Thursday, June 28, 2012


JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE TO GO BACK IN THE WATER: The North Shore of Kaua`i- the sparkling jewel that draws tourists from around the world fueling the local economy, a place of pristine beauty and shimmering, blue oceans- offers some of the finest snorkeling in the world.

Great- if you like swimming in sh*t.

It's not really news around here that the bacterial counts on the north shore beaches commonly exceed the limits. Surfrider Foundation- Kaua`i and others inundate our inbox with each test result, especially regarding Hanalei Bay.

But now it's statewide and even national news which will, if anyone is paying attention, make many think twice about a trip to Kaua`i.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council's 22nd annual beach water quality report on the cleanest beaches in America- as reported in today's pay-walled Honolulu Star Advertiser-

Out of the country's 200 most popular beaches, no Hawaii beach earned the council's 5-star rating, which 12 beaches received.

And what's more:

Kauai County beaches had the highest "exceedance rate" — percent of beach water samples exceeding state standards in 2011 — at 9 percent, followed by Hawaii County (4 percent), City and County of Honolulu (2 percent) and Maui County (2 percent)...

The beaches with the highest "exceedance rates" in 2011 were Hanalei Beach Park (22 percent), Kalihiwai Bay (20 percent), Kee Beach (18 percent), Nawiliwili Harbor (13 percent) and Lumahai Beach (13 percent) on Kauai; and Honolii Beach Park (16 percent) and Pelekane Bay (13 percent) on Hawaii island.

A beach water sample with more than 104 bacterial colonies per 100 milliliters exceeds state standards.

Yuck- gross. But what may be the most disgusting thing of all is what can only be seen as a delusional statement from the deputy director of the state Health Department's environmental health division, Gary Gill, who is quoted as saying:

"Within our limited resources we sample important beaches on a regular basis and 90 percent of the time our ocean water meets standards. Our biggest problem in Hawaii is from storm water runoff. While that will typically cause an exceedance in bacteria standards, it's not an indication of sewage pollution or potential disease."

In other words this bullsh*t says that the bacteria is from bull sh*t.

The problem with the statement as far as the North Shore is concerned is that there is little or no fauna- natural or pastured- mauka (toward the mountains) of the oceans there when compared to most other places on the island. The populated mauka regions- including pastures- just aren't that big. And other than a few pigs there is little life in the mountains.

But there are, in huge numbers, grandfathered cesspools, many of which are proximate to the beaches and many in the yards of transient vacation rentals (TVRs)- rentals that many claim are illegal until the county decided to grandfather existing ones outside official "visitor destination areas" and stop the proliferation of new TVRs.

Granted there are also many local homes that have yet to replace their cesspools with modern septic systems. But those who have been watching the levels of entrobacteria for many years don’t believe for a second that the consistently high levels- especially in Hanalei Bay- are a result of what's commonly called "non-point source pollution."

One problem we understand is the passing of the buck between the feds, the state and the county. Each has some jurisdiction/ The feds have banned new cesspools but grandfathered-in existing single family residences. The state has allowed commercial operations such as TVRs that should not be exempt to continue to keep their old hole-in-the-ground sewage disposal systems. And the county's planning department generally looks the other way with a "not my job, mon" attitude because the council didn't bother to include replacement of old cesspools in the law when they passed the ordinance requiring grandfathered TVRs to be approved by the planning department.

We're sure there are other ways the obvious source of the problem could be addressed... if Alfred E. Gill and others didn't try to use misdirection to essentially say, "What, me worry?"

Meanwhile Kaua`i has thus far escaped being included in the nation-wide coverage of the report in which Hawai`i in general sort of takes it on the chin for not having any five-star beaches this year.

But keep it up guys- just keep ignoring what's really going on and you'll kill that golden goose yet.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


PICK YOUR POISON: It looked bad- real bad. Now?- maybe not so much.

There appeared to be the proverbial slim and no chance to stop our 2nd US Congressional District from falling into the hands of one of, if not the most obnoxious, disingenuous and generally politically repulsive hack in the islands.

Perennial political opportunist Mufi Hannemann announced early for the seat and as the list of no-name challengers grew it was punctuated by a name that seemed equally repulsive in its own way: Gabbard.

The one running for the 2nd CD wasn't State Senator Mike Gabbard- the bigoted homophobe who was in large part responsible for our first-in-the-nation state constitutional amendment allowing the banning of gay marriage- a voter approved measure that followed the first-in-the-nation state supreme court ruling that had mandated equity in marriage.

Another political hack, Gabbard was one of those Hawai`i Republicans who saw his political future in the GOP as nonexistent and so was reborn an environmentalist Democrat.

The Gabbard on the ballot is his daughter, Honolulu Councilmember Tulsi Gabbard, who, although she led the also-rans in early polls, trailed Hannemann by a wide, almost insurmountable margin.

It was hard to not see Tulsi as an almost equally repulsive choice, having supported her father's evangelical hate-spewing zealotry in the late 90's and having little or no chance to win to boot.

Apparently we aren't the only ones that have reserved a little corner of political hell for the Mufster- a hack in the truest sense of the word- whose style is to tell people what he thinks they want to hear unless he's busy race-baiting or staking out equally repulsive positions on civil rights.

