Tuesday, November 29, 2011


A DAY LATE AND $700 MILLION SHORT: We're a little busy today so our assigned reading is Matt Taibbi's take on Federal Judge Jed Rakoff's refusal to let the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) get way with yet another "settlement," this time with Citigroup, for a ridiculously low sum ($95 million) considering the crime but, more importantly, without admitting any guilt.

Taibbi detailed the case a few weeks ago describing one more banking institution that bundled toxic mortgages into high grade securities and then bet against them making $160 million on the wager while investors- mostly institutional ones like pension funds and municipalities- lost $700 million.

Judge Rakoff essentially said "how the heck can I sign off on a deal without knowing what happened?"

Taibbi analogizes the deal by asking

What sane judge would sign off on a deal like that without knowing exactly what the facts are? Did the criminal shoot up a nightclub and paralyze someone, or did he just sell a dimebag on the street? Is 18 months a tough sentence or a slap on the wrist? And how is it legally possible for someone to deserve an 18-month sentence without being guilty of anything?

This actually could set a precedent in saying "no more" to these "no admission of guilt" settlements but don't hold your breath.

Monday, November 28, 2011


CHOKE ON IT: If those who treat terminal illnesses with humor really want to get some belly laughs, they might do well to bring in tapes of the last two Kaua`i County Council sessions.

No, this time it wasn't the council itself that provided the guffaws but some of the Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) industry lobbyists and their poor, confused sycophants who traipsed up to testify.

One of our favorite bit of professed balderdash is that we don't need labeling because "no one has gotten sick from GMOs," which would be a neat trick since it might just make it difficult to know of something made you sick if you didn't know you were eating it.

Actually there have been very few studies of heath effects- zero independently conducted ones that we can find- with the oft quoted numbers of studies of GMOs being primarily on the growing of them and far less than 10% on any health effects.

But perhaps the most side-splitting of all absurdities is from those who tried to intimidate the council into rejecting support for a measure to ask the state legislature to initiate labeling of GMO products, as we mentioned a week or so back.

You could see the actual fear on Kauai and Hawai`i state Farm Bureau stalwart Jerry Ornellas's face as he described the scenario that he had been convinced was the future under a Hawai`i law requiring labeling. He described how soon, farmers would be sitting around, first presumably with test tubes and centrifuges to determine if their food contained GMOs and then whipping out the stickers and laundry marking pen and writing out their own labels.

People such as Scott MacFarlaine of the Chamber of Commerce and others had convinced poor "Farmer Jerry" that it would be up to him and perhaps retailers to do this, turning the issue into not one of health but one of "get the government off the backs of small business."

Even though recently states like California have started petition efforts to get their legislature to pass labeling laws and others have begun to consider introducing such legislation, the local produce defilers are apparently going to rely on a divide and conquer strategy that presumes the internet was never invented.

The council didn’t help much with this with every one of them questioning whether the state could really do this in the first place. Doesn't the FDA have jurisdiction and haven't they banned states and local jurisdictions from passing labeling laws?

Well the bad news used to be yes. Until this past July, the FDA has said they were solely responsible for any move toward labeling and when the chief lobbyist from Monsanto was appointed head of the FDA it didn't look good.

But the recent good news is that, according to Consumers International, the world federation of consumer groups,

In a striking reversal of their previous position, on Tuesday, during the annual Codex (Alimentarius) summit in Geneva, the US delegation dropped its opposition to the GM labeling guidance document, allowing it to move forward and become an official Codex text.

The new Codex agreement means that any country wishing to adopt GM food labeling will no longer face the threat of a legal challenge from the World Trade Organization (WTO). This is because national measures based on Codex guidance or standards cannot be challenged as a barrier to trade.

What that means in the US is that, as a signatory of the Codex and member of the World Trade Organization, the federal FDA can no longer ban labeling.

The article cites examples like Peru where

recent introduction of GM food labeling faced the threat of a legal challenge from the WTO. This new Codex agreement now means that this threat has gone and the consumer right to be informed has been secured.

...and in Africa where

Samuel Ochieng, President Emeritus of Consumers International and CEO of the Consumer Information Network of Kenya said:

"While the agreement falls short of the consumer movement's long-held demand for endorsement of mandatory GM food labeling, this is still a significant milestone for consumer rights. We congratulate Codex on agreeing on this guidance, which has been sought by consumers and regulators in African countries for nearly twenty years. This guidance is extremely good news for the worlds' consumers who want to know what is in the foods on their plates". (sic)

Now we don't expect all the conspiracy nutcases- who have tried to turn the Codex Alimentarius into a satanic field manual instead of an international standard for safety and efficacy of drugs and things like vitamins- to give up. You'll recognize them by their "don't take away our vitamins" mantra having been duped into not realizing that their little movement is funded and directed by the evil "Big Pharma" itself so they don't have to test their now unregulated vitamins and supplements.

But this does "solve" the mystery of what exactly happened this summer to allow the states to pass their own legislation regarding GMO labeling.

As to the Hawai`i effort, even though apparently the Kaua`i County Council will join Maui in their support for a state-wide labeling bill, since the measure is part of the Hawai`i State Association of Counties' (HSAC) legislative package, all county councils must sign off on it and, if the Honolulu committee vote is any indication, it's not going to pass there.

That means that the Hawai`i GMO labeling movement will most likely be moving on to the next phase- finding support in the legislature.

The first thing is to find two legislators- one in the house and one in the senate- to introduce the bills. And then the fun begins.

