Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Musings: From Ferguson to Kauai

As protests continue in the wake the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo., a debate is emerging on whether the growing militarization of the nation's police is appropriate, much less warranted.

Locally, a friend who recently visited Scotland, England and Ireland, where the police traditionally haven't carried guns, noted:

In fact, there was a small item in one of the local papers about an inquiry into the number of Scottish police now carrying guns on routine patrol and how people were bothered by it, they didn't want to see their Americanization of their police.

A New York Times guest commentary on the M-16s,camouflage uniforms and armored tanks used by police in Ferguson, a town of 21,000 citizens, revealed:

Ferguson’s police force got equipped this way thanks to the Pentagon, and it’s happening all over the country. The Department of Defense provides military-grade weapons and equipment to local law enforcement agencies through the 1033 program, enacted by Congress in 1997 to expand the practice of dispensing extra military gear. Due to the defense industry’s bloated contracts, there is a huge surplus. To date, the Pentagon has donated military equipment worth more than $4 billion to local law enforcement agencies. And the giving goes on, to police forces in all 50 states in the union.

Whereas the Department of Defense hands over weapons directly, the Department of Homeland Security provides funding for arms. It has distributed more than $34 billion through “terrorism grants,” enabling local police departments to acquire such absurd items as a surveillance drone and an Army tank.

For a police department like Ferguson’s, the path to becoming a paramilitary force is a short one. After loading up with free military gear, it is no surprise that law enforcement agents want to use it. In fact, the 1033 program’s regulations require that the police use what they receive within one year.

In the absence of extreme violence or actual terrorist threat, what happens — as the American Civil Liberties Union has documented — is that the equipment and weapons are used by SWAT teams in routine situations, such as low-level drug raids or the execution of search warrants. As Ferguson shows, this militarizing of routine police work exacerbates tensions and increases the likelihood of disorder. This, in turn, appears to justify a militarized police response, and so the cycle continues.

Kauai attorney Dan Hempey, who has been speaking out against the growing militarization of police for years, sent me a link to the ACLU report. It found that these military arsenals are used primarily in the “War on Drugs,” and disproportionately among people of color.

Among its other findings:

SWAT raids are undoubtedly violent events: numerous (often 20 or more) officers armed with assault rifles and grenades approach a home, break down doors and windows (often causing property damage), and scream for the people inside to get on the floor (often pointing their guns at them). During the course of this investigation, the ACLU determined that SWAT deployments often and unnecessarily entailed the use of violent tactics and equipment, including Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs), and that the use of these tactics and equipment often increased the risk of property damage and bodily harm.

Of the incidents studied in which SWAT was deployed to search for drugs in a person’s home, the SWAT teams either forced or probably forced entry into a person’s home using a battering ram or other breaching device 65 percent of the time. In some instances, the use of violent tactics and equipment caused property damage, injury, and/or death.

So how is this playing out on Kauai, aside from the SWAT team shooting death of Dickie Louis on his rooftop, which prompted a lawsuit against the county? 

I contacted Police Chief Darryl Perry, who is running for County Council, to ask what sorts of things the department had purchased with the Homeland Security funding. His reply:

Incident Command Vehicle for critical incidents like hurricanes, and tsunamis, to long term search and rescue situations; new P25 compliant portable radios, mobile computers for our patrol officers, Radiological-Biological-Chemical protective gear, body armor (bullet resistant vests), and our new Armored Rescue Vehicle for use in hostage situations involving an armed suspect. The ARV will also be deployed for Active Shooter situations which I pray won't ever happen here on Kauai.

We (KPD) also contributed a portion of our allotment so that KFD [Kauai Fire Department] could get the helicopter which is used frequently to rescue our visitors and locals.

Though much of it sounds warm and friendly — disaster response, search-and-rescue — it can be used for much less benign purposes at KPD's discretion. As the ACLU noted:

Local police departments should develop their own internal policies calling for appropriate restraints on the use of SWAT and should avoid all training programs that encourage a “warrior” mindset.

Finally, the public has a right to know how law enforcement agencies are policing its communities and spending its tax dollars. The militarization of American policing has occurred with almost no oversight, and it is time to shine a bright light on the policies, practices, and weaponry that have turned too many of our neighborhoods into war zones.

Problem is, it's not that easy to obtain the info. 

In March 2012, when KPD was buying Tasers, I made a public records request for a copy of the department's policies regarding Use of Force and Electronic Control Devices (ECD). The document I received was heavily redacted, prompting me to file an appeal with the Office of Information Purposes. 

Though it took nearly two years for my request to work its way through the system, I did receive another copy of the document, with fewer redactions that the original. Some of it is protected under a court ruling that determined details of police policies that might "benefit those attempting to violate the law and avoid detection" should not be released. 

Still, information is missing on when an ECD should not be used, other than it should not be used to punish an individual, or if a person is “displaying resistance not rising to the level of an immediate threat to the officer(s) or another person.” Nor should it be used against a person by more than one officer at the same time, "unless it's justified and articulated" in various report forms.

No information is included on when or how KPD should use its Homeland Security gear. 

