The End of Retirement

SUBHEAD: The stockpile of virtual assets that many of us relied on drawing down during retirement is already losing value; that process will accelerate.

By André Angelantoni on 7 January 2010 in Transition Times -

Image above: "The Prodigal Son" by Liz Lemon Swindle. From 
“When do I call my children home?”

My friend asked me that question two years ago after I gave him a thorough explanation of what the decline of oil production meant for our civilization. Like many modern parents, his children were spread around the continent, or traveling the world, and he could instantly see how important his family working together was going to be in the future.

His question is a very good one and represents one way we might all want to consider relating to The Long Descent.

Before discussing that, a small detour is in order. I’ve used John Michael Greer’s label “The Long Descent” for this essay to make a point. In his book by the same name, Greer describes how civilizations tend to take decades if not centuries to descend from the pinnacle of their size to the point the last cities are abandoned to the jungle (in the case of the Mayans).
Greer convincingly uses history to show that civilizations rarely if ever end by a catastrophic and instant collapse of all their systems at the same time. Instead, they experience mini-collapses followed by stasis or even some recovery. After reading his theory of catabolic collapse, I’ve modified my Staircase Model to include more steps after the big step in the middle:

Though Greer and I are now aligned on the likely way our civilization will decline as we lose access to energy-dense fossil fuels, Greer’s especially is the long view. He is looking out tens and possibly hundreds of generations. With this long timescale, there is a danger in allowing the term “The Long Descent” to lull us into thinking we have more time than we do for certain preparations. This would be unfortunate because we have several challenges that won’t take generations to arrive. One significant and early challenge is already upon us.
The End of Retirement

Only 120 years old and widely available to the middle class for just the last 60 or so years, retirement is coming to an end. It is the unique product of several converging factors. The first was energy abundance in the form of fossil fuels, which allowed an ever-decreasing number of people to work the land to produce food for those that lived in the cities. Elevating great numbers of people above the daily grind of subsistence farming was necessary before the next factor could arise.

The second factor was the creation of a financial system that enabled us to “bank” future personal resource exploitation in the form of money. Online retirement calculators tell us how much money we need to retire but that money is clearly a proxy for the world’s resources. It would be impractical for the calculator to advise us to stockpile “2000 board-feet of wood for a new house, 20 lb of uranium for electricity and 400 gallons of jet fuel for foreign vacations.”

Instead, it tells us to store money that we will in the future convert to resources. Once we have a nice stockpile of dollars or euros, the idea is to draw it down by converting it to foreign vacations (which are energy hogs, using in one or two weeks the amount of energy used by someone traveling by car for an entire year — simply because the destinations are often thousands of miles away), nice dinners (which bring an astonishing array of foods from around the world to an area no bigger than a dinner plate) and the occasional financial bailout of one’s children when they run out of money on a round-the-world trip.

Both of these factors are in the process of disappearing. We are not experiencing the popping of a short-term economic bubble like the tech boom or the tulip mania of several centuries ago. After this popping, there will be no significant recovery.

We now can see that the entire economy is a giant bubble that was inflated when we discovered the fossil fuel energy jackpot. Had we not found these fuels, world economic growth would surely have slowed or even reversed when we began to run out of trees to cut down some 200 years ago. (I show in my video “Preparing for a Post Peak Life” why renewable energy sources can’t even begin to make up for the loss of fossil fuels and especially oil; I won’t go into it here.)

To permit the economic bubble to expand at will, we severed the connection between money and the physical world. Money today has no physical backing. I can’t go to the issuer of the the U.S. dollar, the United States government, and trade it for gold, or silver or even beans. Without the anchoring constraint of tying paper currencies to the physical world, all forms of virtual wealth, of which money is just one form, have been allowed to increase beyond imagination. The hundreds of trillions in derivatives are the culmination of this process.

We now find that there is currently more money in existence than the world’s resources can support — especially oil. Oil is particularly important because as a fantastically energy dense and portable energy source it is what I call an “enabling resource.”

In other words, it enables us to get all the other resources upon which we depend. True, we could over time switch to electricity powered by wind or coal, but many societal functions become more expensive, more time consuming and often impossible. For instance, mining an important mineral in a remote location is significantly more difficult if instead of simply transporting the energy to run the mining equipment by tanker truck the mining company has to run long distance electric wires or set up a small coal-fired electric plant. Portable, liquid fuel has allowed and accelerated our growth, and the impact has been like a cannon ball shot from a cannon.

Jeffrey Brown, who is a colleague and tireless educator on the matter of declining net oil exports, points out the connection between oil and money by asking this incisive question:

“What value do the ten largest banks in the world have if we take away the ten largest oil fields?”

The answer of course is “almost nothing.” Without energy, the money controlled or lent by the banks literally wouldn’t be able to do anything, including creating profit. Take away energy, world economic growth reverses and the value we’ve assigned in the current system (i.e. stock prices, future pension obligations, etc.) dramatically drops in value.

What does this mean for the relatively short-lived phenomenon of retirement? It means that whatever virtual assets you have accumulated over a lifetime of work — the money, stocks, bonds, real estate and the pensions made of those financial instruments — are headed for a massive devaluation.

There are several ways it could happen. In response to the end of growth and with no physical constraint on printing money (because the link to the physical world is now gone) governments might hyperinflate their currencies as they struggle with debt they can no longer pay back.