It is never too early to start soliciting support for the measure among legislators. The earlier the support the more likely the bill will get a kind ear from the leadership of the two bodies and get referrals to committees that have supportive chairs and, conversely, not get referred to those committees that have chairs who are close to the industry.

For those on Kaua`i who might have the attention of our four legislators- Senator Ron Kouchi, Representatives Derek Kawaikami, Jimmy Tokioka or Dee Morikawa- it can't hurt to try to pin them down on their public positions on GMO labeling now.

The council will be taking a final vote on Wednesday and the stronger the showing of support the more likely it is to get noticed by state legislators... in an election year. If people can't sit around all day and wait for it to come up on the agenda the council now allows people to speak right at 9 a.m. on any agenda topic. And written testimony can be submitted via email at counciltestimony@kauai.gov .

The Codex Alimentarius Commission decision means nothing if those who have thrown up their hands in frustrated despair for the past decade or so don't act, whether here in Hawai`i or in other states.

We'll miss the non-sequiturs and ridiculously convoluted scare tactics of the GMO industry but we'll always have Marx Brothers movies.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


ROOM AT THE TOP: When former County Clerk Peter Nakamura was fired- or, according to some, quit amidst council executive-session-protected investigations of various and sundry allegations of wrong doing- we didn't really expect to hear anything until the decision on a new clerk was a "done deal."

So when our sources at council services told us that ads were placed in both the local and Honolulu newspapers soliciting applications and that there were a significant number of applicants- even from the mainland- though it was nice to think that there might be a little public scrutiny of the list, we didn't hold out much hope.

And we haven't been disappointed in our pessimism.

The job description of the position of clerk is not just "the council's lackey" even though Nakamura's stint under former Chair Kaipo Asing might have given that impressions. He- or she (yeah- that'll happen)- is also the county's chief elections officer and has numerous other important public duties and responsibilities.

But of course the process- and the names of the applicants- has been a tightly held secret with closed-to-the-public, executive sessions the order of the day for review of those seeking the job.

But given the brouhaha over the release of the judicial appointment list and the Office of Information Practices' (OIP) original stance that the names should have been made public- with which a circuit court judge agreed before the judicial selection committee decided was the best policy on their part after all- we wondered if there might be enough of a public interest in release of the names of county clerk applicants to overcome the privacy concerns in the Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA), HRS Chapter 92F.

Silly wabbit.

We gave a call to the attorney of the day at OIP and got an interesting if negatory answer. Staff Attorney Carlotta Amerino wrote:

This email responds to your telephone call to the Office of Information Practices (OIP) on November 17, 2011. You explained that the Kauai County Council is in the process of filling a vacant county clerk position and would be meeting on this matter on November 21. You asked whether you may know the names of all the applicants.

The Uniform Information Practices Act (Modified), Chapter 92F, Hawaii Revised Statutes (UIPA) requires generally that government records are available to the public. HRS section 92F-11. However, the UIPA does not require disclosure of records which, if disclosed, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. HRS section 92F-13(1). Applications for government positions carry significant privacy interests under HRS section 92F-14(b)(4), which, when balanced against the public interest in disclosure, have often outweighed the public interest. See OIP Ltrs. No 90-14, 91-8, and 95-2. In Opinion 03-03, OIP found that a list of judicial nominees could be disclosed publicly, but that opinion was based in part upon the fact that judges have a great impact upon the public.

The UIPA also allows government agencies to withhold information if disclosure would cause the frustration of a legitimate government function. HRS section 92F-13(3). While OIP has not been asked to issue a formal opinion on your specific question, and has not discussed this matter with the County Council, it would not unreasonable for the Council to invoke the "frustration" exception if it feels that qualified applicants would not apply for government jobs if that fact is made public even for the unsuccessful applicants.

I hope this information is helpful.

Carlotta Amerino
Staff Attorney

Basically it's not really an answer because although the judicial selection process is cited, that process is detailed in both the Hawai`i State Constitution and in law and administrative rules whereas the county clerk simply serves "at the pleasure" of the council

That leaves what Amerino refers to as the "frustration" exception which says that things may be kept secret if revealing them would "frustrate a legitimate government function."

In the case of the judicial nominees, Governor Neil Abercrombie claimed the frustration clause in that it would have a "chilling effect" on attorneys causing many to decline to apply. But even that doesn't seem to be the case with the county attorney position any more than any other job where one might not want their current employer to know they were seeking another job. And, of course, in any event, the court struck down such an exception in the judicial selection case.

We haven't formally requested the list of applicants mostly because it would take at least a few weeks just to get an answer from the council- which we know would be "no" anyway- and then we would have to submit that refusal to the OIP for disposition and they are so "busy" and toothless these days we'd be lucky to get a "formal opinion" at all and if we did it could take months if not years.

And by then, most likely we'll have a new clerk.

It may be best to wait for the appointment and then ask for the list- we might have more of a chance then because there would be no way the release could effect the outcome due to political pressures, which Amerino suggested to us on the phone might be applicable in this situation.

It's been noted in national surveys that Hawai`i has one of the best sunshine/open records laws in the country- and one of the worst records for actually keeping meetings open and releasing records.

The minotaur thinks the labyrinth is working just the way it's been designed, thank you very much.

Monday, November 21, 2011



You check in at your activist organization’s web site and there, one of those gullible ninnies has posted comments regarding the conspiracy of the week of the month of the year... chem trails, smart meters, aspartame.

One of the favorites is the contention that all the top corporate media execs and anchors get together every weekend to agree on the spin they will give the news this week. Noam Chomsky laughs off the concept saying basically that these people don't need to be told how to conspire because years of working their way to the top has given them all the required corporate perspective they need.

