Friday, October 2, 2015

Musings: Regressively Progressive

In the comment section of a recent post, a reader wrote:

I always thought of Joan as a progressive, just one who values truth.

This observation apparently infuriated another reader, who first fired off this comment:

Joan is a twisted paid shill for the agrochemical industry. She is not a progressive. Name one progressive leader in Hawaii who supports the kind of person Joan has turned into?

Quickly followed by this one:

Joan name one friend ion [sic] Kauai who is green or progressive and who supports the nasty mean character assassination shell of a journalist you have become. Will even Caren Diamond or Barbara Robson [sic] step out publicly to endorse your personal vendetta against hooser and so many others? Name just one and not Jan Tenbrugengate [sic] please as we know he is getting paid as well. And of course I know you won't post this because you know that no one on Kauai (except the chemcos) supports who you have become.

Where to start, aside from laughing? Especially since both were submitted, so aptly, to the “Dumb and Dumber” post. Oh, btw, Anonymous, if you're gonna use people's names, at least spell them right. And just FYI,  I'm not actually looking for endorsements, since I'm not running for office or prom queen.

Still, those two nasty-grams — and others I've received since I began challenging the dogma of the anti-GMO “green” crowd — did get me thinking about the concept of a political “progressive,” and what it's come to represent in some circles in Hawaii.

First, to be considered a true Hawaii “progressive,” one must never, ever speak up against the lock-step, bootjack group-think/group-speak. Questions and criticisms, most especially about the revered “leaders,” must never be publicly voiced.

Second, one must engage in the kind of regressive rhetoric and tactics that have endured for centuries. Like using women's scantily-clad bodies to attract attention. Fear-mongering. Witch hunts. Lies and deception. Shaming. A "with me or against me" mentality.

Third, one must shame and denounce all farmers, save for those who produce food organically and/or as inefficiently as possibly.

Fourth, one must embrace all the latest technology on one's phone, while working feverishly to stop its employment in agriculture.

Fifth, one must fetishize one's food, while turning a blind eye to the malnourished and hungry in the developing world. Or better yet, one must say quietly (because it's not yet PC to say it publicly) to one's “progressive” friends, “Why should we worry about the starving [fill in the blank]? We have enough of 'those people' already.”

Sixth, one must always use the word “industrial” when discussing any farm larger than a few acres, “factory” when describing any animal feeding operation, “drench” when referencing a pesticide application and “shill” when describing someone with a different point of view.

Seventh, one must pontificate, march, post madly on Facebook, yammer on KKCR and stage publicity stunts in Swizerland, but never actually do anything concrete to address the problems, much less get one's hands dirty.

Eighth, one must believe fervently that anyone who doesn't share one's world view is wrong, evil, or to use the words of another recent critic, “damaged.”

Ninth, one must adopt an attitude of sanctimonious self-righteousness, which prompts one to (always anonymously) write things like, “Much love and light to you Joan Conrow! I hope you soon can catch a clue, and finally begin your much needed healing. The world will be a much better place when you finally resolve your inner demons. May your savaged soul soon be soothed."  

Oh, and one must always sign hateful missives with “alohas.”

Tenth, one must worship ego- and greed-driven demagogues as political saviors who will make everything all-G — just as soon as they can accumulate enough of your cash to get elected.

Eleventh, one must eschew all forms of introspection, and doggedly refuse to change one's mind, no matter what evidence is presented to the contrary.

Yes, this is the kind of “progressivism” that has taken hold in Hawaii, eclipsing the work of good people who are doing good things to bring about positive change. 

It's the kind of progressivism that makes sensible people loathe to seek office, or serve in government, because they've seen just how nasty and mean the so-called progressives can be when things don't go exactly their way.

So given that definition, no, I'm not a progressive. 

But given this one, I am:

a person advocating or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas. Synonyms: innovator, reformer, reformist, liberal, libertarian.

Mostly, though, I don't think too much about trying to define or categorize myself. To borrow a phrase from Popeye: “I Yam What I Yam.” Whatever that is.

To quote a Kauai friend, who some might consider both “green” and “progressive,” though he's also so much more, and less:

“You can't put Joan in a box.”

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Musings: Statewide Pesticide Sales

Though it's often claimed that Kauai is the Islands' hellhole of agricultural pesticide use, state disclosure reports tell a very different picture.