We thought, "oh well- why bother." The seat held by the late beloved progressive Patsy Mink had already fallen into the hands of the blue-dog devil Ed Case for a few years a few years back and, well, we've become accustomed to falling out of the political frying pan.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the proforma. Not only has Tulsi Gabbard renounced her prior positions on marriage and civil unions, but a recent poll in Civil Beat shows she has not only caught up but passed Hannemann in a recent poll by a four point margin (35%-31%)- just slightly more than the 3.7% margin of error.

We should not though that her position is not exactly pro gay marriage but that slithery-slimy one where she's opposed to state involvement in marriage of any type and favors civil unions for all

Unfortunately other candidates, like the more progressive Esther Kia`aina, are seemingly out of it at around 10%. But the question this raises as to the Tulsi- Mufi race (are we really supposed to say "Tulsi-Mufi without laughing for the next five months?) is, do you believe her?

The answer is another question? Does it matter?

In essence it is one of those "potted plant" elections- in other words one where our first reaction to the announced presumed victor is, "I'd vote for a ficus before I'd vote for him."

Tulsi Gabbard's transformation has got to raise a few eyebrows, from a military yahoo who quit her state senate seat to kill Arabs after rallying the home troops to enshrine bigotry in our state constitution, to a liberal lioness.

But it's going to be a lot easier for us and many others to forget the past if the choice is between (as local talk show host Jonathan Jay posted on Facebook) "the tall one and the hot one."

Well all we can say is we'd rather get burned from the heat than looked down on by corruption from above.

Friday, June 22, 2012


HOT ENOUGH FOR YA?: It's just become too easy. Turn to the web site of our local "newspaper"- and we used the term advisedly- and prepare for LOL anomalies and goof-ups galore.

This week's winner wasn't even an actual article but rather a rare- and in this case head-scratching- "Correction and Clarification." The Tuesday notice read:

The article “Summer begins Wednesday” published Sunday should state that summer solstice is not the hottest day of the year.


Sure enough, checking the previous Sunday, in another of those "no byline" fillers that are simply press releases with a word or two changed to protect the person guilty from charges of plagiarism, a story accompanied by a NASA graphic showing the Sun and the Earth at both equinoxes and both solstices, actually said:

The four seasons are determined by the changing sunlight, which changes while the Earth tilts its axis as it orbits the Sun. This year’s summer officially begins Wednesday. The summer solstice — the longest day of the year — in the Northern Hemisphere is when the sun reaches the northernmost point in the sky. Summer solstice is also the hottest day of the year.
(emphasis added)

It seems doubtful that NASA created that bit of science fiction and more likely that some aspiring hack at the local "newspaper" assumed that if it was summer it was hot and if it was the longest day of the summer, it must be the hottest day, too.

Apparently science is haaaard.

In professionally run newspapers these rewrites of press releases are noted as such in the article- a practice which our local Kaua`i paper has apparently dispensed with of late. But with who-the-hell-knows-who doing the job of editor these days, not only doesn't this vital bit of information appear any more but somehow, when changing a few words, information that would be pegged as patently absurd by a fifth-grader appears as gospel.

And speaking of factual matters and actual journalism, when discussing the criminal enterprise that is Wall Street capitalism and the felonious acts that have left us all one step from bankruptcy and homelessness, we admit to having an almost secret source of information that causes many to ask us "where the heck did you hear about that?"

The answer has always been "from Matt Taibbi of- believe it or not- Rolling Stone magazine."

Not only has his coverage been revelatory of the way America was and continues to be scammed by the 1% of the 1% that do investment capitalism's dirty work- along with tales of the revolving door of regulators and agency heads who, the day before, had been the ones who were perpetrating the very frauds they are now investigating- he does it in an understandable and ROTFLMAO manner.

But this week Matt has outdone himself with a story of a verdict in a trial that has escaped the media's perusal but is one of the more exemplary of precautionary tales when it comes to the "wha' hopp'n'd" aspect of the world financial collapse.

An early sentence seems to sum up what was at stake in the recent guilty verdict in the trial of three municipal bond dealers.

"The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia" is the story of how "the world's most powerful banks have, for years, been fixing the prices of almost every adjustable-rate vehicle on earth, from mortgages and credit cards to interest-rate swaps and even currencies."

Taibbi begins his sordid tale of greed and obliviousness on the part of the three financial executives and their cronies saying:

Someday, it will go down in history as the first trial of the modern American mafia. Of course, you won't hear the recent financial corruption case, United States of America v. Carollo, Goldberg and Grimm, called anything like that. If you heard about it at all, you're probably either in the municipal bond business or married to an antitrust lawyer. Even then, all you probably heard was that a threesome of bit players on Wall Street got convicted of obscure antitrust violations in one of the most inscrutable, jargon-packed legal snoozefests since the government's massive case against Microsoft in the Nineties – not exactly the thrilling courtroom drama offered by the famed trials of old-school mobsters like Al Capone or Anthony "Tony Ducks" Carollo.

But this just-completed trial in downtown New York against three faceless financial executives really was historic. Over 10 years in the making, the case allowed federal prosecutors to make public for the first time the astonishing inner workings of the reigning American crime syndicate, which now operates not out of Little Italy and Las Vegas, but out of Wall Street.

Taibbi essentially describes a "point shaving" scam that apparently goes on in every bond traders' office and has done so for at least decades.

