Food Self-Sufficient Society

SUBHEAD: Should Kaua‘i follow Cuba’s agricultural footsteps?

By Michael Pilarski on 19 July 2009 in The Garden Island -

Image above: Looks like old Kauai, a historic Cuban cane haul train on way to sugar mill. From

What do Cuba and Kaua‘i have in common? Both are islands, and both had economies based on sugar cane plantations and tourism (Kaua‘i still has substantial tourism, but it is shrinking). They have taken widely divergent paths since Cuba kicked out the United States in 1959. Cuba has been under embargo by the U.S. ever since.

Plantation sugar cane was still booming under Castro until the USSR fell apart in 1990. All of a sudden, Cuba was cut off from almost all petroleum fuels, tractors, tractor parts, fertilizer, other industrial agriculture inputs plus a big chunk of their imported food supply. Cuba was not focused on feeding itself, it was focused on exporting sugar. There was not enough food.

The society was cohesive enough to collectively tighten its belt and survive, even though people lost an average 30 pounds each over the next couple years while they invented a nation-wide gardening movement. Most of the sugar cane plantations switched to other food crops. There was a big change to animal traction for agriculture and organic fertilizers.

A lot of the sugar cane plantation acreage was distributed to the plantation workers in the first five years after export/import collapse. In response to the imported fertilizer shortage, Cuba has gone on to become one of the world leaders in the development, large-scale production and application of nutrient-fixing, micro-organisms on soils and crops. This includes a wide-scale, large-scale use of vermicomposting (using wormbeds to convert organic matter to fertilizer). They are currently developing a technique of applying foliar sprays of nitrogen-fixing microorganisms which live on leaf surfaces. They also commercially produce soil phosphorus-solubizing bacteria. The red earth soils of Cuba and Kaua‘i have some similarities and the islands are both subtropical.

So no matter what you think about the political scene, it would make good sense for Kaua‘i to research what Cuba has discovered about organic agriculture, vermicomposting and the agricultural use of micro-organisms.

A good book to start with is “Sustainable Agriculture and Resistance: Transforming Food Production in Cuba.” Okay, so there are also huge differences between the countries and I am not promoting their political ideology. Political differences aside, what can Kaua‘i learn from Cuba’s agriculture change-over? Kaua‘i is not likely to see an economic embargo, but it is obviously subject to economic downturns in the global economy.

If tourism keeps dropping (which looks to be the case), there is going to be less money flowing into Kaua‘i’s economy. If Kaua‘i wakes up some day and finds that its imports of fossil-fuels, food, etc., are greatly reduced, then people will be very glad for any effort expended to plan and prepare for such an eventuality.

 How do we develop an agriculture (and gardening movement) which will make Kaua‘i less dependent on imported food? This means producing more food, a wider diversity of food crops and a higher quality of nutrient dense food. It is critical to figure out how to do all this while reducing imported agriculture inputs.

Some of these questions will be explored in the Kaua‘i Agricultural Study currently being conducted (visit or contact If Cuba can do it than Kaua‘i can achieve this too, of that I am confident.

The knowledge is available. Traditional ahupua‘a management, permaculture and other holistic, ecological, agro-ecosystem design systems are available. The people power is available within Kaua‘i’s diverse and capable population. And, there is a huge ground-swell of public support for local food production. If you are interested in learning more about Cuba’s transition to a food self-sufficient society, please join Malama Kaua‘i and Activate Kaua‘i for a free showing of “The Greening of Cuba.” Visit or ActivateKauai.Org for details.

 [IB Editor's Note: Michael Pilarski is a permaculture instructor, and led the two-week Permaculture Design course on Kaua‘i in March 2009]

See also:

Health Risks of GMO's

SUBHEAD: We are All Eating GMO Foods, and Research shows Serious Health Effects.

By Linda Pascatore on 26 July 2009 for Island Breath - (

Image above: Onion illustration from "Know What You Eat" campaign created by GreenPeace. From  

[IB Publisher's Note: The following is a brief summary of important material on the health effects of GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms). For the full text, go to Health Risks on the Institute for Responsible Technology website:]
Americans are now eating genetically modified ingredients in most of their processed foods. GM (Genetically Modified) plants have had foreign genes inserted into their DNA. Many of these genes are from viruses and bacteria which are new to the human food supply.

The most common GM plants which are found in processed food include corn, soybean, canola, and cottonseed. Genetic Engineering is nothing like conventional hybrids or breeding that have been done in the past. In genetic engineering, the species barrier is crossed: two different species that normally can never cross breed are artificially forced together on a genetic level.

This Genetic Engineering is little understood, even by those who perform it. They use several different methods.

One is like a crap shoot: a "gene gun" shoots genes into a group of cells, hoping they will hit the correct gene to have the desired effect.

Another method involves using a bacteria or virus to invade the host cell with the foreign DNA.

Both of these methods can cause mutations and unexpected and undesirable effects. Research has been done, primarily in animal studies.

Some of the known health effects which have been found include damaged immune systems, pre-cancerous growth, smaller brains, problems with the liver and other organs, cellular anomalies, reproductive problems and sterility, increased infant mortality, and death. Some noted human effects are increased allergic and immune system reactions to GM foods. There have been few human clinical trials for GM foods.

However, there is one published study in which humans were fed GM soy. It found that the Genetically Modified bacteria in the soy was transferred into the DNA of the human's digestive tracts.

That means that these foreign proteins with their unknown effects may continue to reproduce inside us. If the antibiotic gene which is inserted into most GM crops were to transfer, it could create antibiotic resistent diseases. If the BT gene that secretes pesticides were to transfer, we could have pesticides produced in our intestines.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: AAEM calls for GMO Ban 5/19/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Genetically Modified Kauai 12/10/09

Kaipo worries supporter

SUBHEAD: Even those loyal to Asing Kaipo are questioning his judgment on secrecy and operations.
Comment by Miliaulani on 25 July 2009 in Kauai Eclectic -
Locally born and raised, and part Hawaiian like Kaipo, I have voted consistently for this man for as long as he has been running for office. What I admired about him for many years was the one-man campaign he ran, keeping his spending to a minimum, his integrity unable to be bought. I don't understand what happened along the way, but I do believe the very qualities I admired over the years must still be a part of who this man is.
image above: William "Kaipo" Asing, on 7 July 2008, before being appointed temporary mayor of Kauai following death Bryan Baptiste.
There is no doubt of his love for Kauai and his desire to preserve the specialness of this place, but he has made some obvious missteps. If anything, he needs to be open to new ideas, new ways of doing things. Just because things were done the same way for the last 26 years, doesn't means it cannot be improved upon. If other councilmembers are having difficulties with the processes, then it behooves him to listen and implement change that is beneficial to all concerned. I voted for Lani and want her to be able to do her job just as effectively as Kaipo. She is young with fresh ideas and she is helping to bring County government into this new age of technology. Kaipo should support that and be willing to change with the times. If not, perhaps it is time for him to step down. He has done many good things for Kauai and we owe him gratitude for his years of service, however, perhaps it is time for a change. I support Lani and Tim's desire for a change in the way the council runs their business. Lani openly admitted that she was somewhat intimidated by Kaipo and so she communicated via written correspondence. Nothing wrong with that and I admire her for saying as much publicly. Being the only woman on the council makes it even more intimidating, especially when both Kaipo and Darryl have talked down to her in a patronizing way in the past. Lani does not deserve that. She is green yes, so the responsibility lies with the seasoned councilmembers to assist in any way possible to help her to do her job, if they are truly 'ohana as Jay said.
see also:

Guardians of Hierarchy

SUBHEAD: Power consolidates at the top to form a systemic cancer. An unpopular idea with those controlling our lives.
The Guardian Institutions of Hierarchy - By Paul Chefurka on 22 July 2009 in - One aspect of human culture that seems irresistible to the ancient status-seeking part of our brain is the development of hierarchies. The encoding of personal status and power into social structures is evident in the tribes and troops of all the great apes, but human beings have gone much further. We built an entire globe-spanning civilization on the foundation of hierarchy.
image above: United States Secret Service personnel are assigned protecting the pinnacle of the hierarchy of our system - the Presidency.
From One inevitable effect of social hierarchies (in fact the effect that made our global civilization possible) is the consolidation of power. As new power comes into a hierarchic social system it flows preferentially to the top. As the system develops, even the small amount of power available to those at the bottom of the social pyramid is removed and ends up concentrated at the top in a power elite. This becomes a positive feedback loop: the more power is consolidated at the top, the easier the consolidation becomes. This consolidation of power is seen in all social hierarchies. As you would expect, our most hierarchic societies, from ancient Egypt to Stalinist Russia to the USA, exhibit it most profoundly. You can think of this effect as a form of social reverse osmosis, in which power is pumped through a semi-permeable membrane up a gradient from social regions of low power concentration to regions of high concentration, with class boundaries forming the membrane between them. Physical reverse osmosis requires both a semi-permeable membrane and a pump, so it's logical to look for similar mechanisms in this social metaphor. What drives social power from low to high concentrations? And what keeps the semi-permeable membrane of social class boundaries intact so that the whole system can function? In our metaphor of reverse osmosis, these mechanisms are provided by what I call the Guardian Institutions. These are the corporate, economic, financial, political, legal, religious, educational and communications institutions that form the structural skeleton of our civilization. Corporations and businesses cooperate with economic and financial institutions to set the value of work and control the money supply. In this role it doesn't make any difference whether an economy is capitalist, socialist or communist. The core beliefs it guards are always the same: ownership and growth. In our Western civilization these institutions are the pumps that move power (transfigured into wealth) away from the powerless and to the powerful. Political institutions encode, enshrine and manage the application of social power. Politics is the institution that legitimizes all the others. Because of its unique ability to make laws and its access to legalized violence to defend them, politics is the primary self-defense mechanism of the power hierarchy of civilization. In this view it doesn't matter if the political system is democratic or authoritarian, capitalist or socialist, liberal or fascist, feudal, monarchic or dictatorial. As long as the political system can make laws and use institutionalized violence (i.e. police) to enforce them, any political system will fulfill this core function. From this point of view the differences between them are largely cosmetic. Even the differences between parties in a democratic system are a useful irrelevancy – useful to those in power by giving the powerless a calming illusion of control. Politics as a social system invariably works to the benefit of those at the tip of the power pyramid. Legal institutions enforce the norms of the hierarchy in ways too numerous to count. These range from the protection of privilege (one law for the rich, one for the poor) to the preferential defense of property rights over human rights. Along with the police force it empowers, the legal system is the tip of the spear that keeps the power-holders safe from the powerless. In the terms of our metaphor, legal institutions maintain the integrity of the semi-permeable membrane of social class. Religious institutions (as distinct from the religions they purport to enshrine) are primarily normative social structures. Many incorporate an overt message that we should be content with things as they are. There are often injunctions against questioning authority, as all authority is seen to devolve from the supernatural – as it has ever since the shamans of the early agricultural era. Like legal institutions, they guard the integrity of social classes, though in our civilization the role of religion has been handed over largely to the legal sphere with its more overt control mechanisms. Educational institutions teach successive generations how the system works. It gives those at the tip of the pyramid the tools to integrate into it and manipulate it. At the same time it trains everyone involved to see the pyramid of hierarchy as the only possible way the world can work. Those who do not accede to the top of the system learn to be content that the perceived order is natural, inevitable, beneficial, and unquestionable. An interesting twist in modern education is that we are now taught that the rights of the powerful are acquired through merit rather than birth (though many PhDs have learned otherwise). Communications media reinforce the message of the inevitability and beneficence of our social hierarchy by enlisting people in the power/growth/ownership paradigm. They do this through overt messages like advertising, covert messages embedded in the story lines of entertainment and of course the selective editing and presentation style of news programs. People who are programmed by this constant messaging come to regard any values that challenge the existing structure as incomprehensible, self-evidently absurd, dangerous or even insane. From this perspective, the various organizations through which the power elite manifest in our civilization – the World Economic Forum, the Bilderberg Group, The Family, Skull and Bones and all the rest – are not, in and of themselves, the problem. They are merely the ways in which the tip of our civilization's power hierarchy has organized itself along lines of common interest. The underlying, unspoken goal of all of them is the efficient maintenance and enhancement of a structure that works to their advantage. If they were emasculated or dismantled, other such organizations would spring up to replace them. So what can we (those of us who are egalitarian or simply powerless and have not swallowed the soma of our culture) do about this situation? It's a tough question, because as I said above, I don't think that directly attacking the organizations themselves will work over the long run. Getting rid of one of them would be like cutting out a skin lesion that is simply a visible metastasis of a systemic cancer. The body of our civilization is riddled with this particular cancer, and has been for at least the last few hundred years. Perhaps the only real solution lies in a civilizational death and rebirth, but that's a fairly ... ummm... unpopular notion, especially to those at the tip of the power hierarchy.

GMO Rep FDA Food Czar

SOURCE: Ken Taylor (
SUBHEAD: This month Monsanto's lawyer became the food safety czar for the FDA. What have we done?

By Jeffrey Smith on 24 July 2009 in Responsible Technology -

Image above: Michael Taylor as the "Merry Milkman" collage by Juan Wilson

The person who may be responsible for more food-related illness and death than anyone in history has just been made the US food safety czar. This is no joke.Here's the back story.

When FDA scientists were asked to weigh in on what was to become the most radical and potentially dangerous change in our food supply -- the introduction of genetically modified (GM) foods -- secret documents now reveal that the experts were very concerned.

Memo after memo described toxins, new diseases, nutritional deficiencies, and hard-to-detect allergens. They were adamant that the technology carried "serious health hazards," and required careful, long-term research, including human studies, before any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) could be safely released into the food supply.

But the biotech industry had rigged the game so that neither science nor scientists would stand in their way. They had placed their own man in charge of FDA policy and he wasn't going to be swayed by feeble arguments related to food safety. No, he was going to do what corporations had done for decades to get past these types of pesky concerns. He was going to lie.

Dangerous Food Safety Lies
When the FDA was constructing their GMO policy in 1991-2, their scientists were clear that gene-sliced foods were significantly different and could lead to

"different risks" than conventional foods. But official policy declared the opposite, claiming that the FDA knew nothing of significant differences, and declared GMOs substantially equivalent.

This fiction became the rationale for allowing GM foods on the market without any required safety studies whatsoever!The determination of whether GM foods were safe to eat was placed entirely in the hands of the companies that made them -- companies like Monsanto, which told us that the PCBs, DDT, and Agent Orange were safe.

GMOs were rushed onto our plates in 1996. Over the next nine years, multiple chronic illnesses in the US nearly doubled -- from 7% to 13%. Allergy-related emergency room visits doubled between 1997 and 2002 while food allergies, especially among children, skyrocketed. We also witnessed a dramatic rise in asthma, autism, obesity, diabetes, digestive disorders, and certain cancers.

In January of this year, Dr. P. M. Bhargava, one of the world's top biologists, told me that after reviewing 600 scientific journals, he concluded that the GM foods in the US are largely responsible for the increase in many serious diseases.

In May, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine concluded that animal studies have demonstrated a causal relationship between GM foods and infertility, accelerated aging, dysfunctional insulin regulation, changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system, and immune problems such as asthma, allergies, and inflammation.

In July, a report by eight international experts determined that the flimsy and superficial evaluations of GMOs by both regulators and GM companies "systematically overlook the side effects" and significantly underestimate "the initial signs of diseases like cancer and diseases of the hormonal, immune, nervous and reproductive systems, among others."

The Fox Guarding the Chickens If GMOs are indeed responsible for massive sickness and death, then the individual who oversaw the FDA policy that facilitated their introduction holds a uniquely infamous role in human history. That person is Michael Taylor. He had been Monsanto's attorney before becoming policy chief at the FDA. Soon after, he became Monsanto's vice president and chief lobbyist.

This month Michael Taylor became the senior adviser to the commissioner of the FDA. He is now America's food safety czar. What have we done?

While Taylor was at the FDA in the early 90's, he also oversaw the policy regarding Monsanto's genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH/rbST) -- injected into cows to increase milk supply.

The milk from injected cows has more pus, more antibiotics, more bovine growth hormone, and most importantly, more insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). IGF-1 is a huge risk factor for common cancers and its high levels in this drugged milk is why so many medical organizations and hospitals have taken stands against rbGH. A former Monsanto scientist told me that when three of his Monsanto colleagues evaluated rbGH safety and discovered the elevated IGF-1 levels, even they refused to drink any more milk -- unless it was organic and therefore untreated.

Government scientists from Canada evaluated the FDA's approval of rbGH and concluded that it was a dangerous facade. The drug was banned in Canada, as well as Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. But it was approved in the US while Michael Taylor was in charge. His drugged milk might have caused a significant rise in US cancer rates. Additional published evidence also implicates rbGH in the high rate of fraternal twins in the US.

Taylor also determined that milk from injected cows did not require any special labeling. And as a gift to his future employer Monsanto, he wrote a white paper suggesting that if companies ever had the audacity to label their products as not using rbGH, they should also include a disclaimer stating that according to the FDA, there is no difference between milk from treated and untreated cows.

Taylor's disclaimer was also a lie. Monsanto's own studies and FDA scientists officially acknowledged differences in the drugged milk. No matter. Monsanto used Taylor's white paper as the basis to successfully sue dairies that labeled their products as rbGH-free.

Will Monsanto's Wolff Also Guard the Chickens? As consumers learned that rbGH was dangerous, they refused to buy the milk. To keep their customers, a tidal wave of companies has publicly committed to not use the drug and to label their products as such. Monsanto tried unsuccessfully to convince the FDA and FTC to make it illegal for dairies to make rbGH-free claims, so they went to their special friend in Pennsylvania -- Dennis Wolff.

As state secretary of agriculture, Wolff unilaterally declared that labeling products rbGH-free was illegal, and that all such labels must be removed from shelves statewide. This would, of course, eliminate the label from all national brands, as they couldn't afford to create separate packaging for just one state.