As the nation, and Congress, review the trend of sending military gear to small town police departments, It seems time for the Kauai community to have a discussion on what level of militarization and force is appropriate for the local cops before we have an incident, or an accident, another death and the inevitable lawsuit.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Musings: 'Nuff Said

Kauai Mayoral Candidate Dustin Barca posted this on Instagram:
Upon reading it, another young man — a product of the same environment — said it made him think of this poem by Ikkyu:

Having created
The demon mind yourself
When it torments you mercilessly
You're to blame and no one else

When you do wrong
Our mind's the demon
There's no hell
To be found outside

Abominating hell
Longing for heaven
You make yourself suffer
In a joyful world

You think that good
Means hating what is bad
What's bad is
The hating mind itself.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Musings: Without a Clue

The sun had barely risen on Kauai when I started getting texts and emails from people appalled at The Garden Island's 40-inch tribute to Terry Lilley — described so aptly by one as “a dangerous goofball.”

Ordinarily it would be shocking to see such an unwarranted puff piece coming from the paper's editor, but Bill Buley has already proven that each time we think TGI has reached a new low, he can drop it another notch.

It's unfortunate that TGI has already given so much print to Terry's hysterical hyperbolic self-promotion — a search found 86 separate entries for Terry Lilley, many of them by his dive buddy, reporter Chris D'Angelo. Terry's a “man on a mission” alright — a mission to draw as much attention to himself as he can.

Remember Terry's whopper about how the North Shore waters were “contaminated” with heavy metals, prompting state officials to explain to Terry (and the public that TGI had needlessly alarmed) that these are naturally occurring elements in Hawaii's volcanic soil and tightly bound to minerals, making them unavailable — and thus nontoxic — to humans or wildlife?

Then there was his totally unsubstantiated Facebook smear against Waipa for supposedly polluting that reef, his equally unsubstantiated attack on Mina Morita and Lance Laney for supposedly causing a breach in the Hanalei River, his threats to sue Carl Berg — a real marine biologist — for exposing Terry's bullshit, and most recently, his claim that the whale that washed up in Hanalei Bay had “gaff marks” even as he simultaneously said it was killed by sonar.

Meanwhile, I've gotten numerous reports from people about Terry camping at Kalalau without a permit, sexually harassing wahine who were working with him and, after he fell down the stairs while drunk, claiming he'd been way-laid and beaten by his critics. And come on, Terry, you haven't gotten even a penny from your pal Mike Sheehan?

Truly, is this the kind of guy who should be heralded in the daily paper?

What's even more disturbing is that Buley runs this crap just days after TGI printed a calm, reasoned piece about the Hanalei coral disease, in which the woman who is actually studying it said it appears to have slowed.

I agree with Terry's contention that we need to minimize soil and pesticide runoff for the health of the reefs, and I've got my own concerns about the military activities. But Terry, like so many in the anti-GMO/pesticide movement, are undermining the viability of their cause by repeatedly serving up exaggerations and outright lies.

It doesn't matter if their hearts are in the right place if they're talking out of their asses.

Like this comment from “Anonymous” left on Friday's post:

I know Andrea [Brower] is not against agriculture, she is against the tons of pesticides being dumped by these chemical companies. They are not in agriculture, they are into pesticides, which have been outlawed in Europe, but are being sprayed by the hundreds of lbs each week into our ground water. If Pioneer or Dow were into agriculture they would be looking into organic growing of vegetables, like ranchers are looking into grass fed beef. This has nothing at all to do with *brown* skins versus *white* skins, or the classes on on how to grow the Hawaiian way would not be packed. This is about living on the aina in harmony. To attack Andrea for supporting a clean environment is ridiculous, or her parents economic status. Do you have something against people who work for a her parents? Because they earned what they have. Andrea has scholarships that pay for her college, because she is an intelligent,young woman with strong values. King of sounds like what you were. Jealous? By the way, many of the workers have had to quit or were fired due to health problems brought on by spraying the pesticides these companies use. Do the companies care that they hurt their workers health? NOPE.

Really? "Many of the workers had to quit or were fired" due to pesticide-related health problems? I talked with the state epidemiologist not long ago, and she told me there hadn't been ONE case of pesticide-related illness among the seed company workers. Surely if this were true the Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety lawyers would be all over it like stink on shit.

Spraying "hundreds of lbs" of pesticides "each week into our groundwater"? First, you can't spray stuff into the groundwater, it leaches in. Second, all the water department reports show no groundwater contamination.

Seeds aren't agriculture? How the hell do you think they grow all that corn and soybeans in the Midwest without seeds, some of which are, indeed, raised on Kauai?

Nothing to do with "*brown* skins versus *white* skins"? Try look at the pictures of the hearings on Bill 2491. The pro-2491 crowd was solidly white, while the farm worker crowd was solidly brown.

Btw, I never “attacked” Andrea for wanting a clean environment or her parent's economic status, just as I never “attacked” her for attending graduate school. I was merely making a point about her hypocrisy in writing about the evils of a system that creates privilege and poverty. At least one reader got it, commenting:

Nobody has a problem with Andrea (or anyone else) going to grad school. It's the breathtaking failure to acknowledge her vast privilege that is offensive to those who DON'T have it.

Kind of like the privilege expressed in Ed Coll's cavalier comment about how if the farm workers lose their jobs they can always join the military. [Correction: Ed was being sarcastic and did not mean for that comment to be taken literally.]

Gee, so progressive. Sort of like the anti-GMO "leaders" Dustin Barca and Nomi Carmona who tried to make a living fist-fighting and showing their tits, respectively. I got news for ya, kiddies. Sex and violence ain't new and it sure ain't progressive.