They should actually be doing exactly the opposite: the should remove money as the world economy contracts to return a balance between money and the resources implicitly backing the money. Alternatively, we could experience a fiat currency collapse, or bank runs, or a plunge in the stock market when one day a large enough group of people loses confidence in the system. Any one of those events could trigger the big step shown in the Staircase Model.

However the method, the devaluation must happen as energy is removed from the world economy. If you can’t yet see what I’m pointing to, keep pondering Jeffrey’s question as you move through the world. See how energy, particularly oil, is used to manufacture and transport every good and provide every service. Then take away the energy or make it very, very expensive. Does the economy expand or contract? Do assets increase in value or decrease in value? Which ones? Eventually you will see the connection between oil and money. As oil goes, so does money — and your retirement assets.

Is there still some time before this devaluation occurs? Yes, but just how long is impossible to predict with accuracy. Personally, I can’t see the system holding up much beyond this decade (i.e. up to 2020), but reasonable, intelligent people will provide different answers to this question.
Turning Virtual Assets to Real Assets

The stockpile of virtual assets that many of us relied on drawing down during retirement is already losing value; that process will accelerate. It’s time to put that value to use before it disappears entirely.

In my courses the hardest thing for people to do is act on this insight, for many reasons. It might mean giving up on dreams of endless travel and golf games. It might mean their children do not go to college. It definitely means preparing for a very different life. Regardless of the reason, I always encourage people to summon the courage to act. In particular, I recommend that people start converting their virtual assets to real assets (i.e. physical things) while the virtual assets still have value. Timing these conversions well means getting more real assets in exchange for the virtual assets but how long to wait before one is mostly out of the virtual asset game is a matter of personal tolerance for risk.

It takes time to get ready for the end of retirement. Products that are easy to obtain now will be difficult or impossible to obtain outside of the black market (if at all). There are new skills to learn, like learning to grow food, or some other skill that can be traded for food. Homes need to be retrofitted to use the least possible energy and, where there is sufficient money, to produce energy. Then there is the very real challenge of being set up properly to pay property taxes and possibly a mortgage year after year (or the rent, if one doesn’t own one’s shelter). Families will do better if their members live close to each other and especially in the same house to help pay for common expenses. I know of several families making plans to move close to each other right now.

After a close look, most people eventually see that they are perfectly capable of running a post peak household once the need for iPods and foreign vacations goes away. But that doesn’t mean that setting up for The Long Descent can be done overnight. I would say a full third of the people in my courses have already been diligently at work for years.

If Iraqi oil buys us a few more years, we should count ourselves lucky but it is far from guaranteed that Iraqi oil will come online quickly enough and in sufficient quantity to make a significant difference. In other words, don’t put off preparing or — even worse — think The Long Descent has been avoided. This is especially true if you see yourself, as my friend does, one day calling your children, taking a deep breath and quietly but purposefully saying, “I think it’s time for you to come home.”

Housebreaking the Corporations

SUBHEAD: Am I seriously proposing that corporations should be thrown in jail or put to death. Yes!

By John Michael Greer on 6 January 2010 in Archdruid Report - (

Image above: Former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay being escorted to jail
in handcuffs. From 

 One obstacle to constructive change in the face of peak oil I didn’t discuss recently on The Archdruid Report is the role of corporate influence in contemporary society. That factor is of course real – the influence of large corporations has checked, and at times checkmated, quite a few useful reforms in recent decades – but it has been overstated fairly often; the same thing could be said with equal truth of nearly any other large and well-funded institution in American life, from the retiree lobby to the American Medical Association.

 The principle behind that effect is simple enough to grasp. Whenever power has been diffused to the point that no one power center can carry out its agenda without the consent of many others, any well-organized faction becomes a power broker. It can drive whatever bargains it wishes in exchange for supporting the agendas of other factions, and use that clout to defend those positions it considers nonnegotiable.

A good deal of the stalemate that puts necessary reforms out of reach in Washington DC just now is a function of this process; it’s hard to think of any such reform that won’t step on the toes of at least one well-funded power center, and so business as usual proceeds on its merry way, even though almost everyone recognizes that the end result will be to nobody’s benefit. Consider, as one example out of many, the way that the retiree lobby keeps the single sanest response to America’s looming budget crisis – a simple means test on Social Security and Medicare – from ever coming up for discussion. The same logic, enforced by one or another power center, keeps every other effective reform out of reach. This is not, to be sure, the way a significant fraction of today’s radicals describe the situation.

Since I first started The Archdruid Report, and more particularly since economics began to move toward center stage in these essays, I’ve received a regular stream of comments and emails insisting that corporations play the role of Sauron the Dark Lord in an updated remake of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

Another example of the species showed up in the inbox a few days ago; this one insisted that corporations had become the new dominant life form on Earth, and were ruthlessly squeezing out all the others, including us. The Tolkien metaphor may not be quite on target in that case, as the author seems to have taken his metaphors from the Terminator movies instead. Still, the quest to identify somebody in today’s society as evil incarnate, and blame him, her, or it for the world’s problems, is much the same. (I ought to write a post someday on the way that a plot device Tolkien adopted for literary effect has been stood on its head and turned into one of our time’s most misleading metaphors, but that’s a job for another day.)