But last Monday morning even we were startled at how everywhere we turned, TV and print media moved on a dime from a somewhat sympathetic if confused take on the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) takeovers of city centers across the nation, to a sort of "get a job you dirty smelly hippies and stop blocking those of us with a job from getting to it" slant on the movement.

We had a feeling this didn't bode well for the integrity of the skulls of the OWS denizens and sure enough, by the next morning, as though directed by the invisible hand of totalitarian oppression, cities across the country had let loose their police to perpetrate violent, head-cracking crackdowns, throwing those in the streets out into the streets- so to speak.

But the oddest thing happened Tuesday. Reports started to trickle in that, in fact, 11 mayors across the nation had held a conference call to discuss the planned removal of those pesky whiners, according to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan- many of whom, including Quan, acted Monday night.

Although many like Portland Mayor Sam Adams denied the call was a strategy session, none denied it was the topic de jour of their confab.

We had a feeling it was only going to get worse but we had council meetings to watch and local buffoons to skewer. So Saturday, when we began to see the inklings of some kind of viral video of protesters getting pepper sprayed we paid little attention- we'd seen plenty all week already and were all too aware of the all-out effort to all-but-kill-off OWS movement.

But they kept coming... emails... Facebook postings... tweets. Until by halftime of the big Kapa`a High School football game it all got so obtrusive upon our little sports cocoon that we had to watch that which had become the object of all the 'lookie-here" finger pointing.

And it didn't take long to see that the video was- if anything was- going to be a game changer.

So much so that we posted the following to those who had inundated us with links to the quickly and virally-spinning-out-of-control YouTube clip:

This has to be one of the most bizarre things (we)'ve ever seen.

The line of seated protesters had quite obviously been trained in non-violent, passive resistance, yet the cops apparently have not. In fact the officer nonchalantly sprays the whole line of arm-linked dissidents like he's spraying a mound of termites with insecticide while dozens of fellow officers stand there looking on with acquiescence indicating that this was approved if not directed by higher-ups.

But even more distressing is the fact that this is Davis, California, known as one of the most progressive city governments in the country where one would assume that there had been communication and police training in responses to non-violent civil disobedience... (It's) unfathomable that this could happen in this location.

By the evening the clip remained the sole domain of the internet where you couldn't click a clack without finding a link to yet another shot angle or someone else virtually scratching their head in a "is this what it's come to" manner.

Yet the point is- and we do have one- that the deafening nature of the on-line attention paid was apparently inversely proportional to the national TV news coverage.

Saturday brought nothing. Sunday there were a couple of broadcast notes on a "viral video" of a UC Davis pepper spraying event and a couple of outlets even played the most egregious 10 or 15 seconds.

It wasn't until late Sunday night our time (Monday morning on the east coast) that the clip broke through and began running in rotation on CNN, Fox, MSNBC, Bloomberg and the rest.

Seems that the Monday through Friday regulars were back on the job and after some confusion by the weekend crew over whether to actually "cover" the event, the big bosses settled on a spin of "look at what went viral over the weekend" rather than "look what actually happened Friday."

Though the difference may seem like one without a differentiation, the two divergent views of the event point out how any story line that challenges the preconceived and previously broadcast notions of the corporate shills has to be presented with a "we didn't miss this but had to show it to you because so many people were watching it" caveat.

It becomes understandable sometimes how those who see conspiracies everywhere miss the simpler explanations. Because when the herd moves in unison, their eyes in their pocket and their noses on the ground, you got to figure they know something is happening here- they just don't quite know what it is.


A note on the performance by "Makana" for the APEC leaders. Despite notes we received that it was "neither the time or place" for a protest song, in a NY Times editorial on how bad the wealth gap is in Hawai`i- and about our horrific homelessness problems- they note that:

The divide in Hawaii between haves and have-nots is grotesque. So is the reluctance to challenge it. A Hawaiian musician, Makana, recently got a chance and blew it. He was invited to play at an APEC dinner, where he quietly sang a protest song, “We Are the Many,” for 45 minutes. Too quietly: world leaders, including President Obama, kept chatting and chewing, undisturbed.


We'll be light posting this week- so much college basketball, so little time.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


GATHER YE TORCHES AND PITCHFORKS WHILE YE MAY: Though we haven't viewed it yet, reports are that the Kaua`i County Council got quite the last minute earful at yesterday's meeting on a recommendation for a state legislative bill that would require labeling of foods containing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).

The Maui council-generated measure was a part of the Hawai`i State Association of Counties (HSAC) legislative package that all four counties must approve for the recommendations to be sent to the 2012 legislature for consideration and, although the package has been on the council's agenda for more than a month, it was the first discussion of the proposal.

Previously the council had concentrated only on their own recommendation for a bill to close loopholes in the solar hot water mandate for new construction which had undergone changes before being sent, along with the rest of the package, to the full council from committee a week ago, seemingly destined for final disposition yesterday.

But a last minute barrage of emails and Facebook postings by GMO-Free Kaua`i turned out the anti-GMO troops and, according to a Facebook posting by GMO-Free 's Jeri Di Pietro, the council re-referred the package back to committee to be debated next Wednesday.

But while the measure is still alive on Kaua`i, according to Big Mike Levine of Civil Beat, it may face the ax on O`ahu where the Honolulu City Council removed the measure from the package in committee on Tuesday and sent it to the full council without the bill that would require GMO products to say so on thhe labels.