Still, I did have to laugh that Buley actually quoted Fern Rosenstiel, another “leader” of the anti-GMO movement who is lacking in credibility. Yeah, she "works on the North Shore" — at Tahiti Nui, last I heard. WTF does she know about the reefs?

Curiously, she made this comment:

It’s easy to speculate the causes, as there could be many, like any major ecological and toxicological issue we face today, Rosenstiel said.

But just ask Fern and she'll tell you there's only one cause for every single westside woe — real or imagined — and that's the seed companies.

She goes on to say, about the coral reef disease:

The short-term solutions to this problem are going to require a comprehensive understanding of what we are dealing with and it’s my understanding that researchers are in the process of trying to do this now.”

But such comprehensive understandings are not to be extended to the seed companies. No, no research was needed in that case — just convict and execute in the “red-shirt” court of social media.

I guess it's fitting that clueless folks are repeatedly given coverage by clueless reporters and editors in a totally clueless newspaper. Still, it's incredibly sad, because clueless people believe it.

Oh, and uh, Bill, it's Makua, not “Tunnels.” At least make an effort to use Hawaiian place names, even if you can't pronounce them.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Musings: Different View

For your Saturday viewing — and reflecting — pleasure, I offer this amazing video, with thanks to yogini extraordinaire Patricia Howard for the link.

And a different view of this great big beautiful world!
Have a wonderful day!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Musings: Karma's a Bitch

Kauai resident Eddie Ben-Dor is facing criminal prosecution for operating a vacation rental in Hanalei without a permit.

Ben-Dor, a New York diamond broker, is set to be arraigned Sept. 10 on a misdemeanor charge of violating the county zoning ordinance. He allegedly continued to operate Hanalei Villa, an unpermitted TVR on Weke Road, after the county had ordered him to cease and desist.

Though the VRBO site for Hanalei Villa has been shut down, I found it on Flipkey, offered by his daughter, Maile, now a Realtor in Southern California. The availability page showed it is booked right through Daddy's arraignment date, and the Christmas holidays, too.

The four-bedroom, three-bath, sleeps-12 TVR is billed as having two full kitchens and two living rooms, and can be rented as a multi-family dwelling, which is also illegal: “The house can also be broken into smaller private suites to fit parties of all sizes.” The full house rents for $5,800/week during the low season, while the Plumeria, Gardenia and Hibiscus suites average $2,000 per week.
As a disgruntled renter wrote regarding a cockroach-and-mold-infested May 2014 stay:

[F]or over $2000, you expect a minimal level of quality. Here, the owners are cashing in on a near-beach location - they have absolutely no interest in putting any of their money into fixing this disaster zone. 

In the end, we have complained to VRBO and will be seeking a refund through Amex. Interestingly, the Hanalei Villa website no longer works and the VRBO listing has disappeared. Very odd; I just hope the health inspectors have closed the property and that the owners will be obligated to sort the place out. It's an absolute disgrace.

Ben-Dor is the first person to actually be served a criminal summons as a result of the county's TVR enforcement crackdown, which was prompted by this blog's Abuse Chronicles series.

“We've filed charges in some other cases, but the issue is finding the person to serve them the summons,” said Prosecutor Justin Kollar. “Most of them do not have local owners.”

That's right. Many of the TVRs are owned by mainland investment consortiums, whose members get tax benefits from flipping these commercial properties — at the community's expense.

But Ben-Dor, who built that horrid monstrosity on Manoa Stream, adjacent to Haena Beach Park, does live here. So he got nailed as the Planning Department and Office of Prosecuting Attorney (OPA) worked together to identify offenders who won't come into compliance.

“We haven't given up on the case with out-of-state owners, [we] just have to be persistent,” Justin said.

I presented a few questions to Planning Director Mike Dahilig, via county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka, and got this reply:

Planning initiated the investigation and referred the matter over to the Prosecutor's office given the severity of the infraction (TVR with no certificate).

Planning is actively pursuing three other illegal TVRs with no certificates.Whether they are referred to OPA will be dependent on the evidence gathered.

We cannot speak to Justin's prosecutorial discretion, but Planning has other means with which they can deal with infractions (such as civil fines), and they will not be hesitant to use them in situations where they need to compel compliance. This past year Planning collected close to $150,000 in fines for violations of our codes — the majority from TVR violations.

If convicted — and let's hope the OPA doesn't work a plea bargain — Ben-Dor faces a $1,000 fine and/or a year in jail. The fine seems pretty meaningless, since the house starts at $882 per night. A jail term, on the other hand, would issue a strong warning to other scofflaws. The courts regularly send desperate drug addicts to jail. Why not a money addict? Or in this case, an arrogant person of privilege.

Speaking of which, I was amused to see Andrea Brower — daughter of privilege and darling of the anti-GMO “red-shirts” — write in a piece for the Common Dreams website:

We will only challenge the cruel modern structures of privilege and poverty if we overcome our collective disempowerment...

Andrea, who was living on her parent's million-dollar, non-farming ag estate before jetting off to New Zealand for graduate school, rants about the horrors of the capitalist system that has benefitted her so handsomely, before writing:

And perhaps most counter-intuitive, we are forced into apathy or fear of the “Other.”

