Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Musings: Huh?

Last night I saw an alignment of the golden crescent moon and brilliant Venus, which reminded me of everything that is bigger and more beautiful than the tawdry world of politics. Then this morning, I read an article that helped me make sense of what's going on:

A UK, Canadian and Italian study has provided what researchers believe is the first observational evidence that our universe could be a vast and complex hologram.

So what might this mean for our perception of “reality?”

I dunno, but I think the Star-Advertiser has lost touch with it:


Meanwhile, in that parallel universe known as the state Legislature, the Senate Agriculture and Environment Committee passed some pesticide bills championed by the anti-GMO folks. As committee Chair Sen. Mike Gabbard observed:

“It's important to continue this conversation. As you can see, so many people testified. There was a lot of community interest in this bill."

Uh, hello, they were flown in to testify, Mike. Because the anti-GMO groups have big bucks to orchestrate this kind of dog and pony show, none of which they disclose. Think of it as a sort of shadow lobbying force giving an outsized voice to the less than 1% of the state's population it represents. 
But if you looked at those in attendance, and read the submitted testimony — at least half of which was the canned variety — people who actually live near agricultural areas were sorely lacking.

Aside from Waimea's Klayton Kubo, who comes in handy because he's kind of brown, a color sorely lacking among the anti-GMO crowd, and can be counted upon to utter such platitudes as:

"There is no good poison. There is no good poison."

Yes, the always profound Klayton was there at the hearing, along with Gary Hooser, Fern Rosenstiel, Felicia Cowden — you know, the folks who can't get elected to office on Kauai, but still make like they're speaking for the people.

Mason Chock, meanwhile, took a tip from the Hooser handbook, using Council letterhead and staff to prepare his personal testimony.

But hey, if the state wants to blow $3 million funding the recommendations of the Joint Fact Finding Group on Kauai ag pesticides, go for it. Let the lawmakers answer to the voters for their budget decisions, especially the stupid ones. Like creating a position to run a Korean Natural Farming pilot program to see if it's the miracle cure for all those nasty diseases and pests, like coffee berry borer, coqui frogs, fireweed, ringspot virus, etc. Never mind that it's totally unproven BS "scientific evidence of the benefits of KNF has been limited."

As Sarah Styan — one of three JFFG members who dropped out because the group's bias was so entrenched — noted in her testimony (emphasis in the original):

Having participated in the year plus-long review of all data, reports, interviews, field visits, and other information, I would like to make it very clear that the report recommendations were actually written in August of 2015, well before the group even completed its investigation and report.

When the JFF group completed the draft report, I raised the issue that the previously drafted recommendations did not match our findings; however, the facilitator Peter Adler insisted that we had agreed to the recommendations months ago and they would not be revisited or changed to accommodate what the group had learned. This was extremely disturbing.

The JFF group also received a lot of feedback from the community and experts when the draft report was released for public comment. Many reviewers noted that the recommendations were not consistent with the findings of the report. Among these were the Hawaii Department of Health, as well as the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. Despite this feedback, much of which was from experts in the fields of health, agriculture, epidemiology, and scientific research, Mr. Adler and some of the JFF participants did not want to change the recommendations to ensure that they were consistent with the findings. This was alarming since participants were previously promised that relevant comments from experts and the public would be taken into consideration and the report would be modified accordingly.

As you consider this bill, I hope that you will take the JFF report and recommendations for what they are -- a vehicle for the pre-ordained and unsupported recommendations of its biased membership -- rather than what they should have been -- a good-faith effort to determine facts and develop recommendations to assist our community in making sound and well-informed policy decisions.

Kawika Winter, who also served on the JFFG, submitted his own testimony:

With my name and my intergrity [sic] I stand behind the conclusions and recommendations of the JFF report. I emplore [sic] you all do do whatever you can to enacts [sic] its recommendations via this bill and beyond.

Of course, after appearing in that propaganda film “Aina,” Kawika's name and integrity are worth about as much as his spelling.

