feel.” Yup. Just you and the obake. Oh, yeah, and all the tourists staying at the adjacent vacation rentals.

I love these closing lines from the ad:
Years of planning went into this newer, well-maintained home.

Now that's a cute spin on the protracted agony of the shoreline disputes, Burial Council deliberations, litigation, protests and prayers, Brescia's SLAPP suit against activists, Planning Commission appeals — all of which resulted in the State Historic Preservation Division setting the precedent of overriding a Burial Council decision and permitting construction on a previously identified burial site. Ah, yes. So much thoughtful planning. So many good vibes.

Years of enjoyment can be yours today at Kaonohi Point.

Sure, if you don't mind stink eye, hauntings and that sickening feeling of participating in cultural desecration. 

But no doubt he'll find some sucker to buy it. Because get lots of stupid people in this world, a disproportionate number of which seem to end up on Kauai.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Musings: Deal With It

Within hours of Gov. Ige announcing he signed HB2501, which allows time to revamp the complex revocable water permit process, opponents posted a "shame on you" video.

Really? Is that the best they can come up with? More regressive shaming from the self-proclaimed progressives? Do they really think that's going to turn anything around?

All the while they're ignoring Ige's statement, which specifically acknowledges East Maui farmers, and the fact that this issue isn't just about their hated enemy, A&B. It's also about KIUC, HECO and the many small farmers around the state who are functioning on the admittedly flawed revocable permit process.

But in their desire to stick it to A&B, and make it all about them, they're prepared to screw over everyone else. And when they don't get their way, waaah.
What gets me is that these activist groups actively engage in the political process. They lobby, they rally constituents, they run candidates, they raise money.

If they win, it's a victory for democracy, the will of the people that must be upheld — even against those who have a legal right to bring a challenge.

But if they lose, the system is corrupt, the politicians are crooked, the bad guys have bought everybody off, the judges are in cahoots.

Sorry. But you just can't have it both ways. The system that gave them anti-GMO moratoriums  — and favorable court rulings on revocable water permits and the TMT — is the same system that produced HB2501. Grow up and deal with it.

It's a concept that seems to elude so many activists. I'm not sure whether they just don't understand how the process works, or if they're convinced that magical thinking will rule the day.

For example, following the federal Appeals Court hearing on the Hawaii anti-GMO/anti-pesticide bills, folks posted a petition on whining about how Monsanto was “poisoning democracy” by challenging the Maui bill in court.

As if it's somehow “democracy theft” to use the court system — unless, of course, you're Earthjustice, SHAKA or Center for Food Safety. And never mind that small farmers joined the seed companies in seeking to overturn those laws on both Maui and Big Island.

But what really got me was this:

The ruling could take six to nine months. During this time, the justices and their law clerks will be gauging public awareness, and public sentiment, of these historic cases. We will be creating more awareness-building media and, with the help of supporters like you, expanding the reach of this petition.

WTF? Do they actually believe the judges will issue a ruling based on anything other than legal precedent? Have any of these folks ever read a judicial decision, which is filled with citations of case law?

But then, these groups earn their bread and butter from fear and hype. There's no money to be made while the court is quietly and earnestly deliberating. Bang those drums! Make people believe it's a popularity contest, not a legal process.

Speaking of popularity contests, I've received a troubling report from an attendee of the recent International Society for Reef Studies convention in Honolulu that Pew Charitable Trusts was using its booth to offer scientists drink coupons in exchange for signing a petition calling upon President Obama to expand the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Hmmm. Hope it was at least brand name booze.

In closing, a Vermont company is seeking to help save some of the 3.7 billion birds that cats kill annually in the U.S. alone with "whimsically shaming" bright-colored scrunchies that make it tough for felines to sneak up on their prey.
Sadly, this approach won't save the endangered Hawaiian birds that are regularly munched by the tens of thousands of feral cats roaming the Islands. These birds nest in burrows, where they're unable to fly or escape their predators.
Indeed, just one cat is thought responsible for killing six of the rare Hawaiian petrels, which were nesting in a remote Na Pali Natural Area Reserve. As TGI reported:

Basil Scott of the Kauai Community Cat Project said he feels it’s “too bad this predation is occurring” and that these types of killings always bring up the conversation about the feral cat population on the island.

Yes, because we keep wondering why people like Basil advocate managed feral cat colonies, as if it's OK to allow thousands of cats to roam, and kill at will, just because they've been fixed.

Never underestimate the power of denial — especially if money and ideology are involved.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Musings: Up Against the Wall

Oh, that mean Mark Zuckerberg.

The Facebook founder is building a wall on his property in Kilauea, and some folks don't like it. So they do what all the North Shore cranks do: Call The Garden Island and whine unchallenged.