The good news though is that Honolulu didn't reject it because they didn't agree with the bill but because, according to Levine, even though "Safety, Economic Development and Government Affairs Committee Chair Tulsi Gabbard said it's a matter of people knowing what they're feeding their families," she "eventually recommended that the GMO measure be removed, saying it's an important issue that needs a full airing that can't happen now under the tight timeline for the legislative package."

But even though the bill may not get the recommendation of HSAC this year, it's important that the precautionary principle be stressed next week to the council which needs an education on the issue to counter the various farm bureaus' silly contention that because "no one has gotten sick or died" (failing to add "yet") from GMOs, they're perfectly safe and therefore, for some reason, people shouldn't be told what's in their food.

According to Wikipedia, the Precautionary Principle states that "if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action."

Of course the various individual island farm bureaus are populated by Pioneer and Sygenta sycophants who never seem to be able to answer the question of how people would know they were getting sick or otherwise suffering harm from GMO products if they don't know they're eating them.

If you care about the issue, either write the council at counciltestimony@kauai.gov or better still, show up next Wednesday at 9 a.m. and tell them in person.

It may be an uphill fight with big campaign cash and yelps of "jobs, jobs, jobs for the westside" from the industry, but now that the FDA has apparently permitted individual jurisdictions to pass their own labeling laws, the fight has to begin somewhere and with its corn seed folks spreading their Frankenfood pollen all over Waimea, Kaua`i is as good a place as any to start.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


TIME: Normally when Kaua`i Councilmember Mel Rapozo goes on a crusade it's like watching the proverbial broken clock that's right twice a day.

That's usually because of the babooze factor that addles Rapozo, making his penchant for political expediency obvious to all.

So when, according to the local newspaper, he decided to go to court to show that the word "shall" always means "must" when it appears in legislation no one expected him to be right.

For those who have missed the seemingly idiotic argument last month, the county charter specifies that that Salary Commission's resolutions setting administration salaries "shall be adopted by resolution of the commission and forwarded to the mayor and the council on or before March 15."

Although the charter doesn't say so in so many words, it's apparent that the provision is there is in order for the salaries to be set when the yearly budget process begins.

But when the commission tried to present a supplemental resolution to cut administrative salaries this past August Rapozo tried to nix the reso because, he said "shall means shall."

But County Attorney Al Castillo, always one to make sure Mayor Bernard Carvalho- at whose behest the Salary Commission submitted the resolution- gets his way, told the council that the word "shall" can mean "may" when it is used in a "directory" manner.

Now our first thought was that the whole matter was really stupid because the fact is that it's always before March 15- in this case March 15 of 2012. But we also suspected that Castillo, who shares a case of "broken clock syndrome" with Rapozo, might be pulling a fast one because with two broken clocks the odds are increased that something is going to be amiss.

Yesterday, upon the news that Rapozo was going to go to court, attorney-blogger Charley Foster sought to clarify the fact that yes indeed the word "shall" could be used in a discretionary manner, according to previous court rulings.

The problem for Castillo- who certainly has access to the same law books as Foster does- is that in order for "shall" to be used in a non-mandatory way it must meet a "three pronged test" according to the courts.

The term three (or any number really) pronged test means that the subject must meet all three conditions to be true. And apparently the passage in question doesn't meet any of them.

Citing State v. Shannon, 185 P.3d 200 (Haw. 2008), Forster noted that the Hawaii Supreme Court listed the three conditions, saying:

First, “shall” can be read in a non-mandatory sense when a statute’s purpose “confute[s] the probability of a compulsory statutory design.” [Id.] at 676, 619 P.2d at 102. Second, “shall” will not be read as mandatory when “unjust consequences” result. Id. Finally, “the word `shall’ may be held to be merely directory, when no advantage is lost, when no right is destroyed, when no benefit is sacrificed, either to the public or to the individual, by giving it that construction.

The word confute means "to prove to be false, invalid, or defective; disprove." So the first means that basically it would have to make the whole passage contradictory to interpret it as "must." That doesn't seem to be the case here because it is clear that the deadline anticipates the budget process when the salaries are to be appropriated.

So already it doesn't meet the three prong test.

The second certainly isn't true- there is no injustice in submitting the reso before March 15. It many thwart the mayor's political will but that's not part of the test here.

Finally there is certainly a "benefit sacrificed." The benefit of "salaries" is being altered so the last test isn't met either.

As happens on occasion, even though Rapozo is just playing political games here, he is baled out by an equally politically motivated Castillo who pulled the "directory" ploy out of his butt and thought Rapozo would just go away when he brought out the legal mumbo jumbo.

It's doubtful that Rapozo was aware of the three prong test and just lucked out in that, when he goes to court, he will now be armed with Foster's little side research project.

But then you never know who's gonna win out when the battle of the tiny-yet-devious brains pits two such evenly matched opponents.

Monday, November 14, 2011


INSIDE OUTSIDE USA: It's hard to imagine how the "Occupy Honolulu" and "APEC Sucks" folks must feel seeing the viral nature and international news coverage of Honolulu entertainer Makana's guerrilla performance of his song "We Are The Many" from the belly of the beast on Saturday night.

For those who spent yesterday in a cave (or outside at the protests) it seems that the singer was invited to play "background music" at the big finale dinner for all the world leaders- the most secure of all ultra-secure events of the week- and instead played a 45-minute version of his latest song containing the decidedly Marxist first stanza of:

Ye come here, gather ’round the stage
The time has come for us to voice our rage
Against the ones who’ve trapped us in a cage
To steal from us the value of our wage

The irony can't be lost on those who have spent months fighting for the right to scream protestations at APEC delegates and assorted mucky mucks from environs so far from the action that they might as well have been in Kailua. Or on those camped out in Honolulu's Thomas Square Park since Nov. 5 who have received scant notice in the local media and certainly none nationally, probably because there haven't been any violent police actions to clear them out as continued to occur this weekend in places like Oakland and Portland.