To be fair, Gabbard isn't the only one easily suckered these days. We also had Hooser gushing over Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook — and, no, Gary, I don't have numerous fake accounts that I use to stalk you. That's just another one of your many lies. I don't have any fake FB accounts. But you have myriad enemies, and they send me stuff:

Wow. I am impressed. While he will still no doubt take plenty of shots from plenty of people on this, I am impressed by the thoughtful remarks and thorough explanation he has provided. And...you know I think he might have actually written this letter himself. I understand he has legions of writers, pr people, lawyers etc...but the letter feels genuine and heartfelt to me. He admits he made a mistake and wants to make it right. So many others in his position would just try to bull their way through, come hell or high water. Mr. Zuckerberg seems different and seems to realize Kauai is different and that the flexing of money and muscle is not pono. 

Oh, yeah, I'm sure Z took time out of his busy day to pen a heartfelt exclusive mea culpa to TGI. And no doubt he's gonna do a big kumbaya with the kuleana owners — hey, maybe he can hire Peter Adler to help out! Yes, he made a mistake by filing lawsuits, so now he'll just quietly pay people money to go away. Do you really think he's going to let people like Dustin Barca cruise around his estate, claiming they're guests of the kuleana kids?

Because Kauai isn't different — money talks, and big money talks really persuasively. 

But the funniest part was the bit about how “the flexing of money and muscle is not pono.” Once again we are reminded that Hooser and the antis are immune to irony and devoid of introspection.

Returning to that bizarre S-A report on tourism numbers, Sen. Laura Thielen is beginning to glimpse the glaringly obvious, as revealed in an email:

It seems like tourism is not a growth sector, in large part because the per person spending has been trending down, when accounting for inflation.  So we’re in a vicious cycle where we need more people to come to Hawaii just to maintain the same revenue, in real dollars.  Of course there are cyclical ups and downs, but what I’m seeing from UHERO is that when adjusted for inflation, it’s mainly a downward or flat trend.

When I speak to economists, they tend to say we need to keep adding visitors, because even if it’s not a growth sector, it’s still such a large sector that letting it go flat would create problems.

So here’s my first question.  Are economists focused too narrowly on the fiscal benefits/costs of tourism, and not looking hard enough at the qualitative externalities of the industry?  Granted it’s hard to quantify qualitative impacts.  But 9+ million visitors a year certainly have qualitative impacts, especially on the tourist-popular communities.

Ya think? And this only now occurred to you, after years in the governor's office and Lege? OMG. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Musings: Cultivating Hate

I got a text last night from a farmer, a kind and good man who has spent his entire life in agriculture. He was in a state of despair after watching Hawaii News Now regurgitate Center for Food Safety propaganda about pesticides:

Just saw the dog and pony show on the evening news put on by the antis, tears and all. Didn't help that the station showed irrigation sprinklers while talking about spraying.

It really upset me to see it. It put me in such a funk. I'm beginning to really hate these fuckers!

Sadly, that's the reaction of decent people when they see frauds and demagogues like CFS director Ashley Lukens repeatedly spew their distortions and lies— all while pretending they actually care about agriculture and people. The antis are so bent on pushing their own agenda that they totally ignore the harm and distress they're inflicting on real farmers.

Unfortunately, ignorant and/or hoodwinked TV news “reporters” like Rick Daysog, Keahi Tucker and Mahealani Richardson contribute to this dynamic with sensationalized, inaccurate reports.
Daysog never mentioned that Ashley is a paid lobbyist working for a group whose raison d'ĂȘtre is destroying GMO agriculture. He never noted that seed companies already have voluntarily agreed to both disclosure and buffer zones. Does he not know this? Or did he ignore it because it didn't fit the narrative that CFS fed him?

Daysog opened with a crying wahine, whimpering "my son is not a lab rat." But he never tells us why she might have these fears, or who she is, so we can judge her credibility. It's a blatantly manipulative emotional ploy.

Daysog then featured big body bully Klayton Kubo — a guy who makes his living exposing himself to toxins in paint — making all sort of BS claims about “where you think that dust is drifting and the overspray? Coming right on us, my son, my neighbor's kids.” In fact, dust samples taken from his home and others in Waimea Valley have never revealed any ag pesticides.