Which is why readers never learn it's replacing the ugly tree-topped dirt berm in front of the old Pflueger parcel — the one that Jimmy originally made 15-feet tall, then was forced to drop down to 5 feet, so he planted a scruffy bunch of trees on top.

What's more, it's fully permitted, and will gradually taper down from 6 feet at the section nearest Kuhio Highway until it connects into the 4-foot-high rock wall that has existed along Koolau Road for years.

But hey, as Shoshona Chantara reveals, the disgruntled are being totally reasonable:

“In the case of this wall, all he needs to do is take it down, so people have the view and the breeze back. It would end all discussion. That’s all we’re asking.”

Come on, Mark. Why can't you agree to complete capitulation?

I mean, it worked for the Chantaras before. Back when they were harassing Kilauea business owners into removing their smart meters.

And never mind that they're once again wildly exaggerating, with Shoshona claiming the structure is “up on a berm....a solid wall that’s 10 or more feet above the road level; the breeze can’t go through.”
Uh, really? Pictures don't lie. Unless that water truck has 10-foot tires.

The unhappy Gy Hall chimes in:

“Somebody has been putting up signs, appealing to Zuckerberg’s generosity and humanity — polite signs on the wall — but those signs just get ripped off as soon as they appear.”

Imagine. The nerve of Mark's crew, removing signs from a private wall. 

Donna McMillen, meanwhile, was “super unhappy” because she's not tall enough to see over the wall.

Yeah, Mark. Doncha know your wall can be no higher than the shortest person who may wish to walk on that road?

Maria Maitino was also disgruntled, saying the wall didn't “feel neighborly.”

Ya know, that's the same reaction some folks had to the Lilikoi lunch truck that Maria was operating illegally at Anini for a while.

But no worries. I'm sure this classic case of newbie "locals" bitching about "insensitive newcomers" will soon be resolved.

After all, Hall used to manage Aloha International, and the Chantaras own a business called Alchemy of Aloha. They should be able to transmute their anger into aloha in no time. 

Maybe one of the magic balls would help?

If not, well, then, karma's a bitch.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Musings: By Definition, Flawed

Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser would have gotten a much better response to his survey if he'd asked the one question that so many voters want to hear:

Would you like me to go away and STFU?

Curious, his sudden interest in what voters want, now that he's facing defeat. Most politicians seek such guidance at the beginning of their term, so they can avoid debacles like introducing a fireplace ban.

As Hooser careens toward the likely loss of his Council seat, he's taken to mad pandering:
Except Coco Palms, two Coconut Coast resorts and the Hanamaululu project are already approved. So what's he gonna stop? The construction of single family homes? That should go over swell with the building trades that employ so many on Kauai.

Then there was this:
What's sad is that Hooser's “understanding” of the leash law was wrong, and he knew it, hence the wink-wink. 

But then, dats Da Hoos. He attacks people who actually are following the law, like seed farmers, while he picks and chooses which ones he wants to obey.
And really, Gary? The Kauai shelter has 100 dogs desperate for adoption, and you buy one from a breeder — that clipped its ears, no less? So much for leading by good example.

Still, realizing he could possibly snag a vote or two from even this manini issue, he posts (and acknowledges he knew he was breaking the law):
"The rest of us?" Uh, it's not like Hooser has any special privileges here. But yes, let's waste more Council time on the going-nowhere small stuff while ignoring the really big problems. 

Ever get the feeling he thrives on conflict and drama?

Well, if he gets re-elected, there's more of it coming:
Returning to Hooser's hypocrisy, and his “do as I say, not as I do” mentality, remember how he got all huhu over what he perceived — mistakenly — as a seed industry voting bloc?

But when the Hawaii Center for Food Safety Action Fund endorsed the “true food” bloc — four of them graduates of Hooser's HAPA Kuleana Academy and two of them HAPA board members — well, whattya know, there's Hooser, hustling for it:
Take a gander at the questions driving these endorsements if you still think Hooser and his cronies aren't a one-trick anti-GMO/anti-pesticide pony.

And WTF do any of these people know about food, "true" or otherwise, save for how to eat it and malign those who produce it by other than organic means? 

Meanwhile, Hooser makes like blocs were non-existent in Hawaii political history prior to 2014, when the dastardly seed companies introduced the practice specifically to get him:
I guess he plum forgot his own exhortations on the topic in 2014:
In related news, Dr. Lee Evslin took to the opinion pages of The Garden Island to try and convince folks that his recommendations in the Joint Fact-Finding on pesticides are legit:

In our study of the international scientific literature, we found that pesticides are associated with at least 20 medical conditions (pages 59-60 of the report). We then attempted to determine how many of those 20 conditions had available medical data that we could be used to compare the Westside with the rest of the island and state.