A total of 906,891 pounds of restricted use pesticides were sold statewide in 2014. Hawaii County reported total RUP sales of 138,632 pounds, Maui County 334,097 pounds and Oahu 418,213 pounds, while Kauai reported just 15,949 pounds.

The total does not include RUPs applied for structural pest control or termite treatment, because for some odd reason, the anti-GMO and anti-ag groups have not called for those companies to disclose their pesticide use.

The statewide sales report is in addition to the much more specific monthly RUP use reports that are voluntarily disclosed under the Kauai Agricultural Good Neighbor Program.

Chlorine, which is used to treat drinking water and wastewater, accounted for 459,936 pounds of the statewide total, or slightly more than half. Some 8,508 pounds of chlorine were purchased on Kauai.

Statewide sales of chlorpyrifos were reported at 7,279 pounds, with Kauai accounting for 1,300 pounds of that total. As for atrazine, some 55,103 pounds were purchased statewide last year, with Kauai accounting for 1,138 pounds of that total. And Kauai accounted for just 856 pounds of the 15,706 pounds of paraquat sold statewide.

In short, far fewer agricultural RUPs are being bought, and ostensibly applied, on Kauai than any other island. Yet it is here that folks are raising the loudest — and still undocumented — claims of birth defects, asthma and cancer. 

If ag pesticides actually are harming human health, wouldn't it make sense that the other islands, which have much greater use, would be suffering proportionately more health problems than Kauai? They also have people living in close proximity to agriculture.

Or is it just that Kauai has been the squeakiest wheel, in keeping with Vandana Shiva's exhortations that the fight to rid the Islands of the seed companies must start here?

The statewide sales reports are required under Act 105, a bill introduced by Kauai Rep. Dee Morikawai that passed the Legislature in 2013.

The law also required the state Legislative Reference Bureau to conduct a study of how other states handle reporting requirements. Its findings:

After reviewing the laws and regulations of other states, it appears that the majority of states do not impose ANY reporting requirements on pesticides that do not fall within the definition of a restricted use pesticide. Among the seven states that address general use pesticides to any extent, there is some variation as to whether the reporting requirements imposed by a particular state apply to the sale, use, or both the sale and use of general use pesticides. Further, there appears to be a great deal of variation between the extent to which these reporting requirements are applied and enforced from one state to another.

It should be noted that, in addition to the fact that each of these states employs a different approach with regard to reporting requirements, the Bureau could not find any sort of comprehensive evaluation on the effectiveness of any of the various reporting programs. Therefore, it is difficult to determine whether and to what extent any of them have been successful in achieving the objectives for which each program was established.

The Bureau was unable to secure detailed information regarding the costs incurred by these states in establishing and maintaining their various reporting programs.The Bureau offers no conclusions regarding the budgetary requirements of such programs, other than to note that, as discussed previously, both Oregon and New York appear to have encountered difficulties resulting from the cost of maintaining their reporting programs.

Oregon has subsequently abandoned the implementation of its reporting program, due to high costs.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Musings: Dumb and Dumber

While driving home from the airport today, I happened to catch an old Pink Floyd song on the radio: “We don't need no education....”

And I thought, wow, here we are, 33 years later, and that's exactly what we've got: folks who eschew education, science, critical thinking and facts in favor of beliefs, feelings, ideology, dogma, propaganda and social media memes.

But sadly, the thought control continues. 

Case in point: Puukumu School, which employs science kook Terry Lilley as a teacher.

Who in their right mind would allow their child to be educated by someone who repeatedly makes outrageous, undocumented, unverified claims? Someone who sent a letter to President Obama, Gov. Ige and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard saying:

Your military is totally dissolving our reefs here in Kauai and now blowing off the legs of our sea turtles! Today I saw one of my very special friends, named after my grand daughter, in shock with her feet blown away! She is dying right now and I am having a hard time explaining to her why you and others want to kill her in the name of protecting her! On top of the turtles being blown apart, the fish are also going crazy. I have video of VERY unusual behavior to share with the world.

Today's article in The Garden Island also featured pictures of kids holding a sea cucumber and a sea horse that they collected while snorkeling with Terry. What ever happened to the maxim “look but don't touch?” What kind of conservationist allows kids to maul living creatures? And why in the world are Terry and the two kids standing on the reef?