This from the wahine who spent many months last year demonizing the chem/seed companies and their workers as the dreaded “Other,” who intentionally whipped up a frenzy of fear and a cult of ostracism by accusing them of wantonly poisoning the aina and destroying the health of their fellow citizens.

She goes on to write:

Yet despite the savagery that our system demands, we still do not abandon our most innate drives for mutual-aid, compassion and solidarity. In fact, what is most evident all around us, all the time, is our incredible generosity, sensitivity to fairness and the wellbeing of others.

Really, Andrea? Where was your "sensitivity to fairness" as you lobbed totally undocumented accusations, exaggerated the level of support, led a movement that viciously savaged anyone who even dared to disagree?

Where was your concern about the "wellbeing of others" as you branded local farm workers "ecoterrorists," sought to destroy the livelihoods of immigrants supporting their families in the Philippines with jobs in the seed fields, thoughtlessly rent the tight-knit fabric of a community that once nurtured you?

So much easier to write the talk than actually walk it.

Meanwhile, fellow “fistee” Felicia Cowden, whose KKCR show supplied a steady stream of anti-GMO trash talk, posted this woeful lament on Facebook about her struggling County Council candidacy:

I need my friends to stand with me and walk in the communities that do not know me. It is a completely different reception when I am alone as I approach people from different communities and ethnicities than when I am with someone they trust. For the most part, people who believe in me from various communities different than myself have not been willing to walk with me. People that are clearly rooting for me are not available when I am come to town. I also need to be more organized and do not have the support of a campaign machine. The strong, new challengers are financed by their industry that remains unclaimed on the candidate's statement papers.

Poor Felicia. It must be so scary to leave the rarified white air of the North Shore and actually face all those brown people who don't listen to KKCR, whose livelihoods she still seeks to destroy, whose spirits she helped trample, whose interests she claimed to represent.

As Chuck Lasker noted in re-posting Felicia's whine-a-thon:

note that she has all these "supporters" who won't help her (that's called "not a supporter")

I know, some of you will brand me mean to call out Felicia and Andrea (though I doubt Eddie will get much sympathy). But please, spare me your anonymous denouncements and take off your blinders instead.

Because, as the saying goes, karma's a bitch.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Musings: Foodies vs Farmers

Dawn in the high desert arrives cold. Venus rising, glowing like a campfire through a dip in the rounded hills, waning moon streaked with wispy clouds, Orion's belt and Makalii (Plieades) making their way west, as they do on Kauai, though here they are accompanied by a coyote's yelps and howls, rather than the clucking and crowing of chickens.

In an exchange of messages with a Kauai woman the other day she said all she knew of New Mexico, where I am, was what she'd seen on "Breaking Bad." Though I've never watched that show, I told her there are many similarities between New Mexico and Hawaii — economies based on tourism and military, vast income disparities, colonized indigenous populations (many of whom "lost" their land in the shuffle), rogue cops, rampant political cronyism, dwindling agriculture and brown people doing the dirty work.

The New Mexico police log is similarly filled with reports of drug-driven burglaries, domestic violence and substance abuse, though here as I walk I see tiny empty bottles of booze thrown in the bushes, instead of the mini zip-locks and Q-tips associated with meth use on Kauai.

The farmers' markets draw crowds of tourists and locals, as they do in Hawaii, and the produce sold there costs more than it does at Whole Foods. Still, people who can afford it seem happy to buy it as a way to support local farmers, none of whom display those ridiculous "gmo-free zone" signs in their booths, even the ones who grow organic. 

The small farmers in New Mexico are struggling, as they are everywhere, a reality revealed in a recent New York Times opinion piece, "Don't let your children grow up to be farmers."

As the writer, a shellfish and seaweed farmer on Long Island Sound noted:

The dirty secret of the food movement is that the much-celebrated small-scale farmer isn’t making a living. After the tools are put away, we head out to second and third jobs to keep our farms afloat. Ninety-one percent of all farm households rely on multiple sources of income. Health care, paying for our kids’ college, preparing for retirement? Not happening. With the overwhelming majority of American farmers operating at a loss — the median farm income was negative $1,453 in 2012 — farmers can barely keep the chickens fed and the lights on.

Others of us rely almost entirely on Department of Agriculture or foundation grants, not retail sales, to generate farm income. And young farmers, unable to afford land, are increasingly forced into neo-feudal relationships, working the fields of wealthy landowners.

Especially in urban areas, supporting your local farmer may actually mean buying produce from former hedge fund managers or tax lawyers who have quit the rat race to get some dirt under their fingernails. We call it hobby farming, where recreational “farms” are allowed to sell their products at the same farmers’ markets as commercial farms. It’s all about property taxes, not food production.

The food movement — led by celebrity chefs, advocacy journalists, students and NGOs — is missing, ironically, the perspective of the people doing the actual work of growing food. Their platform has been largely based on how to provide good, healthy food, while it has ignored the core economic inequities and contradictions embedded in our food system.

Doesn't matter if you're in New York, New Mexico or Hawaii, it's all playing out the same way: farmers struggling as non-farmers try to tell them how they should be practicing an occupation that few of us know anything about.

Is it any wonder that so many farmers silently scream when they hear the anti-GMO contingent in Hawaii keep perpetuating the fantasy that small farms, organic farms, self-sustaining farms, will take over the westside fields and feed the hungry masses — and all the tourists, too — once the nasty chemical companies are driven out?

