Monday, April 29, 2013


THE LONELY GURGLE: Anyone who has perused this space recently would think that the spate of 11 drowning on Kaua`i this year and the tourism industry's tepid response is an obsession of ours worthy of Melville novel.

Well, dial 1-800-Ishmael. It's apparently been left to us to point out the less-than-in-your-face visitor industry tactics that have not only failed to make tourists sit up and take notice of the fact that DEATH AWAITS YOU OFFSHORE- or even on the edge of it in a few cases- but have actually obscured the dangers that await visitors in the water, fearing that an effectively alarming effort would cause visitors to stay away in droves.

But this past week or so our in-box has been inundated by readers from Florida to Seattle with copies of an article actually calling out local efforts to play down the dangers of the ocean.

So what local publication was it that had the guts to publish a piece that challenges the number one private enterprise in the islands and was so shocking it got picked up across the nation?

The answer? There wasn't a one... a local one at least.

Rather, it was from the Associated Press (AP) wire service, a national- indeed international- enterprise. The article didn't even have a "dateline" indicating it could have been written anywhere.

Now that the cat is out of the bag on the mainland it has apparently become almost impossible for our "newspaper of record"- The Honolulu Star-Advertiser- to ignore that side of the story after running half a dozen "they're doing all they can" pieces.

Today they published- behind their "pay-wall" no less- not a local investigative no-holds-barred expose of the way the tourism industry is murdering tourists for money but the week-plus-old AP piece that everyone except Hawai`i denizens has been seeing for more than a week.

Of course not to be outdone, Civil Beat, the on-line competitor to the S-A, posted a link to a copy of the AP piece from "News12" in Brooklyn, NY... as part of a blog post in which a dozen other links to local news items appeared.

We previously written a series of posts, detailing, among other things, the slick and particularly un-scarry "oh by the way- don't drown" video produced by Mr. Tourism, former Councilmember and still TV star Dickie Chang and gushingly supported by both the Kaua`i Visitors' Bureau and the Kaua`i Ocean Safety Council as well as other tourism industry big-wigs.
Our basic contention has been that, as we said in early March,:

The message we're getting (from the tourism industry and kow-towing "ocean safety" crowd) is "we're doing all we can and we're going to do more to make sure we send a non-threatening, non-scarey message."

Somewhere there's a disconnect here because wherever we go all we hear is people saying that the tourism industry is responsible and needs to change the content of their warnings, not just put up more and bigger TV screens at the airport baggage claim showing beautiful ocean scenes and a whispered voice-over saying "please try to be careful."

The old "if in doubt, don’t go out" adage is obviously not working. Is it to the point where we need ads with pictures of the bloated corpses of drowning victims with something like "The ocean is a killer- this could be you" written across them?

Is it possible to go too far in the other direction? Probably. But the answer to sending out an ineffective message is not to simply make sure that message is repeated more often in more places.

As to the AP article itself it achieves many of its goal through understatement. But this quote from State Rep. Tom Brower (D, Waikiki-Ala Moana-Kakaako) is shocking for the fact that he actually gave voice to what we've been assuming all the other mucky-mucks are thinking. According to the article:

Some legislators think the proposed video might unnecessarily raise fears or hurt the state's idyllic reputation among tourists.

"You don't want to be on a plane and see people getting eaten by sharks..." He added that ocean safety education is important, but "you don't want to beat people over the head with it."

No- better they die than not come, eh Tom?

He's not alone. The AP goes into detail about how the legislature did do something- they passed a non-binding resolution politely asking the airlines to play that half-hearted "nothing to see here" Chang video.

While some airlines hemmed and hawed and basically said "you first" to each other, they couldn't even get a comment out of the rest as to why they won't play it on-board their flights and have left it for Kaua`i County to play it in the Lihu`e airport baggage-claim area- where tourists always want to linger and watch videos instead of grabbing their bags and getting the hell out of there and into the ocean... where they can drown-in-peace.