And Daysog and Hawaii News Now blatantly deceived viewers by talking about pesticide spray and drift while showing irrigation sprinklers — creating the false impression in viewers' minds that this is how pesticides are applied. Do they not care about accuracy? Or are they deliberately trying to mislead?

The station leads with Ashley saying the conversation has shifted from the danger of consuming GMOs — a nonexistent danger that reputable groups like National Academy of Scientists put firmly to rest — to the danger of producing GMOs. Because that's an area where she can stir up all kinds of fears, and raise money for CFS. 

Mehealani Richardson intones: "Our top story tonight: Growing push back from families tired of not knowing what chemicals are being sprayed in their communities." Which families, exactly? Certainly not those working in agriculture.

Then Keahi Tucker chimes in with a flat out lie: "Hawaii's big ag companies have been resisting pressure to disclose the pesticides they use..."

Bullshit. Did Hawaii News Now miss the Department of Ag announcement that seed companies voluntarily agreed to disclose? And again, why is the focus only on ag chemicals, when termite and pest control companies use more than anyone?

Daysog doesn't give ag a chance to counter these claims until he's more than half-way through his 2:39 clip — after all the tears and false accusations and misleading footage.

He then features Kona Sen. Josh Green stating, “Glyphosate's toxic. It's been banned in a bunch of countries.” Daysog never challenges Green's claim.

But in fact, only Bermuda, which has very little agriculture, has banned the use of glyphosate.

In Malta, “products containing both the active substance glyphosate and the co-formulant POE-tallowamine, which exacerbates the effects of glyphosate, were being banned. This includes some of the most commonly used commercial pesticides, including Roundup and Roundup Max, but leaves the door open to pesticides that contain glyphosate only.”

Sri Lanka last year relaxed its ban, announcing “the importation of ready-to-use products containing glyphosates would again be permitted.”

Colombia first banned, then reinstated, its use on the illegal coca crop.

Other European countries have banned it for non-commercial use, which doesn't include agriculture.

So is Josh Green — who has announced he's eying a run for governor — pandering, lying, ignorant or simply sharing “alternative facts?” 

And that's what gets me, and the farmer, and so many others. Even as the activists decry the “alternative facts” spread by Trump, they're doing the exact same thing. And even as they claim to be engaged in a movement rooted in “love,” their lies, deception and unfair, dirty tactics are breeding hate.

The antis, who have shown themselves to be largely devoid of introspection and self-awareness, need to take a good look in the mirror. It's never easy, especially for narcissists like Ashley, because it's not a pretty reflection. But until they do, and adjust their behavior accordingly, they're no better than the propagandists and demagogues they march against.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Musings: Cloaking the Rhetoric

Following court rulings that overturned GMO/pesticide laws passed by three Hawaii counties — the Kauai County Council formally rescinded its law yesterday — activists have turned to the state Legislature, where their anti-GMO agenda is now cloaked in the rhetoric of pesticide reforms.

Anti-GMO activists have relied upon sympathizers like Sen. Josh Green, who is eying a gubernatorial run, Rep. Chris Lee, and Sen. Russell Ruderman, who appears untroubled by the conflict of interest inherent in his ownership of organic grocery stores, to introduce more than a dozen bills related to pesticides.

In keeping with the activists' anti-GMO/anti-ag mantra, these bills target farmers. Pest control and termite treatment companies, which apply more restricted use pesticides than any other group in the state are given a free pass.

Since the activists are, at core, against GMO and conventional farming, they continue to inist that only agricultural pesticide use must be monitored and controlled “to protect keiki, kupuna and the aina” — though no actual threats have been documented, even by the anti-GMO dominated Joint Fact-Finding Group (JFFG).
SB 19, which requires any person growing a crop to provide a detailed public disclosure of all pesticide use, would hit small farmers especially hard.