Basically the way it works is that when a city, county or state borrows money for "capital improvements" it borrows the whole amount it needs- say $100 million to build a bridge. But it doesn’t pay out the whole $100 million all at once- it can take years to spend it first on consultants, then designers, then on each individual aspect of construction.

The rest gets deposited with "virtually every major bank and finance company on Wall Street – not just GE, but J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, UBS, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Wachovia and more" according to Taibbi.

There are usually three bids required and the highest interest rate is the one accepted by the borrower. But these financial executives have been shaving "points"- hundredths of a percent in interest- so that the winners provide the lowest amount possible with a revolving winner of the bids so that everyone gets a chance to steal.

The difference is kicked back to the executives in various manners. While that hundredth of a percent might only be, for instance, $50,000, imagine that times a gazillion with many deals going down daily in untold numbers of jurisdictions.

It adds up to billions that, instead of going back to the borrowers to use for hospitals, elderly services, aid for the homeless and other government services, goes into the pockets of the financial execs and corporate bottom lines.

Taibbi also tracks the money to "kickbacks" in the form of campaign contributions to elected officials to the tune of what Taibbi says is a return rate of 66 to 1- for every dollar "contributed" to someone's campaign it generates $66 in appropriations and returns to the "donor."

Read Taibbi's piece- it will be one of the best half hours you've ever invested in understanding how cavalierly and causally Wall St. brethren have been ripping us off daily.

Also check out Taibbi's blog post today that contains " a few interesting bits" that had to be left out of the magazine piece for space reasons.

Unless and until stories like this get some corporate media coverage it will go on for many years to come. We may have to skip today's Casey Anthony interview or tales of the Octomom's stripping routine but hey- we've all gotta make some sacrifices these days.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


WAITER, THERE'S A REPORTER IN MY SOUP: Daily journalism is a tough job. As they say, the news, like rust, never stops.

Print is hard enough, but when it comes to TV news reporting- with a much more limited number of words to get the idea through, and the loss of control that comes with producers, editors and anchors all getting a stab at your work- gaffs are not only more common but inevitable.

But Kristine Uyeno's "Action Line" report on KHON's 6 o'clock News yesterday contained more than a simple mistake. It actually made the "scam" being reported upon minor in comparison with the potential for a future re-rip-off of the 89-year-old grandmother who thought she had won the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.

The story appeared first on Tuesday and told of how the granddaughter couldn't stop her grandmother from sending off $30,000 in order to receive her prize- an all too common scam since legitimate sweepstakes and contests do not require people to send money in order to receive their winnings- until the grandmother saw the story on the news and finally acknowledged that she had been robbed.

We were busily engaged in a Bob Morris novel and so barely paying attention to the followup report on Wednesday night but we just happened to look up for a moment (see the 1:29 mark on-line) to see a "B-roll" shot of a piece of paper with a whole page apparently containing the accounting for all the payments the grandmother had sent out to the thieves.

And thanks to the magic of the DVR we were able to go back and see where, smack in the middle near the top, there was a listing saying "Card #" with a string of numbers starting with 8100- as many credit cards do- as well as a full page containing what appears to be lists of bank account numbers as well as, apparently, grandma's other financial information.

So, for those who may not be as criminally-minded as others, the poor old lady who had gotten scammed for $30,000 now stands to be a victim of identity theft- if not direct theft- all because someone edited in a shot the videographer caught on his camera and gave no thought to what information it might contain.

It all seems symptomatic of the new "stripped down news," produced by newsrooms that are filled with half as many reporters who are being asked to do twice as much work at half the wages. Many have fled journalism for the PR field and, although those that are left are usually the best and the brightest, this kind of thing shows what happens when they're spread too thin.

It's bad enough that this has led to a dearth of investigative and enterprise journalism. But it's simply unacceptable when even the crime reporting that remains is only a watered down gravy-substitute of pseudo-news, containing not just lumps but unknown and unidentifiable substances that can regurgitate causing heartburn aplenty for the already-ill.

Monday, June 18, 2012


YOU WIN AGAIN: The news is out all over town that it's news when there's real news in the paper. It’s not news to readers that the local Kaua`i newspaper has, if it's possible, sunk to a new low.

We set out to find out the percentage of actual news articles in the past month or so and how much was fluff and filler. And we ran into a problem- we couldn't find any news because even newsworthy subjects were treated as feature stories.

After throwing out rewritten press releases- which is where most "news" has come from recently- and recounts of court doings covering a full gamut of petty crimes, the percentage of actual news storries came out to be around 4-5% ... and that's being generous.

It may be the fact that there's no editor any more and, according to sources at the paper, Publisher Casey Quel Fitchett (who?) is the prime editorial decision maker. It may be the lack of actual journalists with the bulk of words being written by long time photographer Dennis Fujimoto.

But it just may be intentional. The lack of coverage of the scandalous doings in the Office of Prosecutor Attorney Shaylene-Iseri Carvalho and the distinct dearth of coverage of administration activities that are not straight from the mayor's public relations people can't be by accident. Nor can the publication of any kind of list containing local people's names so as to boost circulation. The lists of honor roll students during the last week seemed more numerous than the actual number of schools.

But an article in today's New York Times makes the decline from previous depths that few thought could be exceeded all the more perplexing.