There has been a respite in the drownings of late- apparently even the tourism industry’s best efforts couldn't keep visitors from hearing about this year's ocean die-in.

But the all-powerful grip of the visitor industry on matters of life and death remains the county's dirty little "pay no attention to the man behind the screen" official state secret that will undoubtedly take more lives once the current hub-bub dies down.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


IF YOU CAN BELIEVE YOUR EYES AND EARS: If you've read either Joan Conrow's recap of yesterday's council budget hearings, where her thus-far twelve chapter "Abuse Chronicals" were front and center during a grilling of Planning Director Mike Dahilig, or amazingly enough the local newspaper story about it, you know that something, as usual, stinks at the Lihu`e Round Building and vicinity.

Despite long repeated sessions over the past few years between the council and the planning department assuring the latter that the former would provide all the resources necessary to make sure that Transient Vacation Rentals (TVRs) in non Visitor Destination Areas complied with the law, it has been left to Joan to detail a dozen of the more egregious non-compliance cases... with no action on the part of the county.

The new TVR laws legalized them in the late '00s but included provisions that they had to have been TVRs before the law was passed and that they comply with all existing building and land use laws prior to issuance.

So how's that workin' out for us?

Well apparently, according to records, Conrow has showed most of them were never in compliance to begin with but were passed anyway by Dahilig's predecessor Ian Costa- the well known Good Old Boy (GOB) who was fired as "Acting" (because he wasn't actually qualified) Planning Director amidst an FBI investigation in late 2010 and is now ensconced in the allegedly equally corrupt county Department of Parks and Recreation.
But even if- or maybe especially if- you're read Conrow's chronicles of abuse you really have to watch yesterday's Council vs Dahilig debacle for yourself to understand the hubris of, and outright stonewalling by, the administration.

Dahilig took the job amidst the federal investigation but hasn't done anything anyone can find to even begin exposing the alleged corruption much less what Conrow has shown to be the illegal way the TVR permits were issued. That has left it to Conrow's investigatory prowess to put pressure on the administration and get new Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar to speak out on the subject.
After a "presentation" at Tuesday's Planning Department Budget Hearing the TVR discussion begins at 0:48:39 on the recording. The real "meat" begins at 1;38:30 with Councilperson Tim Bynum's questioning of Dahilig, then Mel Rapozo at 2:01:00 and Gary Hooser at 2:15:00.

We're a little less charitable toward Dahilig than Conrow was in her description today, saving most of her criticism for Costa who approved most of the TVRs in question. But by any standard Dahilig stonewalled and tried to run out the clock, refusing to answer direct questions, hemming and hawing and repeating flimsy excuses for doing absolutely nothing in his almost two-and-a-half-years on the job.

The point is that regardless of "who started it" Dahilig has done nothing despite those persistent council demands that he ask if he needed more personnel or anything else and the council had his assurances he had all the resources he needed. This back and forth happened not just once but over and over according to strange-bedfellows Bynum and Rapozo who stood ready with pages of transcripts of those offers and broken promises.

Dahilig was asked over and over by Hooser, whether there was one- just one case where there was a document, perhaps "newly discovered," that Conrow might not have seen... one which would make just one case a false charge.

But Dahilig refused to straightforwardly say whether he found any of Joan's dozen cases were incorrect or if she perhaps lacked key documents which Dahilig claimed could be inside one of the many boxes at the planning department- right where they have been sitting for the more than two years since he took office. He couldn't even identify one of those documents that allegedly "could" exist.

Finally it took Gary having to extrapolate a flimsy agreement from Dahilig that no- he couldn't provide even one exculpatory document despite the fact that he’s been tripping over those boxes of unidentified documents that have lined the hallways for more than two years.

Well, as they say, we've seen this movie before. In fact we've written about it many times. It's called "The Fog and it's been part and parcel of the way various administrations have dealt with the council for decades- at times speaking virtually inaudibly, at others saying "we'll get back to ya on that" and at others talking a mile a minute on any subject but the one at hand.