Other bills banning the use of chlorpyrifos and requring a stringent permit to use neonicotinoid insecticide or coated seeds directly target the seed industry, which comprises the most valuable and viable sector of Hawaii agriculture.

Another bill calls for giving each county the authority to enact pesticide laws more stringent than those imposed by the state and federal government, which could result in a tremendous financial burden on local taxpayers.

And companion Senate and House bills would allocate $3 million in each of the next two years to implement recommendations by the JFFG — even though toxicologists and other experts have said the proposals aren't warranted by report's findings.

Anti-GMO activists, armed with ample free time and buckets of mainland money, are well-poised to whip up hysteria and trot frightened baby-carrying moms before lawmakers, who typically know little about ag and even less about pesticides.

Farmers, meanwhile, find it difficult to visit the Lege because they're busy trying to pull off a crop. What's more, many have been intimidated by activists who have boycotted their products, attacked them in social media and even threatened their children at school.

I got a little taste of that myself the other day when drama queen Lauryn Rego of the anti-GMO Babes Against Biotech launched a Facebook diatribe against me. Kauai activists Gary Hooser and Jimmy Trujillo quickly piled on — and in the process revealed themselves as authoring some of the most vicious anonymous comments left on my blog. (Another offender is Joan Ben-dor, who is mad because I exposed her family's attempt to pass off its illegal TVR as legit.)

It was easy to identify Gary and Jimmy because they used the exact same language on FB as they do in my comment section. These folks are not only dishonest, cowardly and hateful, they're not too bright.

That's why good people who support Hawaii agriculture must speak up. Though it's a craven attitude that strikes at the heart of thoughtful lawmaking, legislators have already admitted they're swayed by the numbers game. The antis, by their own admission, represent less than 1 percent of the state population, but they're loud, aggressive and skilled at social media blitzes.

It's not overly dramatic to say that the future of Hawaii agriculture, rural lifestyles and extensive taxpayer dollars are on the table in the high-stakes game being waged by anti-GMO activists at the state Capitol. People who are must get involved.

Meanwhile, farmers in Europe — a region that activists tend to eulogize as an agriculture model for the world — are fighting to keep glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. The National Farmers Union (NFU) has launched a Twitter campaign warning its loss would increase production costs and carbon emissions, decrease yields and lead to environmental damage. Their action comes in response to efforts by activists to ban the popular herbicide, which farmers use to reduce the tillage that acclerates erosion and nitrogen runoff.

According to NFU vice-president Guy Smith:

“It’s interesting the scientists behind the latest scare stories are the same ones who have tried to prove GM food causes health problems.”

Speaking of health problems, the anti-ag activists who helped destroy HC&S through their unrelenting complaints about smoke from cane fires glossed over the real culprit: power plants. According to an article in the Maui News:

Three Maui facilities spewed nearly 190,000 pounds of toxic chemicals into the air in 2015 with the two Maui Electric Co. power plants logging the largest releases in Maui County, the Environmental Protection Agency reported.

And the loss of HC&S makes it even worse:

“With HC&S no longer available to provide power to the electric grid and with Maui residents and businesses continuing to use more electricity during typically peak evening hours in recent years, we’ve needed to run the Kahului units, including K1 and K2, to maintain reliable electrical service,” said MECO spokeswoman Shayna Decker on Friday.

Now if only we could get rid of all those nasty electic users.... And please don't be saying all we need is more alternative energy — unless you're willing to ignore all the bat and bird deaths caused by wind and solar. There is no truly green solution — aside from reducing consumption.

And while we're speaking of green, I previously reported that New Zealand is very serious about biosecurity, and that includes spraying incoming aircraft that may be transporting invasive pests. This didn't sit well with anti-cane, anti-GMO and anti-Superferry activist Karen Chun:
Not nearly so inhumane as inflicting Chun on the Kiwis....

As an aside, New Zealand has also taken a practical approach to controlling the introduced possums that wreak havoc on the native flora and fauna. The super-soft, non-allergenic fur collected from harvested animals is added to wool products, while their meat is made into pet food.

Now if only we could figure out something to do with cats....