I wonder, didn't Dr. Evslin read the public comments submitted on the draft JFF report? Like the one from Dr. F. DeWolfe Miller, Professor of Epidemiology at the John A. Burns School of Medicine:

These recommendations were clearly made without professional epidemiological consultation and are typical of many other communities in the US and elsewhere in the world who have tried to link various health outcomes to some geographic marker as a proxy for some kind of potential environmental hazard. There is an abundance of literature on this subject.  An example of a local study is by Kirkham.

Linking health outcomes (cancer/BD) to zip codes is not recommended for two reasons. One is statistical. There will not be enough events per zip code to reach “statistical significance”, especially in Kauai.  In spite of this, there seems to be an irrational obsession with using zip codes for various useless data mining endeavors.

Even if statistical significance could be achieved, zip codes are not exposures. They are zip codes. Exposure to environmental hazards — in this case pesticides — has to be demonstrated and linked directly and quantitatively to an individual or individuals.

Linking cancer, birth defects or other health outcomes geographically is called by epidemiologists  “ecologic study designs”. Inferring the results from ecologic studies, i.e. from groups (zip codes for example) to individuals is termed an “ecological fallacy” and is by definition, flawed.

So give it up, already.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Musings: Go Away

Here's an example of the mindset we're seeing in some of the newest Hawaii arrivals, who are all about lifestyle, but not so into local culture: 
Gone, apparently, are the days when folks tried to fit into the local lifestyle. Now they want it changed. Go away? Who?

In this case, the author is a former bank officer from Anchorage who has a vacation rental condo in Lahaina. Her profile states: We moved here to Maui 4 years ago to enjoy the great outdoors, the weather is great here 365 days a year, even in stormy weather we have shorts on!

Despite being from Alaska, she is apparently unfamiliar with subsistence practices and the rights of natives and others to engage in them on public beaches.

Speaking of fishing, there's been a lot of talk recently about Obama using executive powers to approve a four-fold expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. If approved, it would become the largest protected area on the planet, encompassing some 200 nautical miles.
The proposal includes naming the ever-so-efficient and nonpolitical Office of Hawaiian Affairs as a co-trustee, a provision sure to increase both costs and chaos, with no appreciable returns.

Commercial fishing currently is prohibited in the monument, so the prospect of its expansion has alarmed the longline fishing industry. They've expressed concerns about the potential financial impact on those who fish for prized ahi, as well as further government restrictions on where they can fish.

Some lawmakers, including Kauai Sen. Ron Kouchi and Rep. Jimmy Tokioka, have asked Obama not to do it, while some well-known kanaka, like navigator Nainoa Thompson, support the expansion.

In the midst of this debate comes an article in The Atlantic that actually mentions the NWHI. It tells of how Joshua Cinner, a social scientist in Australia, worked with reef scientists to compile data on 2,514 reefs from 46 nations. As the article reports:

And their surprising results are upending traditional assumptions about what makes a healthy reef.

Contrary to what you might think, the bright spots weren’t all remote reefs, where humans were absent or fishing was banned. Instead, most were home to lots of people, who rely heavily on the corals and who frequently fished. They weren’t leaving the corals and fish alone; instead, they had developed social norms and institutions that allowed them to manage the reefs responsibly.

“Reefs are hugely threatened. I saw my own field site melt down and completely die,” says Julia Baum from the University of Victoria. “The danger is that we lose hope, or we feel like there’s nothing to be done. That’s why this study is so important. It shows that the end state of people relying on and using coral reefs doesn’t have to be reef degradation.”

Some remote sites like parts of the north-west Hawaiian islands, which have long been textbook examples of how pristine reefs can be when fishing is rare, emerged as dark spots. Meanwhile, most of the 15 bright spots were in fished and populated areas, and near both rich and poor countries.

“Conservationists typically look for the highest absolute biomass and the places that are most untouched. These are the gems, so let’s stop people from going there,” says Cinner. “We looked for places that had more fish than they should, given the condition. Some had biomass below the global mean, so they weren’t pristine, but they were doing better than they should be.”

The preliminary analyses suggest that policy-makers might serve reefs best by helping people live with them sustainably, whether by instilling systems like property rights or getting people more invested in their local reefs. “There’s been a narrative about local involvement but it’s often very token,” says Cinner. “Our research says that’s not enough. Locals need more than just buying into something that an NGO wants to do. I think there are opportunities for conservation organizations to invest in things that allow for communities to creatively confront their own challenges.”

Such efforts stand in stark contrast to the predominant tactic for saving the seas: establishing large marine protected areas, where fishing and other human activities are restricted. “A lot of countries are going about that by marking out large areas of ocean in areas with no people,” says Baum. “It’s politically easy, as opposed to having to do a lot of really complex marine spatial planning.”

The answer, the article says, lies in "learning from areas that faced down their problems and won. We don’t get to live in an ideal world. We have to live in this one, and this one is full of people."

Just something to think about.