The problem with such identifications, as I’ve suggested repeatedly in these essays, is that the root of most of today’s problems is the simple fact that most of the people on our badly overcrowded planet demand lifestyles that the Earth’s resources will not support for much longer. Until that changes, nothing else is going to change – and nobody has yet suggested a plausible way for that change to happen that doesn’t involve a vast number of deaths and the decline and fall of industrial society.

That being the case, we’re in for a rough future. Still, as I’ve also suggested here rather more than once, this unwelcome news doesn’t make constructive change pointless. Bad as the unraveling of the industrial age will inevitably be, there’s still plenty of room for choices that could make matters noticeably better, or noticeably worse, in the deindustrial age beginning around us. One of those changes, I suggest, has to do with the way corporations relate to society as a whole – for it’s not necessary to project mythic images of absolute evil onto today’s corporations to realize that there are significant problems with that relationship.

 The core difficulty is simple enough to describe. Corporations, under the laws of the United States and most other nations, are legal persons; they have many, though not all, of the same rights that “natural persons” – that is, you and me – have under the law. Still, the most obvious difference between corporate persons and natural persons these days is that the corporate kind are noticeably more antisocial.

They pursue their purposes – primarily, making money – with a single-mindedness and a lack of concern for consequences that, in natural persons, would be accurately labeled psychopathic; they’ve proven themselves consistently willing to lie, cheat, steal, and kill whenever the likely return on these acts outweighs the risk of punishment. Any number of writers in recent years have pointed this out, of course. Some of them have simply turned up the rhetoric of moral denunciation, with the usual results – that is, a warm glow of self-righteousness on the part of the denouncer, and no effect at all on the denouncee. Others have proposed various means for forcing corporate persons to behave themselves.

One popular proposal would subject corporations to regular review by some independent body which could annul the charter of any corporation that refused to be properly housebroken, forcing its dissolution. What would keep this body honest in the face of the fantastic potential for corruption, the proponents of this notion do not say, but there’s another issue here: we’ve actually got a tolerably effective way of responding to antisocial behavior; we just don’t apply it to corporate persons the way we do to natural persons.

A glance back into the history of law may help clarify the matter. I’m not sure how many people these days know that the earliest version of English common law, from which our American legal system descends, operated entirely on the basis of fines.

The principle of wergild, as it was called, gave each person a cash value; if a murder took place, the murderer had to pay the family of the victim that cash value as wergild for the death. Lesser injuries and insults called for lesser fees. The same thing was true of nearly all the old Indo-European tribal law codes.

It didn’t work very well, not least because anyone who had enough money could act the way mainstream economists think we all ought to act, on the basis of a simple cost-benefit analysis. If you could afford to pay the wergild for killing somebody, and decided it was worth the expense, why not?

 So as the Dark Ages gave way to less chaotic times, legal codes in England and elsewhere replaced wergild with punishments that were a good deal less easy to shrug off. This is why natural persons who are convicted of felonies, by and large, can’t get away with just paying a fine; they go to jail, or if the crime is heinous enough and it happens in a jurisdiction with capital punishment, they die. While it has its failings, this approach to antisocial behavior generally works a good deal more effectively than the wergild principle.

 From this perspective, the problem with corporate persons is simple enough: the only risk they run in breaking the law is that they have to pay wergild, and that doesn’t constrain antisocial behavior any more effectively now than it did in Anglo-Saxon times. My more perceptive readers may be wondering at this point whether I’m seriously proposing that corporations should be thrown in jail or put to death.

Yes, that’s what I’m proposing, with the adjustments needed to account for the differences between corporate persons and natural persons. What’s the essential nature of imprisonment for a crime, after all?

The criminal ceases to be a free person; for a specified period of time, he is a chattel of society, and society has the right to profit from his labor during that period. And capital punishment? The criminal, having proven that he isn’t willing to abide by even the most minimal standards of social existence, ceases to exist by act of society. Both of these can be applied to corporations easily enough. Imagine, then, that a corporation – we’ll call it the Shyster Company – has just been caught selling worthless securities to widows and orphans. The district attorney files charges of felony fraud and theft.

The trial date arrives, the lawyers bicker, the jury finds the defendant guilty as charged and the judge sentences the corporation to the equivalent of ten years in the slammer. The judge appoints a trustee, who takes control of Shysterco and all its assets. For the following ten years, Shysterco is a wholly owned subsidiary of the state government. Its stock pays no dividends and has no voting rights, its directors have to find something else to do with their time, and if the trustee decides that the CEO and other overpaid office fauna get to find new jobs, they get to find new jobs – assuming that they’re not doing time themselves, as they probably should be.

All profits earned by Shysterco during its period of imprisonment go to the state government, subject to set-asides that pay restitution to the victims of the crime. Meanwhile another conglomerate – we’ll call this one Dirty Rotten Scoundrel Inc. – has been caught knowingly selling food products tainted with deadly bacteria, and a dozen people have died.

This time the district attorney files charges of aggravated first degree murder. The trial date arrives, the media has a field day, the lawyers bicker, the jury returns a verdict of guilty as charged, the judge sentences DRSI to death and the appeals court upholds the sentence.

On the scheduled date of execution, DRSI ceases to exist. Its stock becomes worthless, its assets are sold off in an auction in which no former shareholder is allowed to bid, its name and trademarks can never again be used by anybody under penalty of law, and its creditors get whatever scraps are left once the victims’ families receive their settlements. It’s crucial that the stockholders in both cases, and the creditors in the latter case, suffer for the behavior of the corporation.