That's just not gonna happen. Instead, golf courses, luxury homes and resorts will spring up in their place, all of them using significant quantities of pesticides to keep the bugs and weeds at bay.

I was happy to see Kauai mayoral candidate Dustin Barca finally admit, in The Garden Island: "I can’t just make the companies leave.”

His confession raises a very important question. If he can't actually stop the chem companies — and doesn't have a clue how county government functions — what possible value is he to the electorate?

Meanwhile, the mainland-based/funded special interest groups — Center for Food Safety, Hawaii SEED, Pesticide Action Network and Ceres Trust, none of which actually farm — continue to perpetuate the myth that it'll be all good if we let them seize control of agriculture in Hawaii.

In an excellent post entitled "Fear: The Deconstruction of Local Culture," Hawaii Farmers Daughter blogger Joni Kamiya-Rose noted:

These outside activists have even gone as far as trying to infiltrate our agricultural communities by bringing in their fellow Filipinos to try and split them apart. Here’s a flier that was posted around the internet to demonstrate this.
And I thought, gee, if Kauai is supposedly already “ground zero” for GMO, why would we be interested in taking “lessons from the front lines?” Shouldn't we be teaching them?

Yes, Kauai, and Hawaii, could be doing a lot more to feed itself and achieve food self-sufficiency, and no, I don't think anyone wants to see a lot of pesticides sprayed in the Islands, whether it's by agriculture, pest control, golf courses or citizens.

But agricultural reform is a complex issue, involving land costs and property taxes, pressures to use ag land for non-ag purposes, shipping expenses, competition, economies of scale, available labor, water systems, consumer tastes, limited local fertilizer sources, marketing and the overall high cost of living in the Islands. It's deceptive and counter-productive to try and reduce it to a simplistic question of pro- or anti-GMO, or even pro- or anti-chemical agriculture.

Meanwhile, the county has allocated $175,000 to defend Ordinance 960, its flawed pesticide/GMO regulatory law, and that's just the beginning. I'm willing to wager the island would've been a lot better off at the end of the day if that kala had been spent on agricultural initiatives, rather than legal fees. But then, that wouldn't have satisfied the agenda of mainland activists, high-end Realtors and the politicians — most notably Councilmen Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum — who serve them. 

Never forget that's what this fight is really all about.

Oh, and if you're interested in Hawaii agriculture — as in the real producers, not just those who rhapsodize about it — check out the new publication, Farmers & Friends.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Musings: Constructive Criticism

It has come to my attention that Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser is displeased with me and my blog.

Gary didn't tell of his unhappiness directly. Instead, he expressed it on Facebook while upbraiding a woman who had commented, on my posting of Sunday's blog:

I was waiting for your post. Whole heartedly agree with each word!!

In his reply to her, Gary wrote:

Criticism intended to add value and improve performance is important and yes for some even well intended criticism is difficult to accept. It is the vitriolic and personal denigration that I have issues with. As you know so very well, certain bloggers have personal agenda's to grind. For whatever reason they use their poison pen to spread rumor and innuendo, and to pound on their subjects real or perceived personal shortcomings - with no intention of "improving performance" but only intending to mock, belittle and break down. These bloggers and the anonymous posters they foster are not hopeful that the performance will improve but rather are hopeful the performer will trip and fall so they can jeer loudly and encourage others to join in the mockery of the performer. I think Hilary Clinton coined the phrase, "the politics of personal destruction". This is what is being done here. To say you "Whole heartedly agree with each word!!" only encourages the personal destruction and adds nothing of value toward improving performance, nor is it intended to.

I have a personal opinion but don't personally and publicly attack and denigrate people by name. I welcome help and support via constructive suggestions delivered in a positive spirit."

Hmmm. I could, of course, avoid naming people. But I happen to believe that elected officials, and those seeking public office, should be held accountable, which is hard to do without naming names. Besides, if I were to refer obliquely to “a Councilman with jowls and a paunch” that actually would be a personal attack, and it would also be unclear as to whom exactly I was referring.

So let's just call a spade a spade, shall we?

In truth, I don't want to help or support Gary or his son, Dylan, because I think that as politicians, they're harmful to Kauai. And I don't want to see them trip and fall so I can mock them, but so they'll be defeated, as they deserve to be. Still, I'm happy to offer some constructive suggestions:

First, stop lying. Like, next time you start to utter that hackneyed sound byte about how the chem companies are suing Kauai for the right to spray poison next to schools, bite your tongue. Because you know that's not why they're suing, and you also know they had already created buffer zones around the schools before Bill 2491 was passed.

Second, stop fear-mongering. Instead of repeating anecdotal evidence about birth defects on the westside, why not ask the state Department of Health to update the birth defects registry? Why not use your position as a Councilman to ask the CDC to come in and do a study? Why not actually gather some quantifiable data and take steps to ease the fear of your constituents, rather than inflame it?

Third, be more inclusive. Remember when we were talking and I said it really put the other Councilmembers on the spot when you dumped Bill 2491 in their laps, and you replied, “Do you think I give a shit?” and I said, no, but it would've made the bill stronger if you had worked with others to craft it? And sure enough it split the Council and the community and made a big, ugly mess.