Though these kids are getting a dubious education, Terry gets an “A” for unabashed, unrelenting self-promotion. And TGI gets an “F” for functioning as Terry's personal PR firm while failing to follow the guidance of its own headline and dig “beneath the surface.”

Speaking of super sketchy schools, HAPA — the group led by intermittent Kauai Councilman, fulltime anti-GMO activist and frequent spreader of mistruths Gary Hooser — has launched the Kuleana Academy. Its aim is to help people learn how to campaign and run for office, which is actually kind of funny, considering how many times Gary's been defeated — a losing pattern his son, Dylan, is now repeating.

Since HAPA tries to pretend it's a nonprofit 501(c)(3) instead of a political advocacy group, its website claims “H.A.P.A.'s Kuleana Academy is not an electoral activity; it is a non-partisan educational program.”

So why are participants required to attend six “progressive values retreats” with a decidedly partisan emphasis? As in:

• Environmental (Development)
• Labor (Diversified Economy) • Hawaiian/Cultural (Sovereignty)
• GMO/Pesticides/Agriculture (Food Security)
• Civil Rights/Equality (Healthcare, Education) • Economic Justice (Cost of Living, Affordable Housing)

You just know the Republicans are going to sign up....

Check out its partners: Center for Food Safety, Hawaii SEED, Maui Tomorrow, KAHEA, Life of the Land and Local 5, among others. Nope, no partisanship there.

And who do you suppose is the contact person for this non-partisan (wink, wink) training program? None other than Aria Juliet Castillo, communications director for the Young Democrats of Kauai.

Some of the other requirements:

Participant shall participate in political party caucus and conventions on county/ state level; participant shall fundraise a minimum of $1000 to contribute to the program (cannot contribute personal funds); participant shall write and submit to any Hawaii news publications one letter to the editor or oped piece on any topic each month of program.

HAPA, as an alleged 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is prohibited from participating in political campaigns. So it's signing up lackeys to do that work instead, while pretending its offerings are non-partisan and a-political. 

It's yet another example of Gary's questionable ethics, and the way he loves to fudge.

Just think: For a mere $9,000 — plus another grand in fundraising — you, too, can be personally indoctrinated by Gary Hooser, Ashley Lukens, Walter Ritte and the rest of the demagogues.

All in all, it's just another brick in the wall…

To paraphrase Pink Floyd: 

Demagogues, leave them kids alone!

But don't worry. Gary guys promise they won't endorse you. And that alone is worth far more than ten grand for a candidate who wants to win.

Update: As this Facebook post by Babes Against Biotech — an anti-GMO lobbying group — indicates, the Kuleana Academy is indeed a blatant political animal, in direct violation of IRS regulations: 
Because "Hawaii hero" Gary Hooser has repeatedly shown that he believes he is above the law, and rules — like the truth — don't apply to him.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Touring the Seed Fields: Part IV

Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser and anti-GMO activists frequently claim the seed companies are “suing for the right to spray poisons next to schools, homes and hospitals.”
Anti-GMO activists Leeona Thompson (Dylan Hooser's wife), left, and Fern Rosenstiel laugh as they hold an intentionally misleading banner. 
It's a great sound byte, if you want to portray a corporation as an unfeeling monster, and it fits on a banner. But as I learned when I toured the Kauai seed fields, it's a far cry from reality.

Bil 2491/Ordinance 960, the GMO/pesticide regulatory bill that seed companies successfully sued to overturn, states:

No crops may be grown within 500 feet of any adult family boarding home, adult family group living home, day care center, family care home, family child care home, medical facility, nursing home, residential care home, or school.

No crops may be grown within 500 feet of any dwelling....

Yet the closest fields to Kaumakani School are 1,300 feet and 2,500 feet away. Fields are 1,500 to 1,700 feet from West Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital. And Syngenta voluntarily maintains a 1,500-foot buffer between Waimea Canyon Middle School and its nearest field, which hasn't been cultivated in years.

“We're paying [lease rent] for it still and we keep it mowed, but we have no plans to crop,” said Joshua Uyehara, station manager for Syngenta Hawaii LLC in Kekaha.