According to the article:

Three years after telling his shareholders that he would not buy a newspaper at any price, (Warren) Buffett has moved aggressively into the business, buying 63 local papers and revealing a 3 percent stake in Lee Enterprises, a chain of mostly small dailies based in Iowa.

That's right- Lee Enterprises, which owns the local Kaua`i newspaper, is in turn owned in part by Berkshire Hathaway's Buffett, known as one of the most liberal of the super-rich people in the country if not the world. He's someone you'd think would have a commitment to decent journalism if he owned your local newspapers.

But oxymoronically enough the article- which is essentially about the Buffalo News which Buffett has owned since 1977- touts his commitment to informing the communities in which his Lee Enterprises papers operate, even in a time of severe decline in the newspaper industry.

For his new employees, the best indicator of what Buffett may do (at Lee) is what he has done with The Buffalo News. Interviews with more than a dozen current and former editors paint a picture of a profitable paper that is run with little involvement from its owner. Some journalists say that the owners will hold out as long as they can to buy the latest printing presses and that they wish the paper dedicated more resources to the highly ambitious journalism that wins the biggest awards.

(M)any workers agree that the owners do not skimp on sending journalists to town meetings or on enterprising local journalism, which is in line with Buffett’s belief about intensely locally focused papers.

The article makes Buffett's commitment to journalism clear even while cuts to newsroom staffs- such as the News' decline from 200 to 140 newsroom people- take its toll. But while Buffett seems to be hands off editorially he is depicted as one of the few newspaper owners that maintains a commitment to informing the people served by his new Lee newspapers.

How that jibes with our local newspaper's recent apparent commitment to steer clear of coverage of election year issues people need to know about is anyone's guess. But a clue might be gleaned from the sentence after the one quoted above.

“In Grand Island, Nebraska, everyone is interested in how the football team does. They’re interested in who got married. They’re maybe even more interested in who got divorced,” Buffett said, adding that he was not interested in sprawling markets like New York or Los Angeles. “If you live in South Central Los Angeles, you’re not interested in who dies in Beverly Hills.”

Oh, swell. Does that mean that all we're going to get is local gossip? Even that would be an improvement over the warmed over press releases that pass for news these days.

When there are actual articles that aren't simply rewrites of county or non profit PR they are of the sort that violate every tenet of journalism- unabashedly promotional pieces depicting their advertisers' latest wares.

With the news that Buffett owns Lee might we expect more, given what the Times article depicts as his commitment to "sending journalists to town meetings (and to) enterprising local journalism"?

Time will tell, but the local Kaua`i newspaper has nowhere to go but up.

Friday, June 15, 2012


THIMK: There was an expression when we were growing up: "Don't confuse me with the facts." In the age of information, as the gap between belief and veracity widens, it's understandable that the expression has evolved. Nowadays we say, "You're entitled to your own opinion but not entitled to your own facts."

The perfect example of course are the misguided and often downright delusional efforts to spread pseudo-scientific fear and trepidation about so called "smart meters," especially here on Kaua`i where the campaign has reached a disinformational zenith approaching the "Big Lie" on steroids.

The campaign has taken on a life of it's own and there are many who now believe that there is an international conspiracy to use killer radio waves to annihilate us all. And it is being led by those diabolical mad geniuses at Kaua`i Island Utilities Cooperative (KIUC).

"Holy Mindf*ck Batman- It's Commissioner Gordon on the phone... Photovoltaic Man has escaped from jail... again!"

So how did this happen. How did an apparently innocuous device using technology that came in with AM radio grow fearsome tentacles to envelop us all with their evil invisible rays?

News Flash- it didn't... it's a freakin' comic book.

We could blame our educational system. Science curricula in primary school has all but disappeared and students who think science is "toooo haaaard" seemingly having carried the day. In addition while Biology, Chemistry and Physics at least appear on the list of secondary school classes, the Principles of Electricity go generally untaught at the high school level. We admit having had to brush up on on the fundamentals of electro-magnetism, radio frequency and radio waves ourselves when this whole nonsense started- it's probably the least commonly known science out there, probably because it's invisible.

If you ask the average Keone on the street how the sound got into his radio he'd probably look at you like you're crazy... before admitting he'd always assumed something along the lines of "it's magic."

Combine that with the much bemoaned lack of skills involving critical thinking- the act of questioning assumptions- among students today, and it's no wonder that anything that is repeated often enough- especially "on-line"- must be true.

Which is why, although you might hold the people who have been led astray over "smart meters" responsible for their own delusions, we really have to point to KIUC as the source of their own problems.

The powers that be have created KIUC to be a bastion of misinformation and outright lies since it's inception. The very history of the initial pricing scandal convinced people that there were kickbacks and other shenanigans, and the lack of documentation have fanned the flames of mistrust every since. The promise by the original board to operate under the state's open meetings (sunshine) and records (UIPA) laws was thrown under the bus when the original bylaws were drawn up.

The commitment had been elicited by the county council at the time in order to get them to drop efforts to set up a municipal power authority, something which had been approved by voters and is now still a part of the county charter. The promise to maintain a truly democratic co-operative were similarly discarded and substituted for with vague standards of membership participation, all subject to secretive manipulation by the board of directors.