Fourth, when you draft legislation, go for something that has a chance of withstanding a legal challenge, and that can actually be enforced. Yes, I know that you don't care if Bill 2491/Ordinance 960 is enforced, because, as you told me, “all that matters is getting it passed.” Call me old-fashioned, but legality and enforcement do matter. Unless you're only doing it for grandstanding and personal gain. Which leads me to....

Fifth, trim your ego. Yes, I know you loved leading that parade of red shirts — what is it up to now, 100,000? — on Rice Street last summer, hearing chants of “Gar ee, Gar ee” as you stood triumphant on the Council steps and seeing your name in the national news, but it's really not about you. It's about public service, and making Kauai a better place.

Sixth, teach your followers how to build an effective political movement, instead of misleading them into believing all they have to do is wave their fists and post copiously on Facebook. Help them field candidates who have a chance to win, instead of your kid, a high school drop out and a flaky radio show hostess, all of whom are doomed to lose, leaving your followers with nothing but frustration and political disillusionment.

And Baby Hoos, if you run again, try come up with a solid platform instead of using social media ads to malign your opponent. Negative campaigning and preaching to the choir won't get you elected.

Seventh, think about the consequences of your actions. Yeah, you promoted the hell out of yourself, but you also created a political climate that is giving Grove Farm a grip on the Council so they can rezone to their heart's content. But then, that might help your real estate buddies, right?

Eighth, be transparent. Who is funding the HAPA group you lead, and what is their agenda for the island? What is your relationship with Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice and Pesticide Action Network?

Ninth, be yourself. Like don't change Realtor to “entrepreneur” on your bio.

Tenth, don't try to shut up or shut down the people who know the truth about you and speak it. Because it only makes them ever more determined to shine the light on the darkness. 

And that, Gary, is my only agenda.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Musings: Beyond the Echo Chamber

Mayoral hopeful and political novice Dustin Barca may have been baffled by the election results, but that's what happens when you live in an echo chamber.

Dustin, a former pro-surfer/MMA fighter whose campaign was funded by Hawaii Life realtors and off-islanders, apparently thought he was going to waltz into the Round Building with a platform of platitudes and minimal campaigning. Because, after all, he was on “a mission from God.”

But Dustin and the other candidates who emphasized an anti-seed company platform fared poorly. Dustin got just 30 percent of the votes in his race against Mayor Bernard Carvalho, and Dylan Hooser was similarly trounced by Jimmy Tokioka in the 15th House District race. 

County Council incumbents Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum, who co-sponsored pesticide/GMO regulatory Bill 2491, came in sixth and seventh, respectively, and Mason Chock, who was brought in to override the mayor's veto of the bill, looks likely to lose his seat, with a dismal tenth place showing.

Meanwhile, incumbents Mel Rapozo and Ross Kagawa — the only two Councilmembers to oppose the bill — took first and second place, respectively, and were joined in third place by pro-seed candidate and Grove Farm employee Arryl Kaneshiro in his first bid for office.

Newcomer and pro-seed company candidate Arthur Brun also edged out anti-seed company candidate Felicia Cowden for eleventh place, despite her advantageous connections to “community” radio station KKCR.

Equally interesting is the vote spread. Mel was 2,300 votes ahead of incumbent JoAnn Yukimura, who took fourth place, and nearly 4,000 votes ahead of his nemesis Tim Bynum, who has former Councilman KipuKai Kualii and Police Chief Darryl Perry nipping at his heels.

While Kauai typically lags behind the state in voter turnout, things were different this time. Some 47 percent of Kauai registered voters cast ballots, compared to the statewide total of just 38 percent. Absentee votes accounted for 28 percent of the figure, with the remaining 19 percent going to the polls. That poll voting made a difference for Gary and especially Tim, who was seriously lagging in the first return of early walk-in and absentee ballots.

Still, despite all the talk of “change,” it's apparent that folks don't really want any, since the incumbents did so well. The only exception was Gov. Abercrombie, who was soundly defeated by Democratic David Ige. It's hard to say whether folks were tired of the guv's acrimonious personality or his decades of slurping at the public trough, but in any case, he's out and good riddance.

Other notable results: Though Rep. Derek Kawakami easily won re-election to his 14th District state House seat, which encompasses parts of Kapaa and the North Shore, some 25 percent of the Democratic ballots were left blank in that race.

Looking at the precinct returns, (which start on page 331) Dustin, Felicia, Gary, Tim, Jay Furfaro, JoAnn, Mason and newcomer Tiana Laranio were the top vote-getters in Hanalei and Kilauea, as expected. But their gains began to erode in Anahola, and in Kapaa, Arryl started showing up in the top five and the mayor was beating Dustin.

In Hanamaulu, the tide had solidly turned toward the final results — a trend that continued around the island, including Koloa, and becoming more pronounced as the vote moved westward. 

Which tells us three things: the anti-GMO movement is indeed North Shore-based, a reality that they repeatedly denied; the movement is smaller and less powerful than has been claimed (or feared), and the westside vote is still critical to a candidate's success.

Given the results, perhaps some of the waffling Council members will find the courage to grow a backbone and consider the interests of the entire island, rather than a vocal minority.