Syngenta does have one field near Hanapepe Heights, but it's never used it. Instead, the nearest cultivated field is some1,500 feet from the nearest residence. Pioneer and Dow have no fields within 500 feet of homes.
Uncultivated Syngenta field near Waimea Canyon School.
So why would companies “sue for the right to spray poisons near schools, homes and hospitals when they either a) don't have fields within the proposed buffer zones around those facilities, anyway, or b) have voluntarily imposed their own buffers?

Answer: they didn't. The seed companies'  lawsuit was about many issues, including regulatory authority, equal protection, uncompensated “takings” of private property and violations of the Commerce Clause, Kauai Charter and the state's Right to Farm act.

The question now becomes, why do politicians like Gary Hooser and activist groups like Center for Food Safety, Hawaii SEED and HAPA continue to make a claim that is patently untrue?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Touring the Kauai Seed Fields: Part III

The previous two segments of this series — Touring the Kauai Seed Fields: Part I and Part II — addressed pesticides, spraying activities and general misconceptions about what goes on in the West Kauai seed fields, where genetically engineered and hybrid plants are cultivated.

Today we'll take a look at Pioneer's pesticide storage shed and the computerized process used to authorize spraying operations. Though not every company uses the same software, it became clear upon seeing it in action that it would be nearly impossible to do the sort of “drenching” and experimental combination of products that opponents allege and fear.

But let's start at the beginning, in the pesticide shed. It's actually an old cargo shipping container, and much of the inventory comprised organic pesticides. Yes, organic farmers also use pesticides that must be registered with the EPA. And yes, the “chem companies” use many of the same pesticides and practices employed on organic farms.
Though Councilman Gary Hooser and his supporters love to make [false] claims, like the companies used 18 tons of pesticides, Dr. Joao Kopytowski Filho, a research scientist at Pioneer and licensed pesticide applicator, pointed out that weight means nothing when it comes to pesticides. Kaolin clay (Surround) is both the heaviest, and most benign, pesticide used. The key is active ingredient.

I'm super sensitive to the smell of pesticides, so I kind of dreaded going inside the shed, but the only odor I detected was the mustiness of a shipping container. There was a lot less inventory than I expected, given the claims that they are spraying vast quantities of poison day and night, but they said the quantity was what they typically have on hand. At least half the inventory was adjuvants, such as surfactants, which are mixed with pesticides to improve their performance.

Each product in the shed is managed under a barcode inventory system. Each container is weighed when it goes out, and when it comes back in, to ensure the quantity used matches what's on the work order. Empty containers are triple-rinsed and recycled.
Pioneer has used a GPS system to map all of its fields — a field may be a 10-foot plot — and the coordinates are entered into the computer when a crop is planted. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) inspection schedule is created  to scout for pests, based on the type of plant that is being grown.

Upon going to the field to scout, the IPM assistants use I-phones or I-pads to enter data about what insects they've seen into a computer program that helps them decide what to do about the pests, and when. If there's a large population of beneficial insects, and a low threat of damage, they'll let the beneficial insects take care of the pests.

“Spraying is the last option,” Joao said. “We can also do manual removal, or eliminate [infested] plants. It depends on the pest, the size of the plant and the likelihood of damage.”

IPM managers also consult three weather stations to gather data on wind, rain and other environmental conditions that could affect their treatment decisions.

Once they decide to spray, they create a computerized work order with documentables for the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, including the type of pest, the product they'll be using, the type of sprayer and nozzle that will apply the product, the percentage of water in the mix and the environmental factors.
I watched as Joao tried to combine various chemicals, or exceed the application amount allowed on the label. Whenever he went outside the allowable parameters for using the product, the computer would reject the work order. And without a work order, no pesticides can be checked out of the storage shed.
In short, it would be nearly impossible for Pioneer to be experimenting with pesticide combinations, as GMO opponents claim, or exceeding the authorized application amount.

All the work orders are kept in an off-site data base, so Pioneer couldn't alter its records or fabricate new ones to cover up misuse. The whole intent of the software package is to prevent human error and protect people – especially field workers.

Pioneer staff said their water sprayer, which operates almost all day, has been misperceived as a sprayer. And though opponents claim the companies spray three times a day, what they either don't know or say is that the fields tend to be very small, and each in a different location.

Work orders may be created to treat just 10 or 50 plants, with as little as 5 or 7 milliliters of pesticide applied. The software was actually customized so Pioneer could chart these tiny applications. Typically, only very small quantities of restricted use pesticides are applied, Joao said. With organic pesticides, more product is used at a higher frequency.