The bylaws- the document that is supposed to give the "members" of a co-op the power over major decision making- allowed the board to institute their own policies that stood the often vague bylaws on its head. One example is the "gag rule" that stopped board members from disagreeing publicly with the policies passed by the majority of the board.

Even now when we brought this up with the new PR guy Jim Kelly we were told that the rule had been eliminated only to find out it had not been ditched but changed, so that now a board member had to clear any public statements he or she planned to make with either the chair or the general manager- giving staff decision-making power over board members in a bass ackward example of who has the power and how KIUC operates.

Through the years the board and the "company" in general has operated with a for-profit business model- "we sell you electricity"- and evolved into bastions of secrecy and manipulation.

The debacle of the membership vote on the federal oversight of local hydro-power epitomized KIUC's methodology of "dealing" with members. Instead of having a fair vote with a straightforward question and legitimate pros and cons sent out to voters, they offer a set of admittedly manipulative and disingenuous "pros" and with exactly zero legitimate "cons. " Also, a massive, expensive PR campaign with full page ads in the local newspaper was purchased turning the vote into the type of thing you'd see in a third world country. People were suggesting we bring in Jimmy Carter to investigate.

These example show why it's been so easy to justifiably demonize KIUC and allow people to use their lack of science training and lack of critical thinking skills to set up false solecisms like:

A) KIUC lies
B) KIUC says "smart meters are safe"
C) KIUC is lying about smart meters and smart meters are not safe.

But any student of logic will tell you that part of critical thinking lies in making sure that the assumptions are not misapplied. This example would be like saying in B) that "KIUC says 2 + 2 = 4." Just because KIUC says something is true, doesn't automatically make it lie.

If only life were that easy.

What we've seen is that every time someone tries to bust the myths over health, privacy. cost-benefit and a dozen other supposed "issues" with smart meter opponents they are tagged as being "part of the conspiracy."

One recent attempt to set the record straight comes from the Blue Planet Foundation (BPF) a local non-profit "committed to ending the use of fossil fuels on Earth, starting in Hawai`i."

It's Executive Director is Jeff Mikulina who "served for ten years as the director of the state's largest environmental advocacy organization, the Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter."

In a piece called "Understanding Smart Meters," BPF shreds much of the misinformation spread by smart meter opponents.

For example, it discredits one of the well-publicized claims that "smart meters cause cancer because RF is classified as a “Class 2-B Carcinogen” by the World Health Organization."

It's a half truth- a misrepresentation that leaves out vital information at best. In actuality:

The World Health Organization (WHO) has worked to identify environmental factors that can increase the risk of human cancer. With that goal, WHO has researched hundreds of possible carcinogenic agents, and categorized them into groups:

Group 1 Carcinogenic to humans 107 agents

Group 2A Probably carcinogenic to humans 63 agents

Group 2B Possibly carcinogenic to humans 271 agents

Group 4 Probably not carcinogenic to humans 1 agents

Group 3 refers to agents that are “not classifiable.”]

To date, only one agent is classified as “probably not carcinogenic.” RF is classified in the next lowest group (2B), “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Many other common agents are also listed in group 2B, including examples like caffeine, carpentry, and coconut oil DEA (an ingredient frequently found in lotions and shampoos). WHO defines “possibly” carcinogenic to mean that there is: (i) “limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans” and “less than sufficient” evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals”; or (ii) “inadequate evidence of carcinogenicity in humans” but “sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.”

According to the U.S. National Institute of Health, “there is currently no consistent evidence that non-ionizing radiation increases cancer risk.”

Another recently stressed issue- especially among those who, while not opponents, have questioned the need and wisdom of purchasing smart meters- is whether a cost-benefit analysis has been done and if so, does it show smart meters to be a good investment. The answer is a resounding "yes" according to BPF.

In answer to the question "Will smart meters be cost-effective?" the essay states:

The numbers show that smart meters are a good investment. For approximately 33,000 households on Kaua`i, KIUC plans to invest about 11 million dollars in the smart meter project (with 5.5 million dollars of that coming from federal funding). So, KIUC can expect that updating the meter on each household will cost approximately $333. Each meter is expected to last 20 years or more, so the cost per year is about $16 per smart meter. That small investment is easy to recover from the benefits of smart meters.

For example, at current electricity prices, $16 translates into 46 kWh of energy per year, or about 4 kWh per month. In 2010, the average Kaua`i household used over 400 kWh per month. In other words, if in-home displays or other advantages of smart meters allow Kaua`i households to become just 1% more efficient, then from the consumer’s perspective, the smart meters will more than pay for themselves. And this calculation assumes that energy prices don’t rise at all for the next 20 years. More likely, as the price of energy rises, the smart meter investment will get better and better.

We can also see this smart investment by looking at the ability of smart meters to help us integrate more renewable energy resources onto a smarter grid. In 2010, KIUC imported over 675,000 barrels of diesel, at a cost of approximately $70 million. Meanwhile, only 1.4% of KIUC’s fuel mix was photovoltaic power produced from the sun. Even if smart meters only enable us to increase that photovoltaic contribution by a modest 2%, Kauai would save on nearly 15,000 barrels of diesel. At today’s oil prices, that would stop more than $2 million dollars per year from leaving the island each year. In five years, the smart meter investment would pay for itself. And again, as the price of oil rises in the future, this investment only gets better.