The stockholders of a corporation are its owners, in fact and law; they profit from its activities, and therefore should pay for its crimes. The laws governing corporations limit the liability of stockholders to the value of their investment, and there’s no need to overturn that principle; it simply needs to be applied to criminal cases in the same way that responsibility is applied in cases involving natural persons.

Notice that under this system, if word gets out that a corporation is pushing the limits of legality, the stockholders have a very strong incentive to sell, driving down the value of the stock. Notice also that if lenders become aware that a corporation is engaging in really egregious behavior, they have a very strong incentive to charge higher interest rates or even to stop loaning money to the corporation.

Neither has any such incentive under the current system, which is one reason why corporations act as though their quarterly profit statements are the only things that matter; to their stockholders and creditors, this is essentially the case. Finally, notice that the government has a powerful incentive to enforce the law, which current corporate regulation schemes generally lack. Governments always need money; raising taxes is unpopular, but catching a crooked corporation that has violated the law and making the rascals pay for their crime will make excellent press, and five or ten years of corporate income in the state treasury is likely to gladden the heart of even the most unregenerate corporate stooge in the state legislature.

My more perceptive readers may be wondering at this point whether I seriously think such a proposal has the chance of a snowball in Beelzebub’s back yard of being enacted.

Yes, as it happens, I do. One of the repeated lessons of history is that the political power of business waxes during times of relative stability, and crumples in times of turmoil and crisis.

The long European peace of the 19th century saw business interests dominate most Western governments; when that peace shattered in 1914, it took the power of big business with it, and by the time the rubble stopped bouncing after 1945, every Western country had either embraced some degree of socialism outright, or adopted radical economic reforms that would have been considered unthinkable before a flurry of bullets at Sarajevo tipped the world into chaos. We are facing a similar age of crisis now, in case you haven’t noticed, and it’s worth noting that a number of countries have already seen governments square off against corporate powers and win.

Consider Russia, where the seizure of the nation’s fossil fuel reserves by local magnates backed by multinational corporations drew a brutally effective counter from the government once Putin took office. When the power of money faces off against the power of violence, money comes out a distant second.

As the Great Recession deepens, the peaking and decline of world petroleum production begins to bite, and rising world powers contend with declining America and each other to settle whose will be the next global empire, this equation is likely to play a major role in the balance of political power. I suspect that by the time the current mess gets any deeper, business interests will be facing organized efforts to do things much more drastic to them than simply hold corporations responsible for their crimes, and may be willing to bargain in the hope of survival in exactly the same way their predecessors did in that earlier time of troubles. Yet there’s another factor that needs to be addressed.

As I suggested toward the beginning of this essay, the power of corporate interests might more usefully be seen as a response to the general weakness of all other parties. That weakness is the product of a power vacuum at the core of the American political system, and this vacuum will be the theme of next week’s post.

Kauai Energy Sustainability 2030

SUBHEAD: The Draft Kauai Energy Sustainability Plan is deeply flawed by our desire to continue on as we have. That will not happen.

By Juan Wilson on 7 January 2010 in Island Breath -

Image above: "End of the Road". A burned out rental car on the beach at Poli Hale. Photograph by Richard Jarke from December 2009.

 [Author's note: Fellow Island Breath editor Brad Parsons has posted a draft copy of the Kauai Energy Sustainability Plan (KESP) on his website at . Due to its plans length Brad linked to its several PDF file sections. If you care to look at it, I have reduced its 33 page Executive Summary to less than 1600 below as the "KESP SUMMARY SUMMARY".]  

After looking at the KESP draft report I conclude that, like so much in America's effort to adjust to the future... too little - too late. The KESP cites the KIUC 2030 Sustainabilty goal of 50% energy independence in 15 years as less that what is required to meet the Kauai's needs. I agree, but would add that we do not have until 2030 to be 100% self reliant.

World economic and natural resource restrictions will make us self reliant much sooner than that. The question is what will the quality of our lives be when we are limited by the oncoming tsunami of reality.

We will have to live under whatever circumstances we have created for ourselves prior to when oil is selling for $200 a barrel or is simply unobtainable here on Kauai. The KESP draft says we can reduce energy demand through conservation and efficiency, increase our clean energy supply, and make energy delivery more efficient, to meet the goal of 100% local energy sustainability by 2030. This "lofty" goal assumes that what is needed on Kauai are mere adjustments to energy delivery systems and practices to maintain our non-negotiable current life style. In short, it seems we need wind farms to keep the plasma HD screens glowing and we need bio-diesel to keep or Ford F-150's tanks topped-off.

 The plan never really admits or seems to understand that our lives will be fundamentally restructured by a future that will not provide magical techno-fixes. This is likely due to the technique of using community-consensus-building-dialog to form the goals of the KESP. In other words, it expresses hopes that may be unachievable.

The plan does hint at the need for more self sufficiency in food production, but yet includes bio-fuel as a requirement to meet KESP goals. As far as I am concerned food production is the number one priority. We can live without residential electricity and driving trucks. We cannot live without food and to be food self-sufficient will require a ten-fold increase in food production on Kauai.