The software also determines how much time must elapse before workers can re-inter the field, and that information is posted. Though people claim that pesticides are getting worse, they're actually getting less toxic, Joao said. They're breaking down faster, which means a shorter re-entry time, and they're more specifically targeted to pests.

Joao and the other Pioneer applicators bristled at the notion that they are dousing fields with no regard for safety. They face personal liability if they misuse pesticides, and they take their work seriously.

“Commercial applications like this are highly regulated,” Joao said, “but homeowners have no restrictions or oversight on their use of pesticides.”

Monday, September 21, 2015

Musings: Dead in the Water

As some folks continue to speculate on possible health risks associated with local ag pesticides, virtually nothing is said about documented public health problems in the Islands, including leptospirosis.

This bacterial disease, transmitted via the urine and feces of rats, wild pigs, goats and other mammals, is present in fresh water throughout the Islands, as well as taro loi. A new study, published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, found the disease affects as many as 1 million people globally, killing nearly 60,000.

And that data is based only on the most severe cases, which account for less than a fifth of all infections, study authors say. Lepto data is sparse overall, with many cases unconfirmed.

I've often wondered how many kayakers and hikers return home feeling lousy due to lepto exposure in waterfalls and streams, where they're often taken on guided tours.

Meanwhile, as environmental activists embrace tourism over agriculture in Hawaii, and treat research like a dirty word, developing island nations are being warned away from tourism and into research. As SciDev.Net reports:

A study released in advance of the UN summit on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) this month argues that far too many small island developing states are focusing their economies on areas that will prove unprofitable in the long term, as the industry is prone to natural disasters and changes in trends. Its author, Carlisle Richardson, an economics affairs officer at the UN, says tourism is a volatile sector that does not generate enough income to ensure economic prosperity.

[M]ore home-grown research and technological innovation can give poorer island nations a competitive advantage while also preparing them for challenges brought about by things such as climate change, demographic change and industrialisation.

In Hawaii, where there's no real heavy industry, efforts to conduct agriculture on a viable scale, using modern technology, are invariably denounced as “industrial.” Locally, we've seen that term used to disparage the proposed dairy at Mahauelepu. Though opponents have played upon the fear of odor and water pollution, there's another reason for their rejection: wresting water away from ag.

The petition that Friends of Mahauelepu (FOM) and Sierra Club — Surfrider claims it had no part, despite assertions by FOM and The Garden Island to the contrary — presented to Gov. Ige last week states unequivocally, and before the EIS is even pau:

HDF [Hawaii Dairy Farms] must not be permitted to operate a dairy at Maha’ulepu.”

It also includes this revealing tidbit:

Grove Farm is leasing the proposed site to HDF and has promised the dairy 3 million gallons of water per day, as a term of the lease, from the Waita Reservoir.  The waters of the Waita, the largest reservoir in the State, are collected via the Huleia river diversion, a 1957 sugar cane diversion created for cane irrigation. Once the State Waters ceased to be used for the Koloa Sugar Plantation [actually, it was McBryde] after its closure in 1996, the Waita Reservoir captured the diverted river and stream waters.

We, the undersigned, call on you and all government officials to protect and preserve these waters pursuant to Article 11 of the Hawaii State Constitution and the Public Trust Doctrine.  It is our position that these waters do not belong to Grove Farm, as recently decided by the Hawaii State Supreme Court.

For starters, Waita has been capturing surface waters since well before 1957. Waita reservoir was created between 1903 and 1906, and originally supplied with the Wilcox Ditch, first dug in 1869. The Koloa ditch was constructed in 1915, delivering water from the Wai'ahi and Ku'ia areas to the reservoir. Both ditch systems were replaced with the Ku'ia-Waita tunnel, built from 1960-65.

According to an agricultural land assessment submitted to the state Land Use Commission in 2012, Waita reservoir currently serves some 3,700 acres of ag land, either through irrigation or as a source for livestock water. It's also leased by Kauai ATV for commercial fishing and kayaking tours. It's not just supplying the dairy.

Of course Grove Farm does not own water — no one owns water in Hawaii — but it does have a permit to divert it. Indeed, that acreage was designated Important Ag Land in large part because it has Waita reservoir. Does anyone seriously believe that particular resource will be abandoned, and the diverted streams restored? 