Other analyses have reached the same conclusion looking at the various ways that smart meters will save money. For example, a 2011 report on the Costs and Benefits of Smart Meters for Residential Consumers tallied up the smart meter savings and concluded that “even with conservative assumptions regarding consumer engagement in technologies, programs, and rate plans, utilities and their customers can expect positive net benefits from [smart meter] investments over the next 20 years.”

The piece also explains how "grid modernization starts with smart meters" and addresses all the other supposed horrors of smart meters.

Here are some of the questions and somewhat truncated answers (read the entire essay for full answers and links to definitions of scientific terms as well as background studies and articles on the subject)

Do smart meters emit hazardous levels of “RF,” “EMF,” and “radiation”?

“RF” (radio frequencies), “EMF” (electromagnetic fields) and “radiation” (energy traveling in waves) are scientific terms referring to electromagnetic energy. “Radiation” does not mean the same thing as “radioactive.”

Electromagnetic radiation surrounds us all the time; the most familiar example is ordinary visible light. Many common devices emit or receive electromagnetic energy. These include things like light bulbs, hot plates, remote controls, computer screens, cordless telephones, cellular telephones, metal detectors, wireless computer networks, and baby monitors. Wireless communication devices, from AM radios, to cell phones, to satellites, all use low-energy electromagnetic radio waves to transfer information. Smart meters also use the same “non-ionizing” low-energy radio waves to transmit information about the electricity grid.

Are smart meters hazardous to health?

According to the World Health Organization, a “number of studies have investigated the effects of radiofrequency fields on brain electrical activity, cognitive function, sleep, heart rate and blood pressure in volunteers. To date, research does not suggest any consistent evidence of adverse health effects from exposure to radiofrequency fields at levels below those that cause tissue heating. Further, research has not been able to provide support for a causal relationship between exposure to electromagnetic fields and self-reported symptoms, or “electromagnetic hypersensitivity.”

Also answered are the questions

Do smart meters pose a security threat?

Do smart meters cause fires?

Is it true that smart Meters don’t emit radio waves, they emit dangerous microwaves?

Will smart meters give accurate readings?

Are smart meters a violation of privacy?

It hard to blame misguided people who have been whipped into a frenzy by a handful of people who don't have a good understanding of the underlying science and/or. in many cases. aren't commonly engaged in the critical thinking scientific examination requires.

Many tell people to " just Google it" and yes, if you Google it you will find dozens of anti-smart meter posts from blogs and other sources. And yes, you have to go pretty far down the list for find anything supporting their use. But all that shows is the echo chamber of the claims and the fact that if you keep repeating them and forwarding them and reporting them people are going to start believing them no matter what the truth is.

Many have warned that the ubiquitous nature of the internet and the fact that just anyone can post whatever they want to (whether it is true or not) will lead- or some say has already led- to chaos. They usually end up using this to advocate for what amounts to some form censorship so that "trustworthy" sources are what people will read.

But other like us have advocated for a more informed readership- one that is educated in the sciences and has the ability to use critical thinking to examine the underlying principles involved.

To do this each and every reader must ask themselves some questions.

Is there just a single person or a couple of people making claims, maybe even with one claiming a title before their name such as "Doctor?"... doctor of what? and what is their reputation in the field?

Or is the information peer-reviewed and published in a well established and generally trusted science based publication. Is the article based on an actual scientific study?

Is it not just replicable but has it been replicated? Or is it a series of anecdotes and unverifiable claims based on testimonials?

Are those who are trying to convince you trying to tar information by saying that some disreputable person or organization also said it? Is it using "guilt by association" or an ad hominem attack- one that attacks the person, not the idea or claims?

And finally when people start to claim vast worldwide conspiracies involving all the universities, the government and even organization like Blue Planet Foundation (not to mention Parx News Net) ask yourself if this makes sense.

We could "blame" KIUC for being so consistently disreputable that people are willing to believe that anything they say must be a lie. But even so, each of us is responsible for our own actions and just because your cousin got an email saying the sky is falling doesn't mean it's time to sign up for the Chicken Little Newsletter.

Friday, June 8, 2012


PLENTY OF NOTHIN': It's gonna be the best of elections. It's gonna be the worst of elections.

Yes it's a dickens o' pickin's and a tale all too sh*tty when it comes to the most dismal number of candidates for the seven seats on the the Kaua`i County Council in memory. Yet on the plus side the enumeration of only nine names includes Gary Hooser, a politician who makes us reluctant to use the term to describe Gary since it's usually reserved for corrupt cronies and despicable despots.

Hooser, who started his public service career on the council from 1998-2002 before becoming the Kauai's State Senator from 2002-2010, is returning to his roots. His presence will no doubt bring the level of council discourse and accomplishment, if not to the highest rung of the ladder of good governance, a least out of the existing swirling sewer of percolating pestilence.

The problem is that the rest of the list is made up of the same old seven incumbent-hacks we've grown to, in some cases loath, in others tolerate, plus local and UH baseball hero, Ross Kagawa, who has two chances- the proverbial slim and none, with slim nursing a terminal illness.

So we're down to a proverbial game of musical chairs and the only reason to vote in the election- the one in November that is because all will get past the August 11 "primary"- is to see who gets dumped when Hooser is inevitably added.