 Once again, I will go back to an article I submitted in 2006 to the 2050 Hawaii Sustainability Task Force. It was published on Island Breath in three parts at the beginning of 2007 .

Part 2 covers the future of Kauai between 2007 and 2029 ( It looks past 2010 to a "Special Period" on Kauai similar to the jolt Cuba got in 1989 when the Soviet Union collapsed. It reads:

"The delicacy of our situation in Hawaii lies in our dependence on that far off US economy. The financial stumble Kauai makes when tourism tanks will only be a prelude to life after cheap oil. 

Things will get dark when the US economy moves past a failure of confidence and moves into an extended depression sometime around 2011. Then we will be facing our own "Special Period". For Kauai the Special Period is likely to begin when it is uneconomical to fly a head of lettuce by jet plane to the middle of the Pacific Ocean for consumption on an island that can grow its own lettuce. Over 90% of our food is imported, and we have only about a week's food supply."

We will also suffer when the regularly scheduled tanker barge deliveries of JP4, diesel and gasoline become irregular. KIUC's Hanapepe power plant will at times not be able to deliver all power required. Steady uniform power 24x7x365 will be only a fond memory. The average home will live without air conditioning or even regular refrigeration. Those who have hooked up photovoltaic panels or small windmills with storage devices will be envied. They will have lights and satellite TV.

The rest of us will entertain ourselves telling stories around a fire and playing acoustic instruments. KIUC will be dissolved and a true owner operated cooperative effort will replace it. As Iniki illustrated, things can fall apart in a day, and be dark for a while.

Iniki brought Kauians together, but Iniki was a local temporary condition. We could get outside help from the State and Federal government. Volunteers flew in from around the world to help out. In our Special Period we will have to rely on ourselves." The definition that Island Breath uses for sustainability is:
• Using unrenewable resources no faster than they are recycled.
• Using renewable resources no faster than they are replaced.
• Restoring the variety and balance of living species.
• Enhancing the art and knowledge of human cultures. 
Sustainability is not, however, a means for the continuing the status quo. Getting ready for the future you want to live in is your job. Get to work. Below is the...

The Kauai Energy Sustainability Plan Final Report integrates the results of community engagement with objective energy analysis. The KESP is being developed for the County of Kauai, as a result of a competitive solicitation awarded by the County of Kauai to the SENTECH Hawaii Team, consisting of SENTECH Hawaii, LLC, Kauai Planning Action & Alliance (KPAA), and Maurice Kaya, LLC. The Kauai Energy Sustainability Plan is an energy sustainability plan for the island of Kauai, not an energy sustainability plan for Kauai County government, not an energy sustainability plan for KIUC.

However it has specific recommendation for actions to be taken by Kauai County government, by KIUC, by state government, by local businesses and by individuals to achieve energy sustainability for our island. The purpose of the KESP is to facilitate Kauai`’s production and use of local, sustainable energy in the place of imported oil by the year 2030.

 To begin to define energy sustainability, the SENTECH Hawaii Team engaged the community to analyze the term “sustainability”. Several outside groups have tried to define the term “sustainability”, but the basic definition for sustainable development from the Brundtland Commission may be the simplest and most profound: Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

A possible weakness of this definition is that development is assumed; not all groups of people would agree that development per se is a given. What if a group doesn’t want their land, society, and/or way of life to change? The Brundtland Commission, formally the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), is known by the name of its Chair, Gro Harlem Brundtland, and was convened by the United Nations in 1983.

A more objective and scienctific definition of sustainability may be useful in examining energy generation, delivery and use on Kauai. It’s hard to imagine finding more objective, scientific foundations on which to build guiding principles of energy sustainability than the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics:
  1. The First Law of Thermodynamics (the “law of conservation of energy”) states that the total amount of energy in a closed system remains constant. A consequence of this law is that energy cannot be created nor destroyed.
  2. The Second Law of Thermodynamics (the “law of increasing entropy”) is an expression of the universal principle of increasing entropy (basically, disorder). 
 The implications of the Second Law are that matter and energy tend to become disorganized over time, or gain "entropy." The Natural Step (TNS) offers a framework of sustainability that is based on applying these unassailable thermodynamic laws to Earth’s nearly closed-loop ecosystem. TNS believes that:

 1. All the matter that will ever exist on earth is here now. (First Law).
 2. Disorder increases in all closed systems and the Earth is a closed system with respect to matter (Second Law), except that Earth receives energy from the sun.

Sunlight is responsible for almost all increases in net material quality on Earth through photosynthesis (for plant growth), solar heating effects (warming of the planet, evaporation of ocean water for fresh water production, creation of ocean currents and wind, etc.). In the realm of sustainable energy, sunlight can create electricity through photovoltaics, and solar heat can be used to drive concentrating solar power, as well as solar thermal heating and cooling systems.

This flow of energy into our ecosystem from the sun essentially creates order from disorder, making an exception to the natural trend of entropy (disorder) in a closed system. Signs that modern society is not sustainable include the fact that we are mining and dispersing materials (such as oil and coal) faster than they are returned to the Earth's crust. In the process, we are increasing the concentration of harmful emissions (such as carbon, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur oxides) and heavy metals (such as lead and mercury) into our ecosystem. To become a sustainable society, TNS starts with the premise that sustainability means preserving all forms of life on Earth.