Or are they hoping to divert the water into urban and resort uses?

And why is it OK to divert millions of gallons of water a day, via pumping, to the hotels — none of them locally owned — but not OK for farmers to use diverted water for agricultural production?

Sounds like the old ploy: Get rid of the buffalo and you get rid of the Indians; stop the water and you stop farming.

Is it any wonder, considering how much more lucrative hotels can be? Well, so long as there's no natural disaster, economic hiccup, airline strike or other industry disruption.  Reflect for a moment on this newly released state report that estimates the 2104 farm gate value of Hawaii's vegetable and melon crops at a measly $39.8 million. Compare that to the $11.4 billion in visitor spending and $1 billion in tax revenues generated by tourism.

Though the anti-GMO crowd keeps calling for more local food production, we're not making any headway — in part because the movement is based on rhetoric, rather than action. Land under cultivation in veggie and melon crops dropped from 5,565 acres in 2013 to 5,095 in 2014. And that can't be blamed on the seed companies.

Still, as the report shows, there were a few bright spots:

Most vegetables showed a decrease in production compared to the revised figures for the previous year. However, kale showed an increase in production of 186% from the previous year to 630,000 pounds, while head lettuce showed a 95% increase in production to 1.25 million pounds.

But man cannot live on kale and lettuce alone.

And without reservoirs and irrigation systems, Hawaii ag is pretty much dead in the water. We're playing for high stakes here.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Musings: Jumping the Gun

The Kauai County Council yesterday killed a thinly veiled attempt to give defeated Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri a job at the police department.

Councilmen Mel Rapozo, Ross Kagawa and KipuKai Kualii, all longtime Shay supporters, supported Mel's bill to allocate $124,165 to create a legal analyst at KPD. Shay wasn't in the Council Chambers yesterday, but she testified in support of the position at last week's meeting of the Council's Budget and Finance Committee, which failed to endorse the proposal.

Though everyone seemed to agree that KPD needs some legal support, they differed on how to provide it. County Attorney Mauna Kea Trask suggested a deputy position be created within his department that could serve both KPD and the county's overall legal needs. Though an analyst could do some of the work that KPD needs, such as assisting with accreditation, he/she couldn't offer legal advice, render a legal opinion or sign off on policies.

“I did not want to be put in the position of creating division between the KPD and the County Administration,” Mauna Kea said. “There's been enough of that already. I like to think I can always find a silver lining, and I like to try. Given what they [KPD] want, and the job that needs to be done, a deputy county attorney gets the job done.”

“It basically comes down to control. Who does that position report to?” said Deputy Chief Michael Contrades.

Mauna Kea said the deputy county attorneys have legal and ethical obligations to the county, regardless of whether they're assigned to KPD or his office.

Ross noted that under Mel's bill, Police Chief Darryl Perry would be able to choose who he wants, whereas he would only be able to weigh in on the selection of a deputy county attorney.

“That's why this was done, so the Chief can hire who he wants,” Mel said.

Who the chief wants? Or who Mel and the boys want? We all know that Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. would never hire Shay for the county attorney's office. 

And indeed, after her blatant abuse of power in the Office of Prosecuting Attorney, which prompted voters to toss her out on her ear, she should never hold another position in county or state government.

Councilman Aryl Kaneshiro departed from his usual place with the “gang of four” to vote against the measure, saying a deputy attorney position offered "the biggest bang for the buck.”

KipuKai termed the deputy position "overkill," while Mel said it was an effort to prevent the chief from having any power.

Then Mel and Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura got in a tiff because she wanted to make another comment, and he wanted to have the last word.


I got no problem with giving Chief Perry some power. But giving him Shay ain't the way to do it. 

In other news, foes of the Mahaulepu dairy have decided that the best defense is an unrelenting offense. By jumping the gun, and presenting a petition opposing the dairy to Gov. Ige before the EIS has been completed, they've shown they have absolutely no intention of even considering the EIS that they demanded.

So what does it prove, that Friends of Mahaulepu were able to gather 3,300 signatures from their fellow naysayers? I mean, other than it's easy to get people to oppose something before they have all the facts, which they can't possibly, given the absence of the EIS.

It also proves that the Sierra Club and Surfrider Foundation of Kauai, both of which supported the petition drive, can't be bothered with gathering the facts, or waiting for studies, before taking an opposing stand.