As for Dustin, if he truly likes to "strive for perfection," perhaps he could start by getting an education so that he could more successfully formulate and articulate his views. Dylan, meanwhile, can go back to raping the sea of sunrise shells, and hopefully Felicia no longer fancies herself the voice of Kauai.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Musings: Nuclear Madness

Just this morning I was walking through the wild lands of New Mexico and thinking of this state's uranium deposits and troubled history with atomic research, nuclear storage facilities and workers disabled by their exposure to this deadly stuff. And then I checked my email and found this unexpected, and eerily timely, guest post by Kauai writer Jon Letman. Mahalo, Jon, for your research and thoughtful commentary:
From Nagasaki to Natanz: America's 70-year nuclear addiction

Today is August 9, the day the U.S. dropped the word's first plutonium bomb on Nagasaki in 1945. That bomb killed an estimated 60-80,000 people, gravely injuring untold thousands more. You might expect that August 9 and the anniversary of Hiroshima three days earlier, would move people—especially Americans—to think seriously about our atomic past and future.
But people have a lot on their mind these days—Ebola, Gaza, Ukraine, Iran, government surveillance, police brutality, climate change, the economy, summer vacation, school supplies for the kids and so on. Who's got time to think about nuclear weapons? Besides, aren't those a thing of the past? Some people seem to think so.
As I learned recently, analysts who spend much of their careers closely following the manufacturer and movement of nuclear weapons, are concerned that most people—at least in the United States—really don't give much thought to nuclear weapons.
Earlier this summer, over a period of about seven weeks, I spent a fair amount of time listening to defense analysts and reading about America's multi-billion dollar efforts to modernize some of our own nuclear weapons as research for this article published at Truthout.
I heard a range of opinions from one defense policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation who insisted nuclear weapons are "fundamentally a force for good" to an anti-nuclear advocate and director of the Peace and Economic Security Program with the American Friends Service Committee who said bluntly, "These are weapons that should not exist,” calling them “the most fundamental violation of basic human rights.”
One of the most insightful and measured voices in the world of nuclear weapons analysis today is Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. I spoke with him on the phone for about one hour in May, asking him very specific questions about the B61-12, America's most common and now most expensive nuclear gravity bomb.
I found Kristensen by chance when I happened upon an article he had co-authored which was posted on the Twitter feed of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. The piece was about the B61-12 and how it was being redesigned for the twelfth time to make it more accurate so that with "just" 50 kilotons (kt) it could, at least in theory, be used to "hold at risk" the same targets which today require a 350 kt yield bomb (by comparison, the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima was estimated to have been around 15 kt and Nagasaki was destroyed by an estimated 20 kt bomb).
As Kristensen and I discussed the B61-12 and its $10 billion (and rising) price tag, I wondered what exactly this bomb was designed to destroy. Did its producers (primarily Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories, Lockheed Martin and Boeing) see B61-12 as something that could destroy a major world capital or sprawling metropolitan area? Might it some day be used to threaten a city in Bush's "axis of evil?"
"These are not [targeted] against cities," Kristensen told me. "Generally speaking the U.S. military is not very happy about targeting cities with weapons. It's just so controversial," he said.
Besides, Kristensen added, nuking a major population center is "kind of pointless." Why would you want to fry millions of civilians? The real targets of these bombs are key military and political leadership and critical infrastructure, command and control facilities or a weapons lab and such.
But Kristensen pointed out that there is always the chance that such targets could be in or close to a city or other heavily populated area. After all, aren't most leaders based in cities—Tehran, Pyongyang, Baghdad, Washington, London, Paris...? So even if the U.S. wanted to take out a Iran's Natanz Enrichment Complex for example, it would still be bombing a facility less than 20 miles from a city of 12,000 with Iran's first and third largest cities, Tehran and Isfahan (combined population 9.3 million) less than 200 miles away.
Even a low-yield nuclear bomb (Kristensen explained that "low-yield" refers to a bomb 10 kt or less) would almost certainly have grave environmental, social and psychological consequences for people downwind of any nuclear detonation.
Looking back at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we can see that from the beginning of the nuclear age, the first targets were (at least by official accounts) primarily military in nature. Both Japanese cities (in fact, a third site called Kokura was intended to be bombed after Hiroshima and only spared when bad weather forced the U.S. to destroy its backup city Nagasaki) experienced unimaginable suffering as a result of the atomic bombings.
Despite this and all we've learned about the effects of radiation over the last seven decades, America and other nuclear nations continue to build newer, more accurate, more "useable" bombs. The U.S. alone is forecast to spend as much as $1 trillion on nuclear weapons over the next 30 years.
This pursuit is not only maddening, it's also sheer madness. And quibbling over a few billion dollars or a few extra kilotons is meaningless if you live in a society that is being robbed of real security (universal healthcare and education, a well-funded public infrastructure and robust environment and climate protection) when you and your children are perpetually in the shadow of a country with an insatiable appetite for the bomb.

To learn more about America's nuclear weapons past and present check out this FAQ page from the American Friends Service Committee

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Musings: Blow Hards

As Hurricane Iselle bears down on the Islands — curious, how the ones that have hit all start with an “I” — the question is both how much damage it will inflict, and how it will affect turnout in Saturday's primary election.

On Kauai, it could affect the race between Democrat Rep. Jimmy Tokioka and challenger Dylan Hooser. Though initially the contest seemed a slam dunk for Jimmy, he's apparently feeling a bit of heat as the vote draws nearer, taking the unprecedented step of personally asking people to vote for him, and their friends and family, too.