So, the first three of four TNS Principles of Sustainability focus on interactions between humans and the planet; while the final principle addresses the basic needs of humans. In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing: 1. Concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth's crust; 2. Concentrations of substances produced by society; 3. Degradation by physical means and, in that society, 4. People are not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their needs.

The SENTECH Hawaii Team believes that the fourth and final TNS principle is compatible with the definition of sustainable development proposed by the Brundtland Commission, but without including the assumption of “development”.

By using TNS principles to define sustainability, Kauai has the best of both worlds so to speak. TNS led a two-day workshop on Kauai in June of 2006 for about 40 leaders from the government, business and nonprofit sectors. The workshop focused on providing education and awareness-building of the sustainability challenge, provided an overview of TNS and the business case for sustainability, and discussed how the TNS framework can be applied at both the individual and corporate levels.

The group performed a visioning exercise and developed a series of strategies to move Kauai toward sustainability. The results of the workshop laid the foundation for subsequent dialogue and efforts related to sustainability. The Big Island of Hawaii is also reviewing and implementing an energy sustainability plan.

In June of 2009, advisors from TNS visited the Big Island of Hawai’i to provide a series of public workshops and a two and a half day session with leaders from various Island businesses and organizations. The public workshops included audiences from the business community, municipal government representatives, and high school students attending the “Student Congress on Sustainability.” The session brought together 32 potential change leaders to focus on putting theory into practice through the completion of both baseline and visioning exercises specific to the Island of Hawaii.4

The “default” goal for Kauai’s energy sustainability goals may be KIUC’s 50% renewable energy goal as mentioned in their 2008 Strategic Plan: “KIUC is committing itself to generate at least 50% of its electricity renewably without burning fossil fuels within 15 years.” This goal was derived from Green House Gas (GHG) legislation that mandates a reduction in GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. To achieve that goal, KIUC would need to generate 50% of its energy from carbon-neutral or non-carbon sources.

Other solutions such as demand side management, improved efficiency, and carbon cap and trade could improve efficiency and reduce the 50% estimate while still meeting the GHG target. While admirable and commendable, this goal runs counter to the Vision statement from the Kauai community since the biofuel would have to be imported (not a local resource), and doesn’t take into account the costs and externalities of transporting the fuel from thousands of miles away.

Based on feedback from the Kauai community, the community wants to set new standards of clean, sustainable energy within the KESP. The community has indicated that it wants to achieve: 100% local energy sustainability by 2030. Kauai needs to close a 94.2% gap over the next 20 years to reach their local, sustainable energy goals.

 The SENTECH Hawaii Team will endeavor to help Kauai meet this laudable goal through the energy sustainability plan development process, while acknowledging that meeting this goal will depend on many variables over which the Team has limited influence. For example, the goal of 100% local energy sustainability for Kauai could be met within a few months if unlimited funds were available to buy down the (usually) higher upfront capital costs for renewables, or if the price of oil skyrocketed and stayed high for several months causing renewables to look more attractive financially, or if wind regulations changed that permitted the development of this cost-effective renewable option, etc.

 I. Defining Objectives From understanding many of the technical, economic, marketplace, policy/regulatory, and environmental factors affecting energy, the SENTECH Hawaii Team presented to the community the following three general objectives of:
1. Reduce Demand through Energy Conservation and Efficiency,
2. Increase Clean Energy Supply,
3. Make Energy Delivery More Efficient. meet the Goal of 100% Local Energy Sustainability by 2030. END OF SUMMARY

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Energy Sustainability Plan 1/5/10

Obama's Kill Machine

SUBHEAD: "Obama has kept the machine set on kill” – Journalist and activist Allan Nairn reviews Obama’s first year in office.

Image above: Illustration of last humans fighting Skynet robot-drones bent on exterminating them in the Terminator movie series. From

[Editor's Note: I recently heard a comment from a reporter in the field that the attacks on civilian targets in Pakistan look a lot like the robot drone attacks on the last humans in the Terminator movie series. You have to root for the humans every time. Here's an interesting statistic - The Air Force trained more pilots to fly unmanned aerial systems from ground operations centers in 2009 than pilots for military aircraft. Washington Post]

By Amy Goodwin on 6 December 2009 on Democracy Now! - (

ANJALI KAMAT: On Tuesday, President Obama made another statement on the failure of intelligence agencies to intercept the Christmas Day plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight. He said the US government had the necessary information to stop the twenty-three-year-old Nigerian suspect from boarding the Detroit-bound flight, but he excoriated the intelligence community for failing to connect the dots in time.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I will accept that intelligence, by its nature, is imperfect. But it is increasingly clear that intelligence was not fully analyzed or fully leveraged. That’s not acceptable, and I will not tolerate it.

ANJALI KAMAT: Obama said intelligence agencies knew that the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, had, quote, “traveled to Yemen and joined up with extremists there.” The President also addressed concerns over repatriating the ninety-odd Yemeni men who are still detained in Guantanamo.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Given the unsettled situation, I’ve spoken to the attorney general, and we’ve agreed that we will not be transferring additional detainees back to Yemen at this time. But make no mistake. We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al-Qaeda. In fact, that was an explicit rationale for the formation of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. And as I’ve always said, we will do so—we will close the prison in a manner that keeps the American people safe and secure.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, it’s almost been a year since President Obama’s inauguration and his promise to close the prison at Guantanamo.