The fact that one lone man wearing an "Occupy With Aloha" tee shirt under his jacket and singing what many would like to say to the exploitative elite could not only get inside but garner big time media notice while those who worked for a year to pull off their protests got bupkis, is discouraging to the many to say the least.

But the reality is that Makana didn't really get his message through to those attending the event either as reports are that most were so entangled in their own little worlds they didn't even realize what his song was saying. And those who did kind of shrugged.

APEC and all these other global free trade and investment organizations symbolize all that's wrong with the way so-called developed countries arrogantly think that by throwing around their investment capital they're doing people in lesser developed countries a favor by stealing their labor and natural resources and driving them into slum ridden cites and away from their often subsistence-farming-based villages until they so become dependent on ever-expanding industrialization they can't ever find their way back.

But even though our cries from the streets go unheeded in the world's ivory towers, it's nice to see someone get in their faces every once in a while.

For those who missed them here are the words of Makana's song We Are the Many

We Are The Many Lyrics & Music by Makana Makana Music LLC © 2011

Ye come here, gather ’round the stage
The time has come for us to voice our rage
Against the ones who’ve trapped us in a cage
To steal from us the value of our wage
From underneath the vestiture of law
The lobbyists at Washington do gnaw
At liberty, the bureaucrats guffaw
And until they are purged, we won’t withdraw
We’ll occupy the streets
We’ll occupy the courts
We’ll occupy the offices of you
Till you do
The bidding of the many, not the few
Our nation was built upon the right
Of every person to improve their plight
But laws of this Republic they rewrite
And now a few own everything in sight
They own it free of liability
They own, but they are not like you and me
Their influence dictates legality
And until they are stopped we are not free
We’ll occupy the streets
We’ll occupy the courts
We’ll occupy the offices of you
Till you do
The bidding of the many, not the few
You enforce your monopolies with guns
While sacrificing our daughters and sons
But certain things belong to everyone
Your thievery has left the people none
So take heed of our notice to redress
We have little to lose, we must confess
Your empty words do leave us unimpressed
A growing number join us in protest
We occupy the streets
We occupy the courts
We occupy the offices of you
Till you do
The bidding of the many, not the few
You can’t divide us into sides
And from our gaze, you cannot hide
Denial serves to amplify
And our allegiance you can’t buy
Our government is not for sale
The banks do not deserve a bail
We will not reward those who fail
We will not move till we prevail
We’ll occupy the streets
We’ll occupy the courts
We’ll occupy the offices of you
Till you do
The bidding of the many, not the few
We are the many
You are the few

Thursday, November 10, 2011


GET REAL: Email was bad enough. But now that we broke down and signed up for Facebook, we're inundated with well-meaning people forwarding idiotically simplistic solutions to complex problems which they and whomever started the chain took about three milliseconds to think through.

The latest started as a bogus email chain letter that continues to circulate regarding what was called the "Congressional Reform Act (CRA) of 2011" proposing a constitutional amendment that would cull congressional salaries and eliminate pensions and benefits, essentially making recompense almost non-existent.

Bogus or not it became exceptionally popular with those who forwarded it.

So what's wrong with the content? Well let's start with a maxim that we're sure those who distributed the above will agree with- you get what you pay for.

But moreover take a gander at a recent study by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a nonpartisan organization that keeps track of money in politics.

NPR reports that according Michael Beckel, a spokesperson for the CRP "244 current members of Congress are millionaires — that's about 46 percent and that includes 138 Republicans and 106 Democrats."

Now these guys and gals didn't exactly get rich by stashing away their salaries or even through corruption. They started out rich when they ran for office.

So why did we elect them and not, as the CRA folks called them, "citizen legislators (who) should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work (as) the Founding Fathers envisioned?"

Maybe it's because those citizen legislators can't just stop working and gallivant off to the state or national capitol and expect to not just continue to support their families but to have their jobs to be waiting for them when they get back.

Would your boss do that? Didn't think so.

And these CRA people want to make it worse.

We have two close friends who went into politics- just plain working folks who made for extraordinary office holders. But both are out of politics now, not because they were voted out of office but because essentially they were faced with giving up a job they had either trained their whole lives for and dearly loved doing- or at least one that gave them a steady income- for a "job" they had to re-secure every couple-o'-four years.

And in order to do that they had to raise bucketsful of cash and subject themselves to insults that people ordinarily wouldn't address to their worst enemy.

The people who took their places? In one case he's a longtime hack politician just coming off a get-rich stint out of office and working for a local developer. The other is a glad-handing TV personality whose main job in office is apparently to promote his show and every hotel on the island.

Yet when we suggest making service with both our local county council and state legislature full-time jobs with decent pay that's commensurate with the duties, instead we get crap like this CRA petition which is actually a measure to assure that the other 291 members of congress become part of the same rich "1%" against whom we're out in the streets protesting.

At the same time we'd bet dollars to donuts that "99%" of those who liked the CRA have never heard of another proposed constitutional amendment from the "Move to Amend" organization that would put the kibosh on "corporate personhood," as declared by the Supreme Court, which turned on full blast the already gushing corporate campaign money spigot. At the same time many have opposed programs for partial public financing of elections or even legislation- or if needed a constitutional amendment- ending all campaign contributions in favor of full public financing.