While we are tempted to just "plunk" for Gary (a term for not using all seven votes and simply "plunking" down only the names of those who one truly likes) and may do so in November, for now we will list the rest of those running based on exactly how much of a worthless piece of crap each one is and why.

So for all you dumpers out there (and if you're not one, please register now) here's our list of dumpees in order of dump-worthiness.

1) Dickie Chang. This is probably the hardest choice- whether to make our good friend Dickie our least favorite or save that honor for Mel Rapozo. It's like trying to decide whether you like the guy who is repeatedly plunging a knife in your back or prefer the guy who is standing there watching, trying to decide when and whether to either encourage the stabber or condemn him... although it would certainly never occur to him too stop him.

Dickie is the proverbial man who, like former State Rep Ezra Kanoho for whom the phrase was created, "never met a hotel he didn't like." Dickie's penchant for lap-dog behavior- usually in the service of Chair Jay Furfaro- is infamous and when he does take a stand it is clearly taken with clay feet planted firmly on both sides of the fence. The one thing we can say about Dickie is that this is exactly what we expected from him. That of course makes-

2) Mel Rapozo the next one to not vote for. Mel manages to play politics with the simplest of no-brainers, using his unique blend of bamboozical logic and contortionistic, convoluted unreasoning as his moral compass- a compass that continually points in one direction... toward Mel. Perhaps the most emblematic representation of this bit of Kabuki is his recent attempt to change the charter because he didn't like an opinion from County Attorney Al Castillo’s office regarding the legal use of the word "shall." Rapozo didn't like what Castillo told him the law said and what the courts have consistently ruled on the matter, so he first tried to get his cohorts to hire Mel's own personal choice of outside lawyer to tell him what he wanted the law to say. When that failed he unsuccessfully tried to garner enough votes to put the matter before the electorate even though if it did pass it would be moot from the day it was enacted because it doesn't matter what our charter says when the state courts have already ruled on the matter.

Rapozo's "are-you-going-to-believe-me-or-your-lyin'-eyes" defense of Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho as she "took the fifth" and demanded a private attorney to represent her rather than openly discuss her budget with the council- has known no bounds, making for some fascinatingly fractured farces... quintessential Rapozo.

That brings us to the aforementioned "larger than life" (both girth-wise and in his own mind-wise) current Chair-

3) Jay Furfaro. Furfaro managed to eek out a 4-3 vote for chair last election, something that he may not be able to do with Hooser on the council. More on that later.

Furfaro is a throwback to the old style Hawai`i "orator" whose chest-thumping, credit-taking, egotistical style of expression is endlessly enigmatic to watch especially as lunch and sometimes dinner breaks are approaching. As the clock ticks toward noon it invariably throws him into incoherent ramblings and rushed decision making, commensurate with the decibel level of his stomach growling. To be fair, he is diabetic but his munching-vs-governing meter is out of whack even for someone who has "the sugar." Speaking of sweetness, the next on our bottoms-up itemizing is someone who turned out to be NutraSweet. That would be-

4) Kipukai Kuali`i.
Kipukai was appointed after current State Representative and then Councilmember Derek Kawakami was appointed to fill Mina Morita's spot when she was appointed to be the head the Public Utilities Commission. People expected a lot from his "win" of 2010's post-election version of musical chairs and got virtually nothing. He has turned out to be simply a little less of a political animal than Rapozo and seems quite content to learn more at Mel's feet. Although he has gone after some of the more absurd council appropriations- when they suit his political bent- the last straw was his unshakable support for Iseri after she fired the Victim/Witness Counselors in her office. That eliminated the long-time county positions and instead she contracted out the duties to (drum roll please) Kualii's employer, the YWCA, ensuring his support before the council. He not only sold his political soul but he then refused to recuse himself from participating in the council's deliberations regarding Iseri. And speaking of disappointments there's-

5) Nadine Nakamura,
although in her case disappointment may be a bit strong because we never expected any more than we got. The would be a politically malleable councilmember who doesn't seem to have a position on anything other than compromise, even when one of the options is at best unpalatable, at worst patently absurd. Her prime directive for the past two years has apparently been to take good legislation and introduce difficult-to-reject amendments that make the original unacceptable, even in cases when the votes are there for passage. Even if she did govern from a progressive viewpoint no one would know it because her experience as a facilitator and mediator have made her into a gutless wonder who makes one question whether there is any substance there at all. And speaking of substance there's-

6) Tim Bynum. Some would have him positioned at the bottom of this list for his effort to allow transient vacation rentals (TVRs) on Ag land, not to mention his previous work to allow them to be grandfathered on all otherwise zoned land. We can hardly ignore that and other positions he's taken. On the other hand he was, with then Councilmember Lani Kawahara, primarily responsible for the plastic bag ban and also successfully took on then Council Chair Kaipo Asing over open governance issues. What we can say is that at least they have apparently been taken because he believes in whatever he has supported. But if for no other reason than his persecution-prosecution by political enemy Iseri in the Ricecooker-gate scandal- an abuse of power on her part that we hope will end in November with the election of Justin Kollar (more on that race in a future post)- we have positioned him among the keepers this time. He could have folded but his persistence has unveiled alleged criminal activity on Iseri's part. All that pretty much also goes for-

7) JoAnn Yukimura. It's not that our disappointment with JoAnn has diminished to a level where we enthusiastically rate her the numero uno councilmember- although she has done some really good stuff recently.* But she also went along with Bynum on the Ag TVR issue and was the prime mover behind the grandfathering efforts, preferring to knuckle under to big money developers rather than go to court to enforce the laws apparently forbidding them.