For a critical look back over the Obama administration’s foreign policy and national security decisions in the last twelve months, we’re joined here in New York by award-winning investigative journalist and activist Allan Nairn.

In 1991, we were both in East Timor and witnessed and survived the Santa Cruz massacre, in which Indonesian forces killed more than 270 Timorese. The soldiers fractured Allan’s skull.

Over the past three decades, he has exposed how the US government has backed paramilitary death squads in El Salvador, in Guatemala, in Haiti. He also uncovered US support for the Indonesian military’s assassinations and torture of civilians.

He’s joining us now for the rest of the hour.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Allan Nairn.


AMY GOODMAN: Well, why don’t you start off with a broad overview, as we move into this first anniversary of President Obama’s inauguration, of his term in office?

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, I think Obama should be remembered as a great man because of the blow he struck against white racism, the cultural blow. And he accomplished that on Election Day. That was huge. This is one of the most destructive forces in world history, and by simply—by virtue of becoming president, Obama did it major damage.

But once he became president, by virtue of his actions, just like every US president before him, just like those who ran other great powers, Obama became a murderer and a terrorist, because the US has a machine that spans the globe, that has the capacity to kill, and Obama has kept it set on kill. He could have flipped the switch and turned it off. The President has—turned it off. The President has that power, but he chose not to do so.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean? Explain more fully.

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, the machine. The US spends about half of all—almost half of all the military spending in the entire world, equal to virtually all the other countries combined. More than half of the weapons sold in the world are sold by the United States. The US has more than 700 military bases scattered across dozens of countries. The US is the world’s leading trainer of paramilitaries. The US has a series of courses, from interrogators to generals, that have graduated military people guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity in dozens upon dozens of countries. The US has a series of covert paramilitary forces of its own that get almost no attention. For example, right now in Iran, there are covert US paramilitaries attacking Iran from within, authorized by secret executive order. This was briefly reported, but it dropped from notice. In addition to that, there are the open attacks, the open bombings and invasions. Just in the recent period, the US has done this to Iran—to, I’m sorry, to Iraq, to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Kenya. Currently in the Philippines, there are US troops in action in the south. And you could go on. This is the machine.

And then, in addition, there’s the support for a series of what the RAND Corporation itself—you know, RAND is an extension of the Pentagon—called US support for repressive non-democratic governments and for governments that commit aggression. There are about forty of them that the US backs. And I could run through the list. And the point is, Obama has not cut a single—cut off a single one of these repressive regimes. He has not cut off a single one of the terror forces. He has increased the size of the US Army, increased the size of US Special Forces. He has increased the level of overseas arms sales. In fact, the Pentagon, his Pentagon, was recently bragging about it. The same thing happened under the Clinton administration with then-Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown. He has tuned it up. But you could just run down the list of countries where civilians are being killed and tortured with US weapons, with US money, with US intelligence, with US political green lights.

ANJALI KAMAT: So, Allan, what would you say is the difference between the preceding eight years under the Bush administration and this past year, as we move forward under Obama?

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, in this respect, on matters I was just talking about, there’s no substantive difference. In fact, as far as one can tell, Obama seems to have killed more civilians during his first year than Bush did in his first year, and maybe even than Bush killed in his final year, because not only has Obama kept the machine set on kill, but he had his special project, which is Pakistan and Afghanistan. He used this to get elected. He had to prove himself. He had to go through what the New York Times once called the “presidential initiation rite,” under which each president must, in their words, demonstrate his willingness to shed blood. Obama did that by saying, “I’m going to attack more vigorously Afghanistan and Pakistan.” And he’s brought chaos.

I mean, you just saw the report from Afghanistan and Pakistan. He has squeezed the Pakistani military to attack their own tribal and border areas with extensive civilian death and retaliation from the residents of those areas through a series of bombings across the major cities of Pakistan.

Likewise in Somalia, Bush backed Ethiopia in an invasion of Somalia, basically an Ethiopian-US invasion of Somalia. Now Obama is pumping in new arms, new weapons, into the midst of the killing and chaos there. Somalis are streaming into Yemen as refugees. The already disastrous level of hunger and starvation is increasing. His body count probably exceeds that of Bush.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what we’ve been seeing over the last few days, I mean, what happened with the jetliner, now President Obama coming out yesterday talking about other attempts that were thwarted, like even on Inauguration Day, and that was actually Somali. And what are the approaches you think that President Obama should take?

ALLAN NAIRN: Right. Well, you know, the issue is not the safety of Americans. The issue is the safety of people. All people. You have to count not just the American deaths and potential American deaths, but the deaths everywhere, since—you know, since everyone counts. And the best solution is the one that protects the maximum number of people. And if you happen to be the party that is committing the largest number of killings in the world, as the US is now, then the solution is easy: stop committing the killings.

In this case, in the present moment in history, that would have the added side benefit of most likely making Americans safer, as well, because you would take away the main provocation. Tom Brokaw, on TV this weekend, made a very interesting comment. He described what the US was engaged in as the “war against Islamic rage.” That’s actually the most telling definition I’ve seen. I mean, think about it. In Afghanistan, Karzai, the US/UN-installed president, basically the man thought of as a US puppet, the man previously lionized by the US press before he started speaking out against the US aerial killings of civilians, Karzai started to get enraged after a series of bombings of wedding parties by the US and NATO forces. Think about it. Somebody bombs your wedding, a foreign air force bombs your wedding. How are you supposed to react? Are you supposed to be delighted? Rage is the normal human response. If you stop that, you lower the rage, and you probably get fewer attacks on Americans.