Is it any surprise that all three groups lack credibility?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Musings: Deserve Better

The Kauai County Council has an executive session with the County Attorney today, seeking advice on hiring a new County Auditor.

Let's hope their next pick performs better than Ernie Pasion — a former County Clerk who lacked a CPA, but got the job, anyway. That hiring debacle cost the County over $400,000 in legal fees to negotiate a $300,000 settlement with Ernie, who sued when the Council tried to fire him. 

The Auditor's job pays $114,000 per year. Surely the Council can find someone who is qualified — and not politically indebted or connected — for that kind of dough. The voters approved an Auditor's office because they believed it was needed. They deserve much better than they've gotten for the past six years.

So the Hanalei School principal has been removed in response to protesting parents who felt their kids deserved better. Per usual, a number of parents dragged their keiki — some as young as kindergarten — to the sidewalk spectacle. According to The Garden Island:

[Julie] Mai said before she brought her children to the rallies, she made sure they understood what was going on.

“They knew that we were bringing awareness to the community,” Mai said. “I told my girl, the whole point is helping people understand what’s going on. I don’t think having them out there with us was a negative thing at all.”

Yes, picket signs painted with "Lisa Must Go" and "We Need Answers" are such an effective way to ensure people get a solid grasp of complex issues. And five-year-olds are so akamai about personnel issues, classroom sizes and school funding.

People, if you want to protest stuff, fine. But leave your kids out of it. You're just using them as puppets to parrot your own views. 

Meanwhile, Scott Enright, the director of the state Department of Agriculture, was quite frank about why anti-GMO activists weren't invited to speak at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture meeting on the Big Island: the participants deserved better. As Scott told West-Hawaii Today:

Rather than a balanced discussion of an issue they were already familiar within their home jurisdictions, the association’s secretaries, directors and commissioners were seeking specific information about the Hawaii cases, Enright said.

That’s because the cases could set a precedent for how things are handled in their own counties and municipalities, he said.

Yup, folks, there's a lot at stake in the Hawaii GMO debate, which is why industry and activist groups are spending big here to influence it. And others are just trying to capitalize on it:
As Capital Press recently reported:

GMO battles in Hawaii will shape the authority of state and local governments to regulate biotech crops in the seven states under the 9th Circuit's jurisdiction.

The 9th Circuit has jurisdiction over seven states, including Oregon, Washington and California, where several counties have enacted GMO bans that are subject to its rulings.

“Hawaii is definitely the bellwether right now,” said Kristine Tidgren, staff attorney for the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation at Iowa State University.

“It’s a huge case for local and state GMO bans,” Tidgren said. “The stakes are very high. All eyes will be on the 9th Circuit when this case goes forward.”

And who better to address that dynamic than Margery Bronster, the former state Attorney General who successfully sued to have Hawaii anti-GMO bills overturned on the grounds that state and federal laws pre-empt local legislation? That's why she, and not the antis, was invited to speak to the national ag officials.

One of my favorite lines in the West-Hawaii Today article came from Hawaii County Councilwoman Margaret Wille, whose anti-GMO bill was thrown out of court:

“She [Bronster] is saying things need to be science-based. Whose science?”

Uh, you know. Real peer-reviewed legitimate science. Not the discredited Seralini study or tortured statistics that correlate autism with glyphosate or claims issued by non-scientists like Jeffrey Smith and Ashley Lukens, and politicians like Wille and Gary Hooser.

Speaking of non-science, here's an excerpt from a shockingly ignorant article published in a Zimbabwe newspaper, whose authors are criticizing a real scientist for support biotech:

There is no running away from the fact that GMOs contain altered, and therefore, corrupted DNA that God programmed into Adam, Eve and the Garden of Eden. God created the Garden of Eden to provide all the nutrients that human life needs, IN THEIR ORIGINAL FORM.

Yeah, better avoid all those corrupted modern fruits and veggies, like apples, tomatoes, etc., etc. Virtually nothing we eat today is in its original form, and folks would be complaining mightily if it were.

I'll close with more examples of picket signs that so effectively communicate complex issues. (Photos by West-Hawaii Today.)
Boy, they sure have gotten a lot of mileage out of that “Shame” banner. Too bad it's total bullshit. 

People deserve much better than the nonsense that has come to characterize so much of the anti-GMO debate.