It's the penny wise and pound foolish of the world who scream about "paying for politicians to run for office"- as if they're not paying 100 times more on the back end as corporations buy and sell the pols and write the legislation- and would pay office holders poverty wages, who are the self-same ones that are perpetuating the corrupt system that has people's opinions of elected officials at all-time lows.

So do us all a favor- think it through before you hit that send or post button. We’ve got really important issues to attend to... like the Giants-49ers game this Sunday. Go G-men.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


SHOCKED, SHOCKED: There are predictable times when we news junkies just throw up our hands and go to the library for a bevy of books. It could be the coverage of anything from the trial of the century of the week or some other bleeder-leader that preempts the rest of what passes for news, both locally and nationally.

So we certainly didn't expect coverage of anything of interest when the APEC minions and sycophants marched into town, other than the obligatory protests and even then only the pictures of sign-carriers and super-sized puppets rather than an examination of why these free trade conferences are the scourge of the "developing world."

But lo an behold, some gun-toting g-man from the state department who's supposedly there to provide "protection" to dignitaries, goes out and gets into a 3 a.m. racially-charged altercation at the all-night McDonald’s in Waikiki and shoots and kills a local kid who's out on the town.

Now that would get our attention no matter what. But the mysterious circumstances regarding the charging and release of Christopher Deedy are even more bizarre than the incident itself.

Despite the "duh" headline- "Low bail, swift release suggest to some that suspect had help"- an otherwise extremely informative article by Honolulu Star-Advertiser investigative reporter par excellence Rob Perez reveals that everything from the relatively low bail and lightning fast release of Deedy, to the lack of release of any details by police, was anything but routine.

Perez asked a pack of attorneys who for the most part agreed that the quarter-million dollar bail would have been "highly unusual" even for an indigent suspect, not only for the low amount but the speed with which it was established, paid and the suspect released- all occurring hours before he was scheduled to appear before a judge for arraignment

Not only that but Deedy has apparently disappeared and could be anywhere, even back on the mainland awaiting a court appearance on Nov. 17 after the APEC conference ends.

The problem is that although many smell a rat due to apparent Washington, D.C. diplomatic intervention, what will undoubtedly not get local much less national press coverage is what it says about our judiciary in that they apparently knuckled under to pressure from above in record time- a record even for the notoriously corrupt Hawaii criminal justice system.

We can't help but wonder if Perez's article will be the beginning and end of any investigation of how a murder suspect could be processed and released in the manner Deedy was. But if the kid's gloves the with which the Honolulu media usually treats the Honolulu police, prosecutors and courts is any indication, we don't expect suspicions of something rotten in the state of Hawai`i to get much attention in the future.

Well, it's back to Carl Hiaasen and Lisa Lutz for us. Wake us when Deedy turns up.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


SEEING- AND HEARING- IS BELIEVING: For some reason we seem to have become the clearinghouse for people calling to find out why the heck recent cablecasts of council meetings look like they were done by an aggregation of orangutans using the very first video cameras ever made.

"What the heck is with Ho`ike this time" they scream into the phone, regarding what most assume is yet another incompetent screwup by the Kaua`i public access TV outlet.

The video looks like a 10th generation re-dub and the audio sounds like it was recorded in a bathtub ever since the council moved back into the Historic County Building and the "automatic" system they had installed during the renovation was fired up.

And that's when it worked. Last week's meeting was pure torture to view with the sound of 120-decibel white noise accompanying the wide view of the panel, and the rest, when it was audible at all, was recorded at barely a whisper.

But after talking to Ho`ike Managing Director J Robertson this morning, we discovered what we suspected all along- for once Ho`ike isn't to blame.

And starting tomorrow if all goes well the "new" automated, voice-activated recording system will be scrapped in favor of the old human-driven cameras and recording devices with a real live director, Bill "BC" Charles, at the helm.

According to Robertson, he met with Council Chair Jay Furfaro last week and Furfaro has agreed to scrub the new installation that was initiated by former Council Chair Kaipo Asing.

Seems Asing thought that system used in courts was the cat's meow so had it ordered and installed without consulting Robertson or anyone else who understood anything about video.

"It's certainly not broadcast quality" Robertson said, understating the look of the JAVS system and explaining that the cost for decent cameras wouldn't have been very much more.

"I wish they would have worked with us," he said.

But while we had the near-impossible-to-reach Robertson on the phone, we asked another question that has been a matter of discontent for many- why the meetings can't be cablecast live like the rest of the country.

When Time Warner took over the local cable system, they finally finished constructing what is known as the "I-Net" which connects government facilities to the public access's "head end" where they send their signal from.

Roberson said it connects the Historic County Building with the administrative offices in the Round Building and surrounding offices as well as all the fire stations, the police and courts complex, all the county neighborhood centers and schools.
But he says, the reason he can't use it is because the administration has refused to let him have access to the signal from the council and planning and police commission meetings.

He says he tried for years when Erik Knutzen was the county IT chief but that Knutzen told him- as he had told us- that both former Mayor Bryan Baptiste and current Mayor Bernard Carvalho wouldn't let them have the live signal, which has been viewable live in administrative offices for many years now.

Robertson said he talked to Furfaro about using the I-Net to put live meetings on Ho`ike and that Furfaro seemed receptive to the idea of just cutting the administration out as a "middleman" and making the signal available directly from the council to Ho`ike.

So are we counting on viewable council meetings beginning tomorrow or live ones in the near future?

What are we- freakin' idiots?

No, that's a question that only someone who has never dealt with the council or Ho`ike would ask expecting a positive response. As usual we'll believe it when we see it.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


AZAMBOGUS: When it comes to the local Kaua`i newspaper it takes an awful lot to flabbergast us.