Fortunately, consumer demand forced Pennsylvania's Governor Ed Rendell to step in and stop Wolff's madness. But Rendell allowed Wolff to take a compromised position that now requires rbGH-free claims to also be accompanied by Taylor's FDA disclaimer on the package.

President Obama is considering Dennis Wolff for the top food safety post at the USDA. Yikes!

Rumor has it that the reason why Pennsylvania's governor is supporting Wolff's appointment is to get him out of the state -- after he "screwed up so badly" with the rbGH decision. Oh great, governor. Thanks.

Ohio Governor Gets Taylor-itus Ohio not only followed Pennsylvania's lead by requiring Taylor's FDA disclaimer on packaging, they went a step further. They declared that dairies must place that disclaimer on the same panel where rbGH-free claims are made, and even dictated the font size. This would force national brands to re-design their labels and may ultimately dissuade them from making rbGH-free claims at all. 
The Organic Trade Association and the International Dairy Foods Association filed a lawsuit against Ohio. Although they lost the first court battle, upon appeal, the judge ordered a mediation session that takes place today. Thousands of Ohio citizens have flooded Governor Strickland's office with urgent requests to withdraw the states anti-consumer labeling requirements.

Perhaps the governor has an ulterior motive for pushing his new rules. If he goes ahead with his labeling plans, he might end up with a top appointment in the Obama administration.

To hear what America is saying about GMOs and to add your voice, go to our new non-GMO Facebook Group.

[Editor's Note: It is possible Michael Taylor can still be reached at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services Phone: (202) 994-4234 - Fax: (202) 296-0025 - Email:]

Mutiny at the County

SUBHEAD: Council Chair Kaipo Asing was using every misdirection and misinformation trick in the book.
Image above: Kaipo Asing as a Three Card Monte con artist.
By Andy Parx on 24 July 2009 in Parx News Daily - ( All that was missing in Chair Kaipo “Captain Queeg” Asing’s defense of his iron fisted managerial style at yesterday’s council kafuffle was a couple of steel balls and repetitious claims that “it was the strawberries” that were at the heart of all the simple demands for fair equitable and transparent treatment from Councilmembers Tim Bynum and Lani Kawahara. Well, actually the steel balls were present, not rolling around in the Chair’s hands but between his legs symbolizing his gall in using every misdirection and misinformation trick in the book in vainly grasping at any straw to keep the council labyrinth under the sole domain of the Minotaur.
By now most have read the coverage of the 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. emotion-packed council meeting but only a viewing of the tapes can give a sense of the gradual descent into madness exhibited by Asing as he tried everything he could to not address the issues and instead attack the two reformers and defend an archaic set of whole cloth polices with a “who, sweet little me?” routine .
Most everyone knows by now the three simple reforms demanded by Bynum and Kawahara – that they actually receive mail addressed to them (imagine such nerve) , that their right to place matters on the agenda is assured and that they and the public have timely and equitable access to council documents. So we won’t rehash them or the long and sordid history of their attempts to work toward resolving them internally. They’re all available at their web site. The meeting began with dozens of members of the public filing up to demand their rights as constituents- to allow their representatives to do their work. Then Bynum and Kawahara essentially tried to tell the same story they had told at their web site and in op-ed articles in the newspaper. That’s when the going got weird and weird got going, in the person of not Asing but County Attorney (CA) Al Castillo. He apparently had been instructed by Asing to stop discussion of the particulars of how mail was distributed if Bynum and Kawahara were doing the accusing. He seemed hell bent on stopping any nitty-gritty discussions of some of the manipulations and machinations, not giving any reason why other than to essentially read the sunshine law that allows the council to go into executive session (ES) to discuss their duties, liabilities privileges and the like. From what we could glean from Castillo’s continual, cryptic, guarded and severely parsed interruptions of Bynum’s and Kawahara’s “presentations”, apparently the contention that the council routinely ignores the sunshine law, that Asing and his staff obstruct justice and interfere with access to public document by councilmembers and misdirect their mail- as well as who knows what they were about to reveal- involved exposing illegal activity. And, in addition, since the charges involved activities of “staff”- specifically and presumably County Clerk Peter Nakamura- Castillo interpreted that as discussing “personnel” matters. The open discussion of the subject essentially ended with a new catch-22 of Castillo’s design. If the councilmembers detailed matters of illegal activity such as document manipulation, interference with the US mail or who knows what, they would be “exposing the county to liability”. But of course if they don’t detail what they know they’d be colluding in the crimes. The two were incredulous at this as was the crowd which expressed its anger with screams, cat calls and boos when Castillo called for an executive session to discuss the charges. But rather than holding an ES, Kawahara asked to speak to Castillo during a recess and after an apparently long recess where, according to witnesses Castillo badgered Kawahara in an animated conversation, Kawahara, choking back tears of frustration told the assembled that somehow it had evolved to the point where “it’s a matter of how long I want to be a councilmember” saying that now she wanted an executive session to apparently discuss some of the threats Castillo made. But now it was Asing who refused to go into ES even though Castillo asked for one causing Bynum to point out how a couple of weeks ago Asing has admonished him for not following the CA’s advice to go into ES. Anyway the ES didn’t happen and Kawahara did manage to get out some of her presentation detailing and demonstrating how email that was addressed to her was distributed by printing it out, without the return address and explaining how things addressed to “the chair and all councilmembers” were either long delayed or sometimes never reached her. “This is exactly what should go on the public record, not in executive session” she said in describing her presentation. It was then time for Asing’s defense. “I could refute every allegation (Bynum) made- you’ve heard things that are false, half the truth, maybe not even that” said Asing. And although he was belligerent in personally attacking Bynum and Kawahara- after they had simply tried to stick to the issues- and promised to refute every point, as he addressed each he did anything but, answering unrelated changes he seemed to make up on the spot as if to appear to address the issues the two raised while actually ranting on about unrelated and irrelevant information on almost every point. In classic “are you going to believe me or your lyin' eyes” manner he conveniently disregarded Bynum’s attempts to place a rules change on the June 3 agenda, as an agitated Asing showed Bynum’s signature on the “current” council rules passed last December 1 saying Bynum wasn’t truthful in claiming he was not able to introduce a rule change. Asing charged that Bynum didn’t suggest changes “even though you had every opportunity to do so.” Problem was he was talking, not about the June 3 meeting or any of the numerous internal requests both Bynum and Kawahara had made to put rule changes on the agenda but about the ceremonial and scripted inaugural meeting at the convention hall. The fact is that this “first council meeting” after each election takes place in the back room before hundred of dignitaries and is the “real” swearing in ceremony. It is anything but an opportunity to address the rules. This year for example when we and activist Bruce Pleas wanted to speak about aspects of the rules we literally had to disrupt the meeting and had the people present squirming in their seats and giving us stink eye for daring to interrupt the script, which usually calls for unanimous votes on a few matters- including appointing the clerk which of course means the council never got to address the rules of that appointment at a regular council meeting unless the chair allows it onto the agenda. By daring to speak we were also holding up the “fake” swearing in that was about to happen in the auditorium where 1000 plus people were looking at their watches wanting to know what the holdup was. Asing then went on to try to disprove that Bynum’s charges that they didn’t have the ability to place items on the agenda as the council rules require (although they did say the chair must initial all agenda items). Bynum has cited years of attempts to put a bill before the council appropriating $400,000 to study beach erosion at Po`ipu Beach and Asing’s refusal to allow it. But instead of addressing the years of attempts and his refusal Asing went into a long diatribe about how there was a potential budget deficit in January at the time of Bynum’s last attempt due to the possibility the legislature would take away the county’s share of the transient accommodations tax. That, Asing claimed, made him reject the bill and rather put the money in the following year’s budget saying ”it’s the same thing” supposedly showing his wisdom. He tried to parse the dustup as a young and out of control Bynum trying to spend money we didn’t have while he, the older cool head had found a better way to do it. But later in explanation Bynum pointed out that the real story was that due to Asing’s stonewalling of his bill he had gathered many in the community to lobby the administration for the money and it was the administration, not Asing, that included it in the budget. He also told Bynum he wouldn’t introduce it because “you don’t have three other votes”. And indeed both councilperson Darryl Kaneshiro and Dickie Chang confirmed that they had discussed it and would support the chair in his denial- a commitment that is a blatant violation of the sunshine law and exemplifies Asing’s back-room dealing modus operandi. Chang would later, during what passed for a brief Kumbaya moment in the meeting, revealed a plethora of sunshine law violations including commitments on votes made by at least three councilmembers as well as other backroom deals he had been involved in through serial one-on-one communications. Bynum was floored by the attitude and the blatant violation of the law saying that it was his understanding that the way a open and democratic legislative body works is that you discuss the bill in public by putting it on the council agenda and have a public hearing. If you get four votes there you get your bill. You don’t block it from even being discussed and do so in a back room through arm twisting and vote trading alliances. Asing then went on to the subject of minutes and other documents being placed on the web site repeating many of the fabrications that were made in a June administration press release (as PNN reported) saying that he and the administration had been “working on it for years” and claiming absurd delays got in the way such as the death of Mayor Baptiste and the elections and other unrelated items. And he chose to focus of a statement made by Bynum that it was almost impossible to find a jurisdiction that didn’t post important documents and other things like video of meetings, yelling over and over that the Big Island didn’t post “minutes’. The fact is that the Big Island site does not post minutes but has slews of documents the Kaua`i site doesn’t including the whole county code, all the councilmember public disclosure reports (which aren’t even available on paper on Kaua`i as PNN has detailed) and even streaming video along with other documents. And the fact is that the administration has, according to Bynum, now apologized to him for the fabrications in the press release admitting that any delays in posting the minutes- the only thing currently available on Kaua`i along with so-called recap memo from each meeting that no one even knew existed- were purely at Asing's demand, a matter that IT manager Erik Knutzen told us and many others last year, saying all he needed to do that and other things on line for the council was the chair’s say so. The announcement” came only after two contentious meetings and the publicizing of the lack of on-line council documents by Bynum and Kawahara. And the administration had been posting minutes for many months when the press release was sent two weeks ago. Yet the chair insisted “the system works- there’s no need to change the rules. I've done a good job of administering the rules. I’ve administered the rules the way it was intended to be”. Then came one of the bigger misdirections. Bynum and Kawahara, as we mentioned above, had figured out that mail- including email and other snail mail and other correspondence- that is addressed to the “chair and all councilmembers” does not reach them in a timely manner sometimes taking days or even weeks and sometimes not getting to them at all. But Asing insisted it wasn’t true saying that if something is addressed to a specific councilmember it goes directly to them. Problem is that that isn’t what the two had asked for. Asing seemingly admitted not forwarding mail addressed to him and all councilmembers, going into a convoluted description of how “agenda” mail- whatever he decides that is- goes to staff for what he called “sanitizing”. Then, ducking one of the prime issue, he astoundingly said “I wont be discussing electronic mail”. Bynum and Kawahara have revealed how until last month they couldn’t even get email for all councilmembers in email form with at their addresses rather being printed out and put in their mailbox... with the return address deleted. This has led to the institution at their demand of a new address which is sent to them now by email even though other email is still printed out. However, although the other email and electronic correspondence now has a return address it’s still not available as email, only on paper. Another obtuse charge by Asing was that Bynum was doing what he accused Asing of doing- not distributing communications to all councilmembers when they come in from the administration saying Bynum didn’t forward a CA letter on a bill Bynum was working on to Asing and the rest of the council. But that wasn’t the issue- Bynum’s memo from the CA was a personal request for information on a working draft of a document, not something that came into council services addressed to all councilmembers. Another revelation was that Asing blocked a bill that Bynum tried to introduce requiring posting of minutes by the administration and council. But Asing blocked it at every point because apparently that would have revealed that the county was not complying with the law by getting the minutes for boards and commissions “done” in 30 days. Rather than having the administration be “embarrassed” according to Asing, he blocked the bill. After a few more of these, the meeting really got hot and heavy with Asing still trying to use his obfuscations and even outright fabrication when Bynum got a chance to respond. It was then that, as the newspaper described it, it turned into a marriage counseling session. Later, even while refusing to admit there was anything wrong with the rules or his actions or any council processes over which he presides, Asing promised massive changes will be instituted "on Monday" after which he went right back to his Captain Queeg routine. That’s enough for today. We’ll most likely report more on the rest of the meeting soon- we haven’t even seen the end which we hear was a humdinger. No matter what we write we can’t possibly do justice to the events and Asing’s absolute jaw-dropping stonewalling along with some cryptic mentions about someone “tampering with the county web site”, the involvement at one point of the police and the constant unexplained interruptions from Castillo which went on intermittently throughout the meeting. Take a gander at the meeting, playing on channel 53 throughout the weekend- it’s so long it will probably be the only thing on.
see also by Parx:

Get Smarter

SUBHEAD: Will shortcutting natural evolution to make us smart enough to survive?
Image above: Illustration found at By Jamais Cascio in the July/August 2009 Atlantic - [Editor's note: this is the opening of a long article linked above or below] Seventy-four thousand years ago, humanity nearly went extinct. A super-volcano at what’s now Lake Toba, in Sumatra, erupted with a strength more than a thousand times that of Mount St. Helens in 1980. Some 800 cubic kilometers of ash filled the skies of the Northern Hemisphere, lowering global temperatures and pushing a climate already on the verge of an ice age over the edge. Some scientists speculate that as the Earth went into a deep freeze, the population of Homo sapiens may have dropped to as low as a few thousand families.
The Mount Toba incident, although unprecedented in magnitude, was part of a broad pattern. For a period of 2 million years, ending with the last ice age around 10,000 B.C., the Earth experienced a series of convulsive glacial events. This rapid-fire climate change meant that humans couldn’t rely on consistent patterns to know which animals to hunt, which plants to gather, or even which predators might be waiting around the corner. How did we cope? By getting smarter. The neuro­physi­ol­ogist William Calvin argues persuasively that modern human cognition—including sophisticated language and the capacity to plan ahead—evolved in response to the demands of this long age of turbulence. According to Calvin, the reason we survived is that our brains changed to meet the challenge: we transformed the ability to target a moving animal with a thrown rock into a capability for foresight and long-term planning. In the process, we may have developed syntax and formal structure from our simple language. Our present century may not be quite as perilous for the human race as an ice age in the aftermath of a super-volcano eruption, but the next few decades will pose enormous hurdles that go beyond the climate crisis. The end of the fossil-fuel era, the fragility of the global food web, growing population density, and the spread of pandemics, as well as the emergence of radically transformative bio- and nano­technologies—each of these threatens us with broad disruption or even devastation. And as good as our brains have become at planning ahead, we’re still biased toward looking for near-term, simple threats. Subtle, long-term risks, particularly those involving complex, global processes, remain devilishly hard for us to manage. But here’s an optimistic scenario for you: if the next several decades are as bad as some of us fear they could be, we can respond, and survive, the way our species has done time and again: by getting smarter. But this time, we don’t have to rely solely on natural evolutionary processes to boost our intelligence. We can do it ourselves. Most people don’t realize that this process is already under way. In fact, it’s happening all around us, across the full spectrum of how we understand intelligence. It’s visible in the hive mind of the Internet, in the powerful tools for simulation and visualization that are jump-starting new scientific disciplines, and in the development of drugs that some people (myself included) have discovered let them study harder, focus better, and stay awake longer with full clarity. So far, these augmentations have largely been outside of our bodies, but they’re very much part of who we are today: they’re physically separate from us, but we and they are becoming cognitively inseparable. And advances over the next few decades, driven by breakthroughs in genetic engineering and artificial intelligence, will make today’s technologies seem primitive. The nascent jargon of the field describes this as “ intelligence augmentation.” I prefer to think of it as “You+.” Scientists refer to the 12,000 years or so since the last ice age as the Holocene epoch. It encompasses the rise of human civilization and our co-evolution with tools and technologies that allow us to grapple with our physical environment. But if intelligence augmentation has the kind of impact I expect, we may soon have to start thinking of ourselves as living in an entirely new era. The focus of our technological evolution would be less on how we manage and adapt to our physical world, and more on how we manage and adapt to the immense amount of knowledge we’ve created. We can call it the Nöocene epoch, from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of the Nöosphere, a collective consciousness created by the deepening interaction of human minds. As that epoch draws closer, the world is becoming a very different place. Of course, we’ve been augmenting our ability to think for millennia. When we developed written language, we significantly increased our functional memory and our ability to share insights and knowledge across time and space. The same thing happened with the invention of the printing press, the telegraph, and the radio. The rise of urbanization allowed a fraction of the populace to focus on more-cerebral tasks—a fraction that grew inexorably as more-complex economic and social practices demanded more knowledge work, and industrial technology reduced the demand for manual labor. And caffeine and nicotine, of course, are both classic cognitive-enhancement drugs, primitive though they may be. With every technological step forward, though, has come anxiety about the possibility that technology harms our natural ability to think. These anxieties were given eloquent expression in these pages by Nicholas Carr, whose essay “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” (July/August 2008 Atlantic) argued that the information-dense, hyperlink-rich, spastically churning Internet medium is effectively rewiring our brains, making it harder for us to engage in deep, relaxed contemplation. Carr’s fears about the impact of wall-to-wall connectivity on the human intellect echo cyber-theorist Linda Stone’s description of “continuous partial attention,” the modern phenomenon of having multiple activities and connections under way simultaneously. We’re becoming so accustomed to interruption that we’re starting to find focusing difficult, even when we’ve achieved a bit of quiet. It’s an induced form of ADD—a “continuous partial attention-deficit disorder,” if you will. There’s also just more information out there—because unlike with previous information media, with the Internet, creating material is nearly as easy as consuming it. And it’s easy to mistake more voices for more noise. In reality, though, the proliferation of diverse voices may actually improve our overall ability to think. In Everything Bad Is Good for You, Steven Johnson argues that the increasing complexity and range of media we engage with have, over the past century, made us smarter, rather than dumber, by providing a form of cognitive calisthenics. Even pulp-television shows and video games have become extraordinarily dense with detail, filled with subtle references to broader subjects, and more open to interactive engagement. They reward the capacity to make connections and to see patterns—precisely the kinds of skills we need for managing an information glut.
Scientists describe these skills as our “fluid intelligence”—the ability to find meaning in confusion and to solve new problems, independent of acquired knowledge. Fluid intelligence doesn’t look much like the capacity to memorize and recite facts, the skills that people have traditionally associated with brainpower. But building it up may improve the capacity to think deeply that Carr and others fear we’re losing for good. And we shouldn’t let the stresses associated with a transition to a new era blind us to that era’s astonishing potential. We swim in an ocean of data, accessible from nearly anywhere, generated by billions of devices. We’re only beginning to explore what we can do with this knowledge-at-a-touch. Moreover, the technology-induced ADD that’s associated with this new world may be a short-term problem. The trouble isn’t that we have too much information at our fingertips, but that our tools for managing it are still in their infancy. Worries about “information overload” predate the rise of the Web (Alvin Toffler coined the phrase in 1970), and many of the technologies that Carr worries about were developed precisely to help us get some control over a flood of data and ideas. Google isn’t the problem; it’s the beginning of a solution. In any case, there’s no going back. The information sea isn’t going to dry up, and relying on cognitive habits evolved and perfected in an era of limited information flow—and limited information access—is futile. Strengthening our fluid intelligence is the only viable approach to navigating the age of constant connectivity. Pages: 1 2 3 next> Jamais Cascio is an affiliate at the Institute for the Future and a senior fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. .