As I've stated earlier, the voters in that district will lose no matter who they pick. Jimmy is a good ole boy to da max, while Dylan is a tepid political novice who already has a pile of enemies at the state house due to the intense antipathy toward his father, former Senator and current Councilman Gary Hooser, and Dylan's own “shame” banner tactics there earlier this year.

Speaking of Gary, he's barely campaigned, though it's unclear whether it's due to indifference or arrogance. He can't possibly want another term on the Council, especially since he's ready to capitalize on his anti-GMO agenda as director of the nonprofit HAPA. If he's defeated, it will play right into his victim rhetoric, as in the big bad chemical companies succeeded in driving him out.

Uh, no. If Gary loses it will be because his fellow citizens have had it up to here with his grandstanding and self-serving antics at the expense of the county's social fabric and coffers.

Because isn't that what this election is really all about? Determining just how big the "silent majority" really is, and just how powerful the “red shirt” contingent that pushed through the pesticide/GMO regulatory Bill 2491/Ordinance truly is?

I'm predicting Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. will handily defeat Dustin Barca, newcomer Arryl Kaneshiro will show in the top seven, Arthur Brun will do well and Councilman Tim Bynum will be pushed out.. Councilman Mason Chock is also going to have trouble holding on to his seat, in large part due to the sketchy way he got appointed — the secretive, "you're only in if you'll vote to override the mayor's veto of 2491" action that is now being challenged in court by the seed/chem companies.

Speaking of which, it was disappointing to see Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura oppose changing the Council's process of filling a vacancy. Picking the eighth-place candidate from the last election may not be the best bet, but how can JoAnn honestly say the Council has a process that works, when its actions with Mason caused such huhu and raised questions of illegality?

I'm still off-island, and hoping Kauai is spared the wrath of a hurricane. But just in case, as an Iniki veteran, I offer this tip: bring your screens inside. Flying debris does a number on the mesh, and the mosquitoes were fierce in the hot, humid, wet aftermath of Iniki.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Musings: Farming Rights

In perusing the Sunday New York Times, I noticed that Missouri voters are being asked to decide whether to add a “right to farm” amendment to their state's Constitution.

Proponents apparently believe it will stave off laws that dictate how livestock and crops are raised in the state, which has some 100,000 farms. They seem to be unaware of the fight under way in Hawaii, where anti-GMO activists are challenging seed companies and farmers, despite the “right to farm” statute in state law.

165-4 Right to farm. No court, official, public servant, or public employee shall declare any farming operation a nuisance for any reason if the farming operation has been conducted in a manner consistent with generally accepted agricultural and management practices. There shall be a rebuttable presumption that a farming operation does not constitute a nuisance.

The proposed Missouri amendment reads:

That agriculture which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri's economy. To protect this vital sector of Missouri's economy, the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state, subject to duly authorized powers, if any, conferred by article VI of the Constitution of Missouri.

North Dakota is the only other state to adopt a similar Constitutional amendment, which passed with 67 percent of the vote in 2012.

As the Times reports, it's sparked an emotional debate in Missouri, home of Monsanto, where it's pitting people — including farmers — against one another and attracting big money on both sides. One of the primary opponents is the Humane Society of the United States, which previously supported strict regulations on the state's horrid puppy mills. The amendment is partly in response to what some farmers consider “meddling by outsiders,” though it's hard to see how puppy mills could be considered “farming.”

The Times quoted Blake Hurst, the president of the Missouri Farm Bureau:

“When you look across the country, you see a lot of ballot initiatives that are making decisions about how farmers can farm,” Mr. Hurst said. The proposed amendment “doesn’t change regulations we have now, and it can’t possibly change federal law. We’re trying to stop ballot initiatives that limit farmers’ ability to use technology.”

As I read the article, and reflected on how communities like Kauai have been torn apart by the issue, I was reminded again that we need to be having a thoughtful, reasoned, national debate on food in this country, one that addresses humane treatment of livestock and environmental and human health, while also considering consumer demand for cheap, abundant food and the realities of farming today.

But we're not having that discussion. Instead, we're embroiled in emotional, often fear-based conflicts that at best take a piece meal approach to a complex issue while ensuring that lawyers have plenty of work in the years ahead.

Meanwhile, the Small Business Regulatory Review Board has completed its required review of the proposed rules for Ordinance 960 — Kauai's pesticide/GMO regulatory bill, which is on hold pending a court review. The Board's comments were succinct, and primarily addressed the bill's impact on small farmers, as opposed to the chem/seed companies:

Pesticide buffer zones will make tracks (sic) of land uneconomical for growing purposes;

Establishment of an emergency/medical hotline will be costly for small farmers to maintain;

The civil fines proposed for the failure to file annual mandated reports are high and will be costly for small farmers, should they miss a deadline; and

The ordinance will curtail the economic viability and future growth of the agricultural industry as well as create business and economic uncertainty that will lead to less land investment and planning for future use.

The county has scheduled a public hearing on the rules for Aug. 26. According to Beth Tokioka in the mayor's office:

Once the public hearing is complete and provided that there are no substantial changes to the rules, the OED Director [George Costa] shall fully consider all written and oral submissions respecting the proposed rules. The Director may make his decision at the public hearing or announce then the date when he intends to make his decision.  If the Rules are approved by the Director, the Rules will be submitted to the Mayor for his approval as required by HRS 91-3.