As a matter of fact it was, if not invented, mastered and perfected by the aforementioned Costa, the long-time GOBAG (and girls) and the "star" of "The Fog."

Our suspicion is that either Dahilig is part of the corruption- or at least the cover-up- or he's trying to get through this while showing he's a what they call a "team player," one worthy of continued career opportunities within the county (or, reportedly, the state) crony system.

If you haven't read Conrow's series you're missing the best piece of investigative journalism around. But there's more to come because Kollar seems to be that rare individual in politics who does not do a 180 after getting elected. Instead he's continuing to not just talk the talk but he's getting geared up to walk the walk on TVRs and other issues such as alleged pesticide poisoning by the bio-tech seed-corn industry on the west side, both according to a recent radio interview he granted Conrow where the differences between Kollar and Dahilig were as stark as could be.

This ain't Sinope and we ain't Diogenes. But with Conrow and Kollar we just could put a dent in the cronyism that has shackled economic, environmental and social justice on Kaua`i since plantation days.

(Correction: Ian Costa currently works in the Department of Parks and Recreation, not Public Works. The in-line version has been corrected. We regret the error.)

Friday, April 12, 2013


GETTIN' FRISKIES: Here kitty-kitty. Here kitty-kitty. Come and get it.

Come and get your new Obama Cat Food Tax.

Yes, let's call the so-called "chained CPI"- the most regressive of all possible taxes- exactly what it is... the tax that will provide the purrrfect meal for the poorest of the elderly poor.

Because if you're not eating cat food because it's all you can afford now Grandpa, you will be soon.

Under the proposed creative math in the President's new budget, those who live solely on Social Security- sometimes receiving as little as $710 a month to for pay rent, utilities, food and everything else- will now get even less cash every month... adjusted, as they say, for inflation.

That means that those who are infamously only able to afford canned cat food will now have to, well, presumably eat an even lower quality fare.

"No 'Fancy Feast' you," Grandma. "The Cat Food Nazi" says you can only have that tuna-fish blood-meat stuff that only kitty could love. Or perhaps down the line, as you slide further and further down the razor blade of life in the indigent lane, it'll be Meow Mix... if you're lucky.

If not maybe you'll wind up eating those Purina Cat Chow crackers, especially after your Medicare premiums go up... assuming you can find a doctor that will treat "Tender Vittles Syndrome"... if, that is, you can find a doctor who'll take you when Medicare starts paying physicians a buck-and-a-half a visit.

So thanks Mr. President. Every time we hear the can opener we'll be thinking of you.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


SHOCKING REVERSAL: Another chapter from the "are you gonna believe me or your lyin' eyes" department today from an otherwise- or maybe we should say formerly- unimpeachable source.

In a letter-to-the-editor of today's local Kaua`i newspaper, former long-time Honolulu Advertiser Kaua`i Bureau Chief Jan TenBruggencate- who is now the Vice Chairman of the Kaua`i Island Utilities Cooperative (KIUC) Board of Directors- excoriates columnist Walter Lewis for a piece published in the paper on Friday.

In it Lewis basically describes how a bill headed for apparent passage in the 2013 state legislature would, in his estimation, allow KIUC to get out from under regulation by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

He leads his column by saying:

The state legislature is currently considering two companion bills — HB 815 and SB 1045 — which could remove the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) from much or all of its regulatory function as to cooperatives.

He goes on to say how basically KIUC doesn't act like a co-op- something we've covered extensively in this space- and cites many of the known debacles like the FERC, federally-controlled hydroelectric projects as well as pointing out many potential benefits of PUC oversight.

But in a colorful and many times personal attack on Lewis, TenBruggencate say that it is not true of the bill and that Walter, as usual in TenBruggencate's view, has it all wrong. Rather he says:

The bills take away no authority, and indeed give the PUC new authority over KIUC. That includes the authority to protect consumers by exempting KIUC from expensive regulatory dockets that don’t apply to cooperatives.