The Anti-Ecology of Money

SUBHEAD: The megabubble of industrialism paid off spectacularly along its upward arc. By John Michael Greer on 22 July 2009 in The Archdruid Report -
Image above: Poker playing dogs. From Last week’s Archdruid Report post built on one of E.F. Schumacher’s more trenchant insights to propose a controversial way of making sense of modern economics. Schumacher, in Small Is Beautiful, drew a distinction between primary goods produced by natural processes, and secondary goods produced by human labor, and pointed out that secondary goods can’t be produced at all unless you have the necessary primary goods on hand. This is quite true, though it’s a point often missed by today’s economists. There is at least an equal difference, though, between either of these classes of goods and a third class produced neither by nature nor by labor. These are tertiary or, more descriptively, financial goods; they form the largest single class of goods in the world today, in terms of dollar value, and the markets in which they are bought and sold dominate the economies of the industrial nations. To call this unfortunate is a drastic understatement, because the biases imposed on our societies by the domination of financial goods are among the most potent forces dragging the world to ruin.
A specific example of a tertiary good may be useful here to help clarify the concept. Consider a corporate bond with a face value of $1000. This is a good in the economic sense – that is, it can be bought for money, it can be sold for money, there are people who want to buy it and people who are able to produce and sell it. Compare it to any more tangible item of value, though, and the bond is clearly a very strange sort of good. It consists of nothing more than a promise, on the part of some corporation, to pay $1000 at some future date. That promise may or may not be honored – junk bonds are bought and sold, for example, in full knowledge of the fact that the chances the issuers will pay up are not good – but even then the chance of collecting on it is treated as an object of value. The differences between a tertiary good and a primary or secondary one reach further than this. Tangible goods produced by natural cycles or human labor are available in amounts limited by the supply. If there’s only so much water in a river, for example, that’s how much water there is; the fact that people want more, if such is the case, does not produce any more water than the hydrologic cycle is already willing to provide. Equally, if a country’s labor force, capital plant, and resource base are fully engaged in making a certain quantity of secondary goods, producing more requires a good deal more than an agreement to do so; the country must increase its labor pool, its capital plant, its access to resources, or some combination of these, in order to increase the supply of goods. Yet tertiary goods are available in amounts limited only by the demand. How many bonds can a corporation print? For all practical purposes, as many as people are willing to buy. A good number of the colorful bankruptcies that have enlivened the business pages in recent months, for example, took out firms that mistook a temporary bubble for permanent prosperity, issued bonds far beyond their ability to pay, and crashed and burned when all that debt started to come due. On an even more gargantuan scale, the United States government is currently trying to restart its economy by spending money it doesn’t have, selling bonds to cover the difference, and amassing debt on a scale that makes the most extravagant Third World kleptocracies look like a bunch of pikers. It’s hard to imagine any way in which the results of this absurd extravagance will be anything but ugly, and yet buyers around the world are still snapping up US treasury bonds as though there’s a scintilla of hope they will see their money again. The difference between supply-limited and demand-limited goods, as this suggests, is among other things a difference between kinds of feedback. Think about a thermostat and it’s easy to understand the principle at work. When the temperature in the house goes below a certain threshold, the heat comes on and brings the temperature back up; when the temperature goes above a higher threshold, the heat shuts off and the temperature goes back down. This is called negative feedback. In a market economy, all secondary goods are subject to negative feedback. That’s the secret of Adam Smith’s invisible hand: since the supply of any secondary good is limited by the available natural inputs, labor pool, and capital stock, increased demand pushes up the price of the good, forcing some potential buyers out of the market, while decreased demand causes the good to become less expensive and allows more buyers back into the market. Equally, rising prices for a good encourage manufacturers to allocate more resources, labor, and capital plant to producing that good, helping to meet additional demand, while falling prices make other uses of resources, labor and capital plant more lucrative and curb supply. Negative feedback loops of a very similar kind control the production of primary goods by the Earth’s natural systems. Every primary good from the water levels in a river and the fertility of a given patch of soil, to more specialized examples such as the pollination services provided by bees to agricultural crops, is regulated by delicately balanced processes of negative feedback working through some subset of the planetary biosphere. The parallel is close enough that ecologists have drawn on metaphors from economics to make sense of their field, and it’s quite possible that an ecological economics using natural systems as metaphors for the secondary economy could return the favor and create an economics that makes sense in the real world. It’s when we get to the tertiary economy of financial goods that things change, because the feedback loops governing tertiary goods are not negative but positive. Imagine a thermostat designed by a sadist. In the summer, whenever the temperature goes up above a certain level, the sadothermostat makes the heat come on and the house gets even hotter; in the winter, when the temperature goes below another threshold, the temperature shuts off and the house gets so cold the pipes freeze. That’s positive feedback, and it’s the way the tertiary economy works when it’s not constrained by limits imposed by the primary or secondary economies. The late and loudly lamented housing bubble is a case in point. It’s a remarkable case, not least because houses – which are usually part of the secondary economy, being tangible goods created by human labor – were briefly and disastrously converted into tertiary goods, whose value consisted primarily in the implied promise that they could be cashed in for more than their sales price at some future time. (As a tertiary good, their physical structure had no more to do with their value than does the paper used to print a bond.) When the price of a secondary good goes up, demand decreases, but this is not what happened in the housing bubble; instead, the demand increased, since the rising price made further appreciation appear more likely, and the mis-, mal- and nonfeasance of banks and mortgage companies willing to make six- and seven-figure loans to anyone with a pulse removed all limits from the supply. The limits, rather, were on the demand side, where they always are in a speculative bubble: eventually the supply of buyers runs out because everyone who is willing to plunge into the bubble has already done so. Once this happened, prices began to sink, and once again positive feedback came into play. Since the sole value of these homes to most purchasers consisted, again, of the implied promise that they could be cashed in someday for more than their sales price, each decline in price convinced more people that this would not happen, and drove waves of selling that forced the price down further. This process typically bottoms out around the time that prices are as far below the median as they were above it at the peak, and for a similar reason: as a demand-limited process, a speculative bubble peaks when everyone willing to buy has bought, and bottoms when everyone capable of selling has sold. It’s important to note that in this case, as in many others, the positive feedback in the tertiary economy disrupted the workings of the secondary economy. Long before the housing boom came to its messy and inevitable end, there was a massive oversupply of housing in many markets – there are, for example, well over 50,000 empty houses in Phoenix, Arizona right now. Absent a speculative bubble, the mismatch between supply and demand would have brought the production of new houses to a gentle halt. Instead, due to the positive feedback of the tertiary economy, supply massively overshot demand, leading to a drastic misallocation of resources in the secondary economy, and thus to an equally massive recession. It’s long been popular to compare the tertiary economy to gambling, but the role of positive feedback in the tertiary economy introduces an instructive difference. When four poker players sit down at a table and the cards come out, their game has negative feedback. The limiting factor is the ability of the players to make good on their bets; the amount of wealth in play at the start of the game is exactly equal to the amount at the end, though it’s likely to go through quite a bit of redistribution. For every winner, in other words, there is an equal and opposite loser. The tertiary economy does not work this way. When a market is going up, everyone invested in it gains; when it goes down, everyone invested in it loses. Paper wealth appears out of thin air on the way up, and vanishes into thin air on the way down. The difference between this and the supply-limited negative feedback cycles of the environment could not be more marked. In this sense it’s not unreasonable to call the tertiary economy a kind of anti-ecology, a system in which all the laws that govern ecology are stood on their heads – until, that is, the delusional patterns of behavior generated by the tertiary economy collide with the hard limits of ecological reality. It’s not all that controversial to describe financial bubbles in this way, though you can safely bet that during any given bubble, a bumper crop of economists and pundits will spring up to insist that the bubble isn’t a bubble and that rising prices for whatever the speculation du jour happens to be are perfectly justified by future prospects. On the other hand, it’s very controversial just now to suggest that the entire tertiary economy is driven by positive feedback. Still, I suggest that this is a fair assessment of the financial economy of the industrial world, and the only reason that it’s controversial is simply that we, our great-grandparents’ great-grandparents, and all the generations in between have lived during the upward arc of the mother of all speculative bubbles. The vehicle for that bubble has not been stocks, bonds, real estate, derivatives, or what have you, but industrialism itself: the entire project of increasing the production of goods and services to historically unprecedented levels by amplifying human labor with energy drawn from the natural world, first from wind and water, and then from fossil fuels in ever-increasing amounts. Like the real estate at the core of the recent boom and bust, this project had its roots in the secondary economy, but quickly got transformed into a vehicle for the tertiary economy: people invested their money in in industrial projects because of the promise of more money later on. Like every other speculative bubble, the megabubble of industrialism paid off spectacularly along its upward arc. It’s inaccurate to claim, as some of its cheerleaders have, that everybody benefited from it; one important consequence of the industrial system was a massive distortion of patterns of exchange in favor of the major industrial nations, to the massive detriment of the rest of the planet. (It’s rarely understood just how much of today’s Third World poverty is a modern phenomenon, the mirror image and necessary product of the soaring prosperity of the industrial nations.) Still, for some three hundred years, standards of living across the industrial world soared so high that people of relatively modest means in America or western Europe had access to goods and services not even emperors could command a few centuries before. In the absence of ecological limits, it’s conceivable that such a process could have continued until demand was exhausted, and then unraveled in the usual way. The joker in the deck, though, was the dependence of the industrial project on the extraction of fossil fuels at an ever-increasing pace. Beneath the giddy surface of industrialism’s bubble, in other words, lay the hard reality of the tertiary economy’s dependence on resources from the primary economy. The positive feedback loop driving the industrial bubble can’t make resources out of thin air – only money can be invented so casually – but it has proven quite successful at preventing industrial economies from responding to the depletion of their fossil fuel supplies fast enough to stave off what promises to be the great-grandmother of all speculative busts. The results of this failure are beginning to come home to roost in our own time. To understand the economics of the resulting collision, though, it’s necessary to note the relationship between economics and the least popular law of physics – a subject central to next week’s post.