You know, there’s a man named Kilcullen, who’s Australian by origin, who’s now one of the main intellects behind the US counterinsurgency policy. He advises Secretary Gates, who of course was Bush’s Defense Secretary, as well. He said that if he were a Muslim today in a Middle Eastern country, he would probably be a jihadist. Robert Pape, the leading academic specialist on suicide bombings who studied the entire database of all the suicide bombers in recent years, said it’s a consequence primarily of occupation. So, you stop committing mass murder overseas, and you immediately, immediately, just by that action, achieve the main goal, which is minimizing the overall deaths of people, and you most likely get the side benefit of also minimizing the deaths of Americans—

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Pape—

ALLAN NAIRN: —because you’re prodding fewer people.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Pape is a conservative academic?

ALLAN NAIRN: Yes. In fact, he went on TV recently saying he was a big fan of aerial bombing. I mean, he is no peacenik. But he honestly studied the data on suicide bombings, and that was his conclusion.

And by the way, the tactic of, you know, bombs in civilian places, like outside mosques, it was not originated by the current jihadists. You know, the current jihadists, of course, as is well known, grew out of the US and Saudi Arabian operation in Afghanistan to repel the Soviet invasion, and bin Laden and the others were backed by the US. But that actual tactic dates back to times like when the CIA used it in Lebanon to try to kill a cleric, and they blew up people as they were leaving the mosque. They used a car—the US used a car bomb to do that.

Even aerial bombings, even bombings of airplanes, three of the biggest incidents before 9/11 were actually incidents of US culpability. In ’76, a Cuban airliner was brought down with—I believe the death toll was—what was it? Seventy-three, I think, something on that order—by Luis Posada Carriles, a longtime CIA operative, who was later indicted for terrorism. And the US refused to extradite him. They’re harboring—they’re harboring him. Later, in—let’s see, what year was it? The Indian Airlines bombing in ’85, I believe, an Indian jetliner was blown up, almost—about 300 killed. The bombers were later found to have received training at a US camp in Alabama, US paramilitary camp that had also, with Reagan backing, had done operations against Central America. The Iranian jetliner shot down by a US ship, the Vincennes, also with roughly 300 killed, in ’88, the captain of the ship who did that, he got a medal from Bush Senior for exceptionally meritorious service.

So these tactics, you know, bombing civilian places, even blowing up jetliners specifically, are not new. And the US itself has used them.

And, you know, they talk about how the jihadists target civilians. Well, it’s certainly true. But when bin Laden attacked the World Trade Center, he was basically using—the attack on 9/11, he was basically using US targeting principles. He attacked the Pentagon, a military target, and he attacked the World Trade Center, which had a CIA—in fact, did have a CIA office in it. Now, on this end, especially here in New York, we can see that those targeting standards are absolutely insane. I mean, we could see the cooks and the firemen dying. You know, we could breathe the dust. We could see, no, even if you are going after a CIA office, you do not do this. We can see that that’s wrong on this end. It’s also wrong on the other end, when the US does it.

When the US opened—so it’s not just a matter of targeting, and it’s not just a matter of targeting civilians. The Goldstone report found that Israel targeted civilians specifically, when they invaded Gaza, and the US has often done it. For example, in Iraq, the US adopted what they called the El Salvador option, which is a reference back to the El Salvadoran death squads of the 1960s and ‘70s, which is something I investigated extensively. And these were launched under the Kennedy administration and basically sponsored and run by the US for decades. And similar operations were done in Iraq by the US, under the direction, by the way, of General McChrystal, who now runs Afghanistan. The technical term the Pentagon used for it—uses for it is “manhunting.” So they do target civilians.

But even when they’re not targeting civilians, which is probably most of the time, they end up killing massive numbers of civilians. The Pentagon has a word for that, too. They call it “bugsplat.” In the opening days of the invasion of Iraq, they ran computer programs, and they called the program the Bugsplat program, estimating how many civilians they would kill with a given bombing raid. On the opening day, the printouts presented to General Tommy Franks indicated that twenty-two of the projected bombing attacks on Iraq would produce what they defined as heavy bugsplat—that is, more than thirty civilian deaths per raid. Franks said, “Go ahead. We’re doing all twenty-two.” So that adds up to, you know, about 660 anticipated, essentially planned, what in domestic terms would be called criminally negligent homicide, at the least, probably second-degree murder. You might even be able to get it up to first, first-degree. And that, just if—if that was the actual toll, the bugsplat estimate of the toll on the first day, that right there would give you a third of the World Trade Center death toll, just on the first day of the Iraq operation. And, of course, the Iraq operation has gone on. And that’s essentially what’s happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

They claim—or they claim—or let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, and they say, OK, they have an al-Qaeda target, or whatever target, some armed man in some compound somewhere, and they bomb it, and they also kill the person’s wife and the kids and their extended family and the friends who were there for dinner. Imagine. Imagine if that happened here. Let’s say al-Qaeda occupied New York. They set up checkpoints on Seventh Avenue. And if a car tried to run the checkpoints, they’d machine-gun the car, as the US does in Iraq. Or they ran drones over