So who is right?

Well, as an aside, we must point out first that of course it would "take away no authority" if indeed "regulatory dockets don't apply to cooperatives."

But to directly address the conflict, maybe the "description" of the bill will tell us. The official "description" of SB1045 SD1 HD2 says that it:

Authorizes the Public Utilities Commission to waive or exempt an electric cooperative operating in the State from compliance with the provisions of chapter 269, Hawaii Revised Statutes, as well as any other applicable charters, franchises, rules, decisions, orders, or any other laws

Sounds clearly like Lewis has it right. Although if our "aside" is any indication there may be some wordsmithing going on in TenBruggencate's letter that could obscures the facts.

We would also add something that TenBruggencate might not know but that Lewis- who was one of those most responsible for saving members up to $80 million in the lead-up to the purchase of the utility- seems to have forgotten.

One of the other proposals at the time that Citizens' Utilities was trying to sell "Kaua`i Electric" was that, rather than setting up a co-op the county would set up a government owned and run utility. As a matter of fact, the Kaua`i County Charter contains a section, passed by voters, on how a "Municipal Power Authority (MPA)" would work.

But one of the reasons the co-op idea won out was that decision makers with the county- specifically County Council Chair at the time Kaipo Asing and then-Mayor Marianne Kusaka- together extracted a promise from the co-op's organizing board that they would abide by two things. The first was that they would adhere to the provisions of the State Sunshine law which an MPA would have had to do.

The second was to put themselves under the control of the PUC.

The first never happened. Like a promised beach access that is fenced as soon as the construction of a development is finished, the Sunshine Law provision was obliterated when the by-laws replaced the articles of incorporation. But nobody noticed because the "nit-pickers" were too busy going over so many other details of the purchase, using their time to follow the money rather than the process.

Actually the group of infamous council curmudgeons led by legendary activist Ray Chuan. appropriated the name at the time when they were disparagingly given it by Kusaka for what she called the "nit-picking" the of the deal- nit-picking which later led up to the revised price.

And now the part of about the putting themselves under PUC regulation is about to be eliminated like the fence that goes up across the beach access when the development is sold... no matter what our good friend Jan says and how much virtual spittle he got on his letter.

Unless there's some provision in the current text of the bill itself to reverse 180 degrees the purpose/description- something we can't find but which would make the bill invalid at any rate because a bill is supposed to reflect it's original description- it appears that the one who has a "gross misunderstanding" is our good friend Jan, not Walter of whom we are more often critical than anything else... unless that is there are some clever semantics going on on the part of our pal with the skilled pen

We invite you to read the bill and both Lewis' and TenBruggencate's opposing "opinions" and decide.

It feels funny for the "Rabid Reporter" to be criticizing the great mainstream, "objective" journalist but apparently there seems to be a "fiduciary matter" that has turned the worm.

As they say, you're entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts; the description of the bill seems to indicate that this time for once it's Walter who has a firm handle on those nasty little facts.

Friday, April 5, 2013


MALAMA ANGINA: Sometimes things stick in your craw. And sometime it helps to know where exactly your craw is.

For those who haven't heard the story, earlier this week Ch. 2, KHON-TV News (the one with Joe Moore) led their 6 p.m. newscast with a story by Ron Mizutani apparently hand fed to him by Hawai`i State Senator Malama Solomon who, along with Senator Donovan Dela Cruz, is the chief super-villain of the PLCD fiasco.

In the piece, Solomon can be seen whining and sniveling about some cockamamie email she had gotten from someone on the Big Island- presumably one of her constituents- which, shall we say, had some colorful language including exactly one "F" word and one "GD"

So Solomon did what any senator would do- she called the cops. According to the story,

Honolulu Police have opened an investigation and a veteran lawmaker is considering filing for a temporary restraining order...