We've questioned the consistency of those we have spoken to who were dead set against supporting Bynum due to the TVR debacle but were equally as supportive of Yukimura. We've simply asked them how they can condemn Bynum on that issue without doing the same for JoAnn.

All we can say is that is, on balance- and especially given the reality of the fact that six of the seven are going to be on the council whether we like it or not- we are forced to rate Bynum and Yukimura as "plunkworthy," to coin a term.

That leaves only one issue to be decided in November when it comes to the council race- the question of council leadership, which hangs in the balance.

After the 2010 election Yukimura challenged Furfaro for chair. Furfaro had Chang's, Rapozo's and, at the time, Kawakami's votes leaving Yukimura with Bynum's and Nakamura's.

In order to wrest control of the chair- assuming either Yukimura or possibly Hooser will challenge Furfaro and that Nakamura will maintain her vote for Yukimura- the addition of Hooser makes a change in the chair a distinct possibility. That also assumes that the odd-man-out is either Chang, Rapozo or Kuali`i. We can't be sure of Kualii's vote but suspect he is politically indebted to Furfaro after Furfaro gave procedural support to Kuali`i and Rapozo during some of the budget hearings regarding Iseri.

If the election were held tomorrow in addition to being shocked, surprised and totally taken aback, we would be forced to plunk for Hooser, Yukimura, Bynum and Nakamura since leadership is the only issue to be decided. But equally as important is NOT to vote for Chang, Rapozo, Furfaro or Kuali`i.

The August primary will tell us something about the strength of each candidate- it has always been like a super-accurate poll since 14 candidates usually get though to the November vote. In this case although all - and only- nine will make it through, we'll certainly know more about the strength of each by August 12.

One thing is all but certain- this mess of a council will make it through this year's election with six or seven intact. And while it gives us plenty to froth and foam about, any plans we've had to be a kinder and gentler rabid reporter may well end up, shall we say, going to the dogs.

*Correction: It was Tim Bynum who, along with Lani Kawahara, was primarily responsible for the single use plastic bag "ban," not, as we originally said JoAnn Yukimura who was not on the council at the time the bill passed. The original on line version has been corrected. We regret the error


We are heartsick over the loss of Rose Schlegel, the daughter of our good friends Sherry and Jim (Pole) Pollock, who lost her life in an apparent freak accident in Kalalau Valley Wednesday. It is horrendous to lose any loved one but to lose a child, even one aged 30, is unimaginably tragic and their pain and sorrow must be unbearable. Please keep them in your thoughts and, if appropriate, prayers. It makes one wonder how such bad things can happen to such good people while selfish and mean people go unscathed. Don't forget to hug your loved ones, especially your keiki, today and every day. Life is fragile, seemingly especially for the righteous. We love you Sherry and Pole and will hold Rose in our thoughts forever.

Saturday, June 2, 2012



(PNN) -- Former Kaua`i County Councilmember and State Senator Gary Hooser will run for office this year according to a credible source with direct knowledge of Hooser's plans.

Hooser is strongly leaning toward running for council although a senate run is still a possibility. He is expected to "pull papers" Monday morning and file them later in the day.

Hooser currently serves as the appointed Director Office of Environmental Quality Control in the Abercrombie administration where he successfully fought off this year's legislative attempts to dramatically weaken HRS Chapter 343 environmental review laws regarding Environmental Assessments (EA) and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS).

If he decides on running for council he will be seeking to reclaim his old seat where he served from 1998 through 2002. As a councilmember he helped blow the lid off of Papa`a Bay mud slide in the original "Developers Gone Wild" grubbing and grading hearings, sponsored a charter amendment giving the council audit power and was instrumental in keeping access to Kealia Kai open 24 hours a day seven days a week without security guards.

He also led efforts to uncover and reveal the facts in the "Red Chrysler-gate" scandal during the Kusaka administration, when it was revealed that Kusaka had, at county expense, secretly leased an expensive luxury car from her former campaign manager.

Hooser served as Kaua`i senator from 2002 until 2010, the last four years as Senate Majority Leader.

As Senator, Hooser was the primary introducer and mover in the Senate to pass a first-in-nation mandate for solar hot water heaters. He was instrumental in passing legislation protecting farm lands from onerous "gentleman farms'" restrictive covenants and "brought home the bacon" leading to improvements to Na Pali trail, Kilauea School and Wailua Bridge. He also helped resolve the Koke`e lease issue enabling local residents to get first rights to the leases of state cabins there.

Hooser was the first to speak out against school furloughs, led the fight in the Senate for civil unions, and is a former Chair of the Democratic Party Environmental Caucus.

According to the source, Hooser has grown weary of the Honolulu climate and is looking forward to re-connecting to his island home and his friends here on Kaua`i. Hooser lives in Wailua Homesteads with his wife Claudette, two dogs, (Roxie and Hina), one cat, (Socks) and 5 chickens (Dolly and 4 unnamed Rhode Island Reds). He has two adult children, Dylan and Kelli-Rose.

For more information on Hooser go to .