Two Degrees of Contradiction

SUBHEAD: Why the conventionally accepted “acceptable” level of global warming is neither safe nor possible.  

By Ben Jervey on 21 July 2009 in GOOD -

image above: Fundraising thermometer clip art.

At last week’s G8 gathering, leaders of the world’s 17 biggest greenhouse gas emitters agreed in principle on a ceiling for global temperatures. They pledged to work together to ensure that the planet won’t warm more than 2 degrees Celsius (that’s 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. A mere two years ago, an agreement like this was impossibly ambitious—U.S. leadership was dead set against doing anything about climate change, let alone setting hard targets.
The political climate has changed in those two years, but it hasn’t changed enough. At the same time, the situation described by climate change science has become increasingly dire. So now, this 2 degree target reflects the vexing state of climate affairs writ large—it’s going to be virtually impossible to stay below 2 degrees of warming given the political realities of the moment, while most of the latest science is telling us that 2 degrees might not actually be all that safe.

That which is politically possible, in other words, doesn’t come close to what is scientifically necessary. Heavy sigh. So where did this 2 degree goal come from? A whole host of studies has set 2 degrees Celsius warming over global average temperatures in 1850 as the start of a climatic danger zone, including the oft-cited 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report that won its authors a Nobel Prize. (These 2 degrees translate roughly to a carbon dioxide concentration of 450 parts per million in our atmosphere.)

It’s important to note, however, that while politicians and commentators have latched on to this 2 degree target, most climate scientists warn against relying on any such hard number. (Andy Revkin collects a bunch of these hedges and caveats applied to the 2 degrees yardstick in his Dot Earth blog. “Given the drought that already afflicts Australia,” say a couple of climatologists, “the crumbling of the sea ice in the Arctic, and the increasing storm damage after only 0.8°C of warming so far, calling 2°C a danger limit seems to us pretty cavalier.”)

 It’s even more important to note that the research from which the 2 degree limit emerged may be somewhat outdated. Within the past two years, researchers and observers have been bowled over by the rate at which changes to our climatic systems (arctic ice melt, spiking methane emissions, ocean acidification) were outstripping models.

And last year, NASA climatologist Jim Hansen (who’s been right about climate more often and for longer than anyone else) dropped a bombshell: the last time the planet was thought to be 2 degrees Celsius warmer—or, more specifically, the last time there were atmospheric CO2 concentrations of 450ppm—was the Cenozoic era, when the world was largely ice-free and sea levels were 200 feet higher.

If we hope, Hansen warned, to preserve a planet “similar to the one on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted,” the atmosphere must return to 350ppm of carbon dioxide. Which is far lower than the 2 degree target. And now the worse news: Staying below 2 degrees Celsius is going to be really, really hard. It might be impossible.

We’ve seen 0.8 degrees Celsius of warming from 1850 levels already, and (because it takes a few decades for emissions to settle into the atmosphere and really turn up the heat) all the carbon we’ve spewed lately has locked in another 0.6 degrees Celsius of change. An April poll of climate scientists found that nearly 9 out of 10 “do not believe political efforts to restrict global warming to 2 degrees will succeed.” Perhaps worse, only 60 percent felt that “in theory, it was still technically and economically possible to meet the target.”

George Monbiot, who talked to many of the scientists surveyed, offered this foreboding take: “Quietly in public, loudly in private, climate scientists everywhere are saying the same thing: it’s over. The years in which more than two degrees of global warming could have been prevented have passed, the opportunities squandered by denial and delay.”

So 2 degrees Celsius is probably not a very “safe” target, and we’re probably going to blow right by it anyways. But not definitely. The only certainty is that keeping the planet from reaching a true “danger zone” will require an effort comparable to America’s mobilization for World War II. But conducted internationally, and lasting for decades.

Heading into the big Copenhagen climate talks in December, we need to demand this of our leaders—an international effort commensurate with science’s demands. Because, as Bill McKibben recently wrote, “politicians can bend; physics can’t.”

Wailua Bike Path Route

SUBHEAD: There is little time left to have your voice heard on routing of bike path through Wailua Area.
By Juan Wilson on 21 July 2009 -

Yesterday, at the office of the state's DOT office in Puhi, Ray McCormick, the Kauai District Engineer, hosted a meeting of concerned residents to present current state and county projects in the general area between Lydgate State Park and Coconut Market Place. Mr. McCormick held the meeting because he believed public participation on still flexible details of these projects would enhance the highway and bike path final configurations. An interested and informed group of Kauai residents attended the meeting representing the Hawaiian community, environmentalists, planners, and community activists. There were many positive suggestions made and Mr. McCormick was receptive to the group. Today he was to meet with our mayor to discuss these projects and our concerns.

As it is now structured, Kauai is doomed to a year of suffering intolerable traffic through the Wailua River corridor because it was insisted, by then Kauai mayor Bryan Baptiste, that the cane haul bridge carry two lanes of north bound traffic and the bike path. During the long construction period this will force all north and southbound traffic onto the existing two-lane highway bridge at a 10-15 mph limit. A simple alternative would have been to build the new lanes on a new bridge inland of the existing highway bridge. Then traffic would not have been as affected and the cane haul bridge might later have been used solely by the bikes and pedestrians. But that's not what we're getting.

Image above: Canal Route (blue) and Coastal Route (yellow) alternatives for bike path through Wailua River Area. Image by Juan Wilson. Click to enlarge.

Some small, yet important adjustments can still be made to improve the overall plan.There is now a very short window of opportunity to having any affect on these plans because $4 million of funding has been obtained through the federal stimulus program and final plans must submitted by early August or those funds will be redistributed to the Big Island. Comments on this projected work must be in by August 7th 2009. (See Ediitor's note below).

The major projects consist of two state components:

1) The widening to four lanes of the Kuhio Highway north of the Wailua River to the Kapaa bypass.

 2) The rebuilding of the existing cane haul bridge to accommodate two lanes of traffic and the bike pedestrian path.

It also consists of one County component:
3) The bike path from the Wailua river crossing north as far as the Kapaa bypass.