But today's article headlining, on the basis of one unidentified source, that "Radiation feared in Airport shutdown; Airport worker: HAZMAT team was looking for radiation" might just take the cake for the all time most irresponsible piece of "journalism" (note the quotes) we've ever seen.

"Reporter" (those quotes again) Leo Azambuja quotes a single "airport worker" who apparently was speculating him or her self for the story which, if true, would no doubt make national headlines.

Who the heck would "go with" a story like this, especially with an apparent denial from the county and a lack of confirmation from the state?

Now journalists do sometimes report items from single, unidentified sources, But it is, as it should be, rare and the exception to the rule and done only under certain very strict circumstances.

If the source is well known to the reporter, in a position to know and has been extremely reliable in the past there may be a way to present the story with consultation and confirmation with the source by an editor. But publication should come only if every effort has been made to either confirm or debunk the story, especially one that could cause a panic if published.

If the call is made to publish the reporter and editor should then make every effort to inform the reader as to the reason for the single anonymous sourcing and any other information on the source that can be revealed. The information as to why the source is being protected should be included making it very clear at every point in the story that the statement is unconfirmed.

This is what a modern 21st century policy would yield at the NY Times, Washington Post or Associated Press.

In this case it sounds to us like the source just doesn't want to be identified because the story is probably bogus and based on idiotic, uninformed speculation.

But the fact that there is an apparent denial changes circumstances. Actually we have no idea whether there really was a denial from County Spokesperson Mary Daubert because Azambuja's reporting on that is so ambiguous:

County spokeswoman Mary Daubert said the HAZMAT crew tested the center checkpoint for toxic and hazardous odors and substances and found none, and found no radiation.

It's said almost as an afterthought and who knows how or even if the question was posed. You would think for something this important there would be a quote and clarity as to what was said by the spokesperson who's in a position to know.

It's no wonder that no one has picked up on this story even though the Honolulu Star Advertiser and Associated Press commonly, by agreement, re-report local Kaua`i newspaper stories. No one in their right mind would pick up a story like this without any confirmation or at least more information or other sources.

The obvious thing here is that, were this to be some stupid innocuous story like 99% of what appears in the local paper no one would care. But this has the potential to cause panic and people- especially visitors- refusing to go anywhere near the screening area or even the airport itself. Who could blame them?

And all based on a report from "an airport worker" who, for all we know is a janitor or someone who has no connection with the screening process and may have no idea what it would look like if someone was indeed testing for radiation.


Thursday, November 3, 2011


YOU WANT IT WHEN?: We tried- we really did.

But once again, like clockwork, our "little buddy" Leo Azambuja, apparently watched a different county council committee meeting than we did a week ago Wednesday (October 28).

Although the agenda item was a report on the new landfill, what actually happened apparently went completely over Azambuja's head.

The acronym MRF- standing for Materials Recovery Facility- never saw the light of day in the article on the meeting. But it was the central topic of discussion after it was discovered that, despite the desperate need for a MRF to move forward on curbside recycling, the administration, as many have feared, is apparently going to wait for the process of siting the new landfill and completing an environmental impact statement to even start actually building a MRF.

That's because, according to Councilperson JoAnn Yukimura, the administration of Mayor Bernard Carvalho is apparently so enamored of their vision for a Resource Recovery Facility at the same location as the new landfill that they won't even consider anything else.

Rather than starting the process now separately from the landfill siting- which won't be done until at least 2020 according to the administration's presentation- there were no plans presented to indicate that the administration even considered trying to get the MRF "done yesterday" so to speak, in order to divert trash from the old, nearing-capacity landfill so as to buy time for siting a new one.

That would mean construction of an MRF won't even start until June of 2016, Yukimura indicated after looking at the administration's timeline.

Not only that but siting the MRF and other resource recovery facilities inland and near the new landfill is a numbskull idea for a number of reasons despite widespread claims that it "sounds logical."

First of all, as Yukimura and Councilperson Tim Bynum both pointed out, hauling the recyclables far inland- where the presumed new landfill site is- and then back to the harbor will increase costs immensely. But siting the MRF near the harbor would actually make sense so apparently it wasn't considered by the administration.

What no one mentioned is the massive mix of trucks going in and out will cause unneeded congestion costing time and money. And of course if the facilities are too close to the landfill itself, it would put the kibosh on expansion into the area where the facilities are sited.

The reality is that, despite the fact that a MRF was supposed to be completed this year according to the Integrated Solid Waste Program the county approved years ago- and that the "pilot" curbside recycling program had to be suspended for lack of a MRF- there is apparently still no fire under the butts of the Department of Public Works to get the process started except as part of the landfill siting process.

County Engineer Larry Dill did come forward to say that the administration was supposedly working separately on a MRF but it seems like a CYA afterthought. It came only after former County Engineer and current Environmental Services Officer Donald Fujimoto seemed incredibly befuddled by the criticism, apparently because the administration has been so stuck on the concept of putting all the trash-related stuff in one place that they didn't see the need for a MRF as being the most important solid-waste-related project for the county right now.

The whole matter will be back on the agenda soon because the discussion was continually being cut short since the subjects of the MRF and the old landfill weren't even on the agenda.

But the fact that even after the embarrassment of having to cut short the pilot curbside recycling program, even after the passage of a new zero waste resolution by the council AND administration, even though the current landfill's life apparently won't get us to the opening of a new landfill and it's filling up faster than it was supposed to and even though all those recyclables are going into the current landfill because there is no MRF, the administration is still in la-la land with their grand plan for their one-stop opala palace.