"I'm pretty tough skinned because I've been in politics for many many years as well you know, but this is the first email that I ever received where I felt that someone has really threatened or insinuating bodily harm," said Sen. Solomon (D) Waimea, Hamakua, Hilo.

So what was the content of the email? References to Guns? Knives? Physical assault?

Although Mizutani quoted small segment of it we've obtained a copy of the full email, addressed not specifically to Solomon but to to all state senators although it does reference her and Dela Cruz in the subject line.

Here it is (all SIC) with the writer's name redacted:;;
Date: Sunday, March 31, 2013 5:31 AM
To: All Senators
Subject: Senators [for *this* term] Cruz & Solomon

I live on the Big Island but, like many others, know what's going on with...(I suppose "dirty" is too objectionable) *some* legislators---such as Cruz and Solomon.

You know...regarding the citizens of Hawaii having spoken: Repeal the goddamed PLDC!

Maybe somebody should politely remind those two ass clowns: "you live on a fucking *island!*

Just saying.

Times are hard. People are fed up and ready for action---more than you might expect.

Doing the right thing will, in the long run, prevent a bunch of trouble.

I am a peaceful man but will do everything possible legal thing to see to it that these two individuals regret not doing the people's will.


Xxxxx X. Xxxxxxx

It hard to see exactly what the physical threat was especially after saying he would "do everything possible legal thing (sic)" (emphasis added) which does not of course include violence.

But Solomon didn't seem like she really read the email.. or if she did was being purposely obtuse.

"I did call the police chief on the island of Hawaii to find out who this individual was. I felt that the email was threatening," Sen. Solomon said. "I'm seriously thinking of going for a TRO at this moment."

So now she's got cops on two islands wasting their time on her fantasies.

And apparently crybaby makes three. As Mizutani says:

Sen. Solomon says Senate leadership will decide if the Attorney General needs to get involved.

No only that but she's thinking of clogging up the courts with her paranoia.

Could it be all the attacks on her integrity and legislative actions have gotten to her and she's simply gone off the deep end? Could it be the new "Malama Solomon Must Go" Facebook page was one jab too many?

Hard to say but apparently disingenuity loves company and everyone wanted to get into the southern (maybe South Hilo) belle's "oh my I'm about to have the vapors" act.

"It's just sad and unfortunate. It was addressed to all senators and some of the cursing in there clearly cross the line of just a manner in which you try to advocate for a position," said Sen. Ron Kouchi (D), Kauai, Niihau.

Yes the backroom facilitator of some of the egregious PLDC shenanigans this session according to senate sources, Ron "Butterball" Kouchi has crocodile tears, apparently cause by all of Malama's gorilla dust getting in his eyes.

Oh- and get worse it does Mrs Calabash. This from Solomon's partner in PLDC crimes and misdemeanors, Dela Cruz.

"We don't want to intimidate others from participating. I think everyone has a valid point of view but we have to be earnest in wanting to contribute," said Sen. Dela Cruz (D) Mililani, North Shore.

And, stop the music- stop the music. Senator Clayton "can always be counted on to do something nutty" Hee just couldn't resist throwing in his less than two cents worth of brain tissue on the matter.

"There's a civil way to communicate and I think it's very cowardly," said Sen. Clayton Hee (D) Kaneohe, Hauula, Kahuku.

Yeah, making up threats and getting them publicized on TV as "news" is the courageous way to go about things Clayton.

So is there any way to make the point to these bozos? Well someone we know suggested a wake up email- make that many emails- might be in order.

What if all of us- everyone reading these words- copied and pasted the anonymous Big Island emailer's email and sent it to all the senators (at

It's time to make like Tony Curtis and scream "I AM SPARTICUS."

It just might make Kouchi, Dela Cruz and Hee think twice before getting all puffy-chested defending someone who is known for bursting into offices and cussing out and threatening her house and senate colleagues her own self.