The routing of the alternative transportation "bike" path between Lihue and Kapaa has been a tortured history of misplaced priorities, hurried planning and bad decisions. The current state of the plans are as illogical as they will be impractical. One must remember, regardless of what Thomas Noyes says, the federal funding for alternative transportation that is going to our bike path is not earmarked for a "coastal recreation trail". It is funding for transportation alternatives to automotive traffic. Ideally, this alternative should be safe and efficient and not have negative impact on the environment or cultural sites.

Some, including ourselves, have advocated mauka (inland) routes for the bike path. One mauka scheme would lead through what were once cane fields from Lihue north of the Kuhio Highway, past Hanamaulu and follow the base of Kelepa Forest Reserve, and cross the Wailua River just mauka of the existing highway bridge. The route could then follow the public right of way behind the old Coco Palms along the canal and hook up with the canal way that goes behind the Foodland in Waipouli. This route would never have to cross the highway and would avoid problems of other routes on cultural sites and sensitive beach environments.

Where we are today is stuck with a crossing of the Wailua River makai (seaward) of the cane haul bridge structure that will carry two lanes of the Kuhio Highway. This route will be narrow and close to heavy traffic with accompanying noise, dust, and fumes. The bike path then is planned to run over the dunes and plants covering burial sites along Wailua Beach. It will then follow a twisted route up Papaloa Road, make a left at Lanikai Street, then absurdly backtrack east along the Kuhio Highway to Halelio Street until it can finally line up with a mauka path to Foodland. This is a ridiculous and unacceptable plan.

There are two schemes that are reasonable if the bike path must cross the Wailua River makai of the highway.

1) The Coastal Route
After exiting the cane haul bridge bike path the route would follow the mauka side of the rock wall dividing the highway from Wailua Beach. A new rock wall is constructed to protect the bike path from highway traffic. The path would follow Papaloa Road, but not turn west on Lanikai Street. Instead, the bike path would be driven through the Coconut Marketplace and hotel site roadways north of the Marketplace until it can croos the highway at the Foodland traffic light.

2) The Canal Route
After exiting the cane haul bridge bike path would follow the mauka side of the rock wall dividing the highway from Wailua Beach until it is north of Kuamoo Road. It would then ramp down to a pedestrian highway underpass (funded by the Coco Palms developer) and parallel Kuamoo Road until it reach the canal where it could then follow the public right of way to link eventually with Foodland.

There are problems with both of these routes, but they are minor compared to putting a bike path on top of Wailua Beach and damaging the cultural and environmental treasures there, or crossing the Kuhio Highway at grade with a bike/pedestrian transportation path at the worst traffic bottleneck on Kauai. We strongly recommend following one of these two routes if the bike path crosses the Wailua River seaward of the Kuhio Highway. [Editor's Note: We suggest you contact Mayor Carvalho, Doug Haig and Thomas Noyes as well as the The Office of Environmental Quality Control (OEQC) and the consultant on this matter.]

The OEQC said the following on 8 June 2009 at: Kauai District: Kawaihau
PROJECT: BRIDGE & ROAD WIDENING AT KUHIO HIGHWAY & WAILUA RIVER TMK: Various parcels, 3-9-02, 3-9-06; 4-1-03, 4-1-05, 4-3-01, 4-3-02, and 4-3-10 Permits: Department of Army Section 404 Nationwide Permit, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit for Storm Water Associated with Construction Activity, NPDES Permit for Dewatering, Section 401 Water Quality Certification, Noise, Construction Noise Variance – if required, Air Quality, Chapter 6E, HRS Historic Preservation Review, Coastal Zone Management Program Consistency Determination, Road, Grading/Grubbing, Building, Excavation, Drainage Plan Approval, Utility Service Agreements. The State of Hawaii (State), Department of Transportation (DOT), Highways Division is proposing to implement widening improvements to Kuhio Highway along an approximately 0.65-mile section of highway in the Kawaihau district of the island of Kauai. Kuhio Highway is planned to be widened on the southbound side from three to four lanes between the intersections of the Temporary Kapaa Bypass Road and Kuamoo Road. Other accessory improvements would be implemented with this highway widening. The existing right-turn storage lane along Kuamoo Road would also be extended mauka (inland) from its intersection with Kuhio Highway 650 feet. This highway project (Federal Aid Project No. 56A-01-06) is collectively referred to as the “Kuhio Highway Short-Term Improvements; Kuamoo Road to Temporary Bypass Road Project”. In addition to the highway widening improvements, the State DOT is also planning to relocate existing overhead utility lines (electrical, telephone, and cable) underground as part of mitigation measures for endangered and threatened sea birds present in the area based upon consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Existing overhead utility lines along the highway corridor would be relocated underground starting from an area just north of the Temporary Kapaa Bypass Road (near Aleka Loop) and proceed southbound to the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative’s (KIUC) Lydgate Substation at South Leho Drive. This utilities relocation would extend about 1.70 miles in length, and is being included as part of the highway widening project. Below is 45MB PDF file link for more details. Comments: DEA 30-day comment period starts with the date of this Notice. Address comments to the Proposing Agency and Consultant Wilson Okamoto Corp. YOUR COMMENT MUST BE IN TO AGENCY AND CONSULTANT BY AUGUST 7th, 2009 ADDRESSED TO: Proposing Agency: Department of Transportation, Highways Division, 869 Punchbowl Street, Honolulu, HI 96813. Darell Young, (808) 587-1835 Consultant: Wilson Okamoto Corporation, 1907 South Beretania Street, Suite 400, Honolulu, HI 96826.

Project Manager Ronald A. Sato, AICP, (808) 946-2277

POINTS I WILL STRESS RELATE TO: 1) No impact on environment (e.g. don't go over beach) 2) No disruption of cultural sites (e.g. beach or mauka burial sites) 3) Good traffic planning (e.g. do not have alternate route backtrack on Kuhio Hiway) 4) Safe conditions (e.g. Do not have pedestrian and bike traffic crossing busy highway bottleneck)