Excuse us while we look for a place to get sick.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


MAYBE THE ZOMBIES ATE THEM: We've devoted a slew of bits to the case of Big Island blogger Damon Tucker's beating and arrest- allegedly at the hands of the Hawai`i County Police Department (HiPD)- for, as Tucker claims, photographing a melee outside a Pahoa bar last August after being told to stop doing so.

But even though it appears that Tucker was well within his rights to take photos in a public place, the charges of obstructing police operations is going forward, despite the fact that it appears from the video that he was across the street from all the "action."

The statement from the HiPD that "(t)he Hawaii Police Department recognizes that the media and the public have every right to photograph police activity in a public place from a safe distance" indicates that they do know that Photography Is Not a Crime, as the national clearinghouse website of the same name states.

But apparently that is not the case in Los Angeles where the LA Sheriff’s Department is being sued by the ACLU of Southern California "alleging they harassed, detained and improperly searched photographers taking pictures legally in public places," according to the LA Times.

The article states that:

The federal lawsuit alleges the Sheriff's Department and deputies "have repeatedly" subjected photographers "to detention, search and interrogation simply because they took pictures" from public streets of places such as Metro turnstiles, oil refineries or near a Long Beach courthouse.

"Photography is not a crime. It's protected 1st Amendment expression," said Peter Bibring, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. "It violates the Constitution's core protections for sheriff’s deputies to detain and search people who are doing nothing wrong. To single them out for such treatment while they’re pursuing a constitutionally protected activity is doubly wrong."

Bibring said the policy and practices of the Sheriff's Department reflect a widespread misuse of "suspicious activity reporting" under the auspices of Homeland Security and counterterrorism. Similar suits have been filed in several other states.

Note that it's alleged that it's not isolated incidents but a policy of the department that is the subject of the suit.

The problem is that it's apparent in our reading of the lawsuit itself that either the cops are complete imbeciles who can't tell real terrorism threats from things like photographing innocuous locations or else they are using the law to harass people who won't kow-tow to abuse of their authority.

We suspect the latter.

Don't believe it? Here's more from the same lawsuit:

In another incident, deputies detained and searched Shane Quentin, a photographer with a master's in fine arts from UC Irvine while he was taking pictures of brilliantly lighted refineries in South Los Angeles on Jan. 21. Deputies frisked Quentin and placed him in the back of a police cruiser for about 45 minutes before releasing him. Two years before, Quentin had been ordered twice by deputies to stop taking photos of the refineries, according to the suit.

With the exception of a few bad actors, we on the neighbor island get accustomed to encountering officers who are genurinely trying to protect and serve and take seriously their responsibility to refrain from trampling on citizens' rights in trying to put away the bad guys.

But as our population grows, we're forced more and more to recruit new officers from the same mainland climes where these kinds of attitudes lead to having a populace that is alienated from the paramilitary operation which is supposed to keep them safe without making for an "us" vs. them" paradigm.

We're not sure what's going on inside the HiPD as far as Tucker's obstruction case goes. We sure hope that they are considering abandoning Tucker's prosecution and even repremanding the officers and instituting training on how to handle such situations without escalating them into news-worthy events.

But as Tucker waits for the resolution of the criminal charges and readies his civil suit, this federal lawsuit is going to be one to watch, not just for us but for HiPD as they wrestle with their own in a department that has had more than its share of bad actors over the years.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


SAIL AWAY: We admit to not paying a lot of attention as we let the six hour plus snoozefest- i.e. last week's Kaua`i County Council committee meetings- play, preferring our murder mystery about a detective with Tourette's Syndrome to the seemingly interminable description of the "Multimodal Land Transportation Plan" that began the meeting.

All we could think was, as Glenn Mickens would say, "as if." But that's another column entirely.

It didn’t seem to get any better as Bill 2415 "relating to exemptions for commercial alternative energy facilities" hit the floor. Apparently some developers are seeing dollar signs and have all this "useless" ag land which can now be developed into large-scale solar farms. And they all want to maximize profits by getting a tax break from the county for installing something that just sits there and creates profit for 20 years with minimal maintenance.

But as the discussion droned on as to whether it was indeed agricultural or industrial use, the fact that there would be a limit to the amount of electricity that our local electrical co-op can handle from an "intermittent source" like solar- which only makes hay when the sun shines- came up.

That got our attention because once again it reminded us of the fact that, as anyone who wants to actually put solar panels on their roof and avoid paying for electricity has found out, they are no longer able to participate in the "net metering" program.

Net metering is when the excess electricity one generates from their photovoltaic systems is sold to the co-op at the same rate the user pays for using the co-op's juice, making the "meter run backwards" as they say.

Anyone who missed the boat on net metering gets paid something for the juice they can't use, but not the same "equal" amount that those who got in early pay.

Unless, that is, you're an ag-land-rich developer.

For some reason, even though the amount that individuals can produce without throwing the whole electrical system into chaos has reached its limit, the amount for those who want to sell electricity to KIUC on a large scale basis has not.
And they're even apparently going to get a tax break.

There are plans of course to figure out a storage medium, whether by using super-batteries or by heating water or a through few other schemes. But these seem to be reserved for those who want to "sell you electricity" which of course is, like investor-owned utitlities, still the core business plan of our local electric co-op, despite the fact that it is now owned by the end users.

Getting "free" electricity from the sun is a great idea. The problem comes when the way we go about it is to make it so that the only one who gets it for "free" is KIUC which then turns around and sells it to us rather than facilitating putting panels on individual users' roofs and providing its members with the "free" stuff.