Both Solomon and Dela Cruz don't come up for reelection until 2016 and Hawai`i has no provisions for recall. Nice, eh?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


COME ON IN- THE WATER'S DEADLY: It was a close call but, despite the immediate availability of plenty of virtual lighter fluid, our hair did remain flameless yesterday when Kaua`i lifeguards were apparently at the ready, plucking no less than three tourists from the always dangerous waters of Kalihiwai beach, according to a county press release.

You can almost imagine the scene at the usually un-life-guarded beach: jet-ski-riding rescuers at the ready, 50 yards out, as fun-crazed tourists madly dash into the reported 15-20 foot waves. pushing their children ahead of them, only to be plucked out of the water and returned to the beach for yet another go at it, in some sort of insane merry-go-round of potential death.

But perhaps the closest call came on the North Shore of O`ahu where famed "super-model" Heidi Klum rescued her son and his nanny from the raging ocean waves.

Klum's "heroic" act is national news this morning with CNN picking up the Entertainment Tonight story and dramatic photos of the rescue. But what the heck she was doing in the first place- swimming with her seven-year old son at a secluded beach on a day when some North Shore Beaches were closed due to high surf- is anyone's guess.

According to a Hawai`i News Now report

Lifeguards think the incident happened at Papailoa Beach where there was a high surf advisory yesterday with 10-15 foot waves and a strong north wind.

"It was definitely not a day for surfing. It was very ugly and rough and challenging," said Jim Howe, Operations Chief, Ocean Safety & Lifeguard Services.

Papailoa is a remote area on the North Shore near Haleiwa. It has just one public access, limited parking and is a restricted area surrounded by expensive homes. It has potential for big waves breaking close to shore which causes the riptides.

Forget for a moment the "restricted area surrounded by expensive homes" part even though beaches in Hawai`i are not just public property but are supposed to have open access provided, according to the state constitution.

The bigger question is, "where was the Hawai`i Visitors' Bureau" (HVB), which, along with the Kaua'i VB, has come under increasing criticism for what many call a less-than-effective, "not scarey enough" ocean safety campaign... especially of late when 10 drowning on Kaua`i already this year have spawned new efforts like putting an ocean safety video at the baggage claim area on Kaua`i and trying to get the airlines to show it on incoming flights.

But perhaps the biggest disconnect of all came at the end of the article from the same man who had just described the conditions as being "very ugly and rough and challenging."

As for Klum's lifeguard skills, the pros complimented her and may even give her an award for her actions.

"My North Shore lieutenant suggested we give Ms. Klum one of what we call our Merit Awards for rescuing her loved ones. I think we might find a way to send her one. We'll see if she'll accept it or not," said Howe. "I think what we'd like to say to Ms. Klum and her family is congratulations on being such a good mom and so vigilant, and being Johnny on the spot to stop a situation that could have been much worse."

No- no, no, no, no, no- no award... unless it's a "Doofus of the Year Award" for going to, not just a beach without a lifeguard but, one of the most "private" beaches you can find and letting your seven-year-old go out in monster surf, almost getting your kid, his nanny and yourself killed in the process.

To be fair though it isn't as if the warnings that our visitor industry are putting out are effective. And, as anyone who lives in a tourist destination can tell you, tourists tend to forget to pack their common sense... even famous people.

The "new" video made on Kaua`i- one that is supposed to be the model for a proposed state legislative recommendation for placement on all incoming flights- in fact stresses the "Disneyland" vision of "your sun and surf Hawaiian vacation," where jumping off a cliff into raging surf is okay as long as you're careful and know a few underplayed facts placed somewhere toward the end of a "make sure you have fun but liability- both moral and financial- requires us to warn you" message.

The fact that the head of Honolulu lifeguard services thinks this is the time for an award rather than an admonishment is just more proof that those involved in ocean safety are kow-towing to the visitors' industry.

Rather than put out skull-and-crossbones-type warnings they are allowing the HVB to soft-sell the message even contemplating giving out awards for brainlessness instead of using this teaching moment and grabbing the bully pulpit by the horns, driving home the message that this is real life- not Entertainment Tonight.