Two Funerals

SUBHEAD: The Death of Jacko and Walter Cronkite present us with an interesting rite of passage this month...
By John Schettler on 20 July 2009 in The Writing Shop -
One stood as a symbol of the lost American Dream, the other marked the loss of credibility, authority and legitimacy in our media and government.
Hello America.
In case you haven’t noticed, while you were watching American Idol, all the dance shows, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Survivor, Big Brother and a host of other nifty TV shows, the America you live in has undergone a dramatic change. Your friend, the banker, has been real busy.
image above: Walter Cronkite and Michael Jackson in their forties. After loosening standards, they fired a bloated real estate market in the housing boom, all to create phantom wealth based on nothing more than agreements between thieves. They thought they were immune from risk with their securities, CDOs, Swaps and Derivatives, but the crisis of confidence saw their securities trading game go bust as well. Most major banks are effectively bankrupt. But instead of taking their losses, they took $14 trillion in public money, passing the losses on to you and your kids. Then they took your house and credit cards for good measure, and your jobs. This accomplished, they changed all the accounting rules to revalue toxic bad debt at boom time prices, and presto chango, they announced a big comeback of profitability. The NY Time took this magic trick to task in a recent article when they wrote: “The recession — with its yawning gap between the bonus class on the one hand and the foreclosed upon and newly jobless on the other — (has created) a widespread sense that winners in this economy are produced by a game that’s rigged. Which is why the response to last week’s earnings bonanza has been a mix of, among other things, bafflement and anger. If these companies can return to the festivities so quickly, were they really having the near-death experience they and the government claimed? And if taxpayers risked their money when they backstopped Wall Street’s misadventures, why aren’t they sharing in the upside now that the party has started again? And did these companies have the time to rethink the risk culture that landed us in this jam in the first place?” No. They did not. They just got back to the same slice and dice hucksterism that created the whole mess, conveniently hiding all the losses off balance sheet and rigging the books. So the second Great Depression is now well underway—all brought to you courtesy of Wall Street and the US banking system. All across America foreclosures continue, jobs are lost in record numbers, businesses fail, retirement portfolios evaporate, marriages fail, property crime increases, the middle class becomes poor. The boomers, who thought life was about ever increasing home equity and ballooning stock portfolios, have now gone bust. They outspent every other generation by a factor of two, and now stand shocked at the edge of retirement realizing there is too little in the piggy bank to even provide a fraction of their daily needs. They are going to stop spending and save like crazy now, and with them goes the heart of the us “consumer” economy. It’s just not coming back. Don’t wait for it. The game is over. The greatest heist and wealth transfer in history has just been perpetrated under the guise of a “financial crisis.” Rich Dads at places like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan laugh all the way to the bank. Financial bonus payouts and executive salaries reach record levels. The average American is now just one lost paycheck from being on the street. Like the entertainment shows before it, you can do little more than just watch it all on the TV news, which only tell you a sliver of the real truth. Because the media is not about presenting any true picture of reality to you, but rather all about perpetuating the fantasy illusion we called “The American Dream” and selling you all the junk and landfill that accessorizes it--24/7. But the American Dream is dying
It’s been dying for years but few noticed, mistaking the “flip that house” pump and dump scheme for real economic growth. The economy grew because we all joined in the feeding frenzy and agreed that it should. We agreed that the no doc loans were legitimate offers and legitimate risks, that the option ARMs and interest only loans were legitimate mortgages at legitimate values, that having three houses was somehow normal, (to go along with our three cars). And when it all came tumbling down we seemed shocked to learn that the lives we had been living were based on an equal measures of fantasy, unsustainable debt, and a healthy pinch of fraud. Then we switched to “American Idol” instead, to try and forget about it all, and mourned instead the death of the “King of Pop” in place of the funeral we should be having for the American Dream we all bought into at 29.9% interest.
Somewhere in that act of reflexive denial is a well of hidden shame. Because we knew, deep down, that we all played the game the bankers and Wall Street traders concocted. We played it with Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover, and we were the ones that walked into the bank to ask for those home equity loans, and we were the ones pushing that carts around Home Depot. We thought that we could just blame it all on Bush and Cheney, as so many of us did, myself included. We thought that we would finally settle the matter when we voted for “change we could believe in” and sent a charismatic young man to the White House. What we overlooked was the glaring fact that the White House doesn’t run our economy, and that all the agencies and power centers that do run it are staffed by banking industry insiders, the same folks that set up and delivered the pump and dump scheme in the first place. They bought and paid for Congress long ago, and they lobby ceaselessly to fend off mortgage modifications, changes to securities and derivatives trading regulations, caps on their salaries and bonuses, changes to the credit card laws, implementation of fair accounting rules. That’s how diligently they look after their wealth, and ensure their continued domination of economic policy designed to fatten their bottom line at the expense of everyone else.
All the greed, fraud, and corruption was as much our own fault as it was a product of the hucksters on Wall Street. Every con game needs a willing mark, and we were all too willing, thinking that we could also get something for nothing--nothing down and low easy monthly payments. In too many ways we all participated in the game when the good times were rolling. Remember the barfing baby teaching us all how to become day traders in the stock market for $7 bucks a deal? Remember the little bald headed bankers that were crowding into our foyer to compete for our business? Remember the snooty housewife turning down one loan offer after another to look for a better deal? In their place we now watch endless TV ads promising to negotiate away our massive, crushing debt, the inevitable consequence of our credit based society and the phony economic boom it created.
The staff writers of the Herald in Florida exposed how the game was played there: “Unscrupulous property flippers would buy houses or condos, then drive up the price in a few days or weeks by selling it to someone they knew. Buyers used the inflated price to get bank loans for more than the property was worth, leaving money for flippers to split as profit…The deals -- many of them inflated sales among friends, family and business associates -- drove up property values and tax bills during the boom, fed bank bailouts and failures after the boom, and fueled the foreclosure wave that has gutted property values.”
After a year of research into the shady housing deals the writers concluded: “Many of the questionable flip deals were orchestrated by real estate professionals…Lenders facilitated fraud by approving mortgages on suspicious transactions…Lenders continued to finance flips even after the boom, when property values were declining and price increases should have raised suspicion…The actual amount of fraudulent land deals in Florida is likely more than $10 billion.” And that is just Florida. God only knows how bad it got in the new foreclosure capital of the world, California.
It’s easy to slam the banks for what they have done, because it was so transparently greedy and corrupt, though few could see this while they were signing their loan papers. It is much more difficult to look in the mirror and realize that “we the people” allowed them to do all of this, and indeed, we gleefully participated in it all as it was happening. We allowed a government to be purchased with lavish campaign contributions and molded by lobbyists. And someone pulled those levers in the election booth to send senators and representatives back to Washington, term after term, many occupying their seats for the better part of their adult lives. The system is there because the people put it there and now they allow it to stay in place unchallenged, unreformed, and unchanged, no matter what Change.Gov would have you believe.
Let’s face it… The banks did what they did because a wolf is a wolf. But if you want to really find a place to lay the blame, it’s because the people of this nation have become sheep. We allowed ourselves to buy into their grand casino game. We gleefully took the stack of chips they handed us and sat down at the roulette and card tables. We pulled the levers on the slot machines, called “one armed bandits” for a good reason—because the odds in all the games at Vegas are statistically rigged against the player and always favor the house. The same can be said for all the laws in the game of lending and credit. We bought into the game just like any good gambler who thinks he can beat the house and hit that big bonanza. We allowed ourselves to be branded with a FICO score and prodded and poked with penalties, interest hikes, points and fees, until we did just what the bankers wanted us to do, saddling ourselves with unsustainable debt to buy all the things we have since recycled to landfills. And through it all we simply amused ourselves to death, just as Roger Waters so glibly points out in his song by that same title in the sidebar.
Two Funerals
So yes, we mortgaged our future for a long, long weekend in our Neverland economy. Is it any wonder millions mourned Michael Jackson, a man in debt up to his eyeballs who had built a fantasy land amusement park estate to hide away from the world? They saw, deep down, a glimmering of themselves in that lost American Idol—the veritable King of the pop culture we so adulate in this country. The Jackson funeral struck a deep vein in the contemporary American soul, simply because it stood as such a glaring and obvious metaphor for the pop ridden nation as a whole. You have only to follow the top ten queries on search engines like Google and Yahoo to see what’s on America’s mind. Jackson’s funeral was followed a week later by the death of a truly remarkable man, Walter Cronkite, once touted as “the most trusted man in America.” It came right on the 40th anniversary of another moment of American greatness, the first landing on the moon 40 years ago. (What have we accomplished since?) While Cronkite’s death received due mention on the news, it was barely noticed by the rank and file compared to the media frenzy that followed the demise of Jacko. This alone is a salient comment on the sad state of the American mind and soul—as least as far as it is represented in the media these days.
James Kunstler, always on point, summed up the hidden meaning of Cronkite’s death this way:
“It wasn't about the death of one hugely esteemed individual; it was about the broad institutional failure of TV news in general and the current grievous loss of legitimacy and authority in shaping a national consensus of reality. Watching the old clips of Cronkite delivering the evening news years ago, one couldn't help weighing the contrast with the current spectacle of snide, combative, overbearing idiocy acted out nightly by the likes of Kudlow, Olberman, Kneale, O'Reilly, Matthews, and Dobbs as they shout down their invited guest commentators, pander to their demographic, and diss their rivals for ratings.” The sad state of our media is perhaps nowhere more evident than the fact that comedian John Steward of The Daily Show, on Comedy Central, is now perceived by many as one of the few touchstones to reality. His acerbic and combative comedic wit routinely dismembers mainstream media puppets like Jim Cramer and so many others, and strongly hits the nub of truth that lies behind all human laughter.
These two funerals tell our story today—one marking the death of the fantasy land economy in this nation, running on a something for nothing vapor of equity and credit, and the other marking the death of legitimacy and real authority as vested in our media and government institutions. One funeral marks the loss of something we must willfully let go, the other the loss of something we desperately need to restore. They come at a time when America most needs the psychological rite of passage a funeral provides—for we must, as a nation, lay the sham of our old economy to rest and somehow find a new legitimacy in media and government if we are ever to face and undertake the massive transformation in our “way of life” that this crisis demands.
There’s an old saying: “If you are going to dance, you have to pay the piper.” Time to pay up. Our children and grandchildren will now live in an America we would not have believed possible while we were busy flipping houses and remodeling our kitchens and baths. The gutted neighborhoods, for rent signs, long lines at the unemployment office, these are what we leave to our kids to sort out now. And how many of us will also be asking them to take care of us as well, since the old 401k ain’t what it used to be?
So things are the way they are because we allowed it all to happen, and this is the way it will continue until the people of this nation decide otherwise and demand real Change.Gov. When we demand an end to lobbying in congress, truly reform campaign contributions, purge government of financial industry insiders, set down rigorous new laws and regulations to enforce fair lending and credit practices, eliminate derivatives trading, abolish the Federal Reserve and return issuance of money to the people’s government, do away with fractional reserve lending. And this is just the start—the fire that must happen if we are to clear away rampant choking “growth” that was largely based on fraud and corruption in this country. Then the real work begins—the building out of new walkable communities, a revitalized rail system, decentralized alternative energy model, local food production, more equitable wealth distribution, a return to production of real things of value, and not pixilated “wealth” created by keystrokes in a Fed computer system. That list is so long it could take generations and never be accomplished. Or it might be accomplished in one sweeping revolution, such as that which founded this country and set us on a new course that saw the United States become the greatest nation on earth—a title it can sadly no longer lay claim to. Can we be great again?
Perhaps that is not the point at all. Can we be real again is more to the heart of the issue. Can we embrace core values of love, family, work, sustainability, frugality, temperance, forbearance, common effort, community. This is the real question before us now.
Can we discover if we really ever did believe those high sounding words ascribing the new way of life that was founded on this continent so long ago? Can we truly deserve the powers and authority, the solemn privilege and charge that the founding fathers and so many others fought to deliver into our hands—we the people, the United States of America. Will we truly become citizens of this nation and do the work before us, or will we continue to spin “Thriller” on the DJ set, settle deeper into our reclining sofas, and amuse ourselves to death with nostalgic thoughts of the good old boom times as we watch the twilight of our collective national decline?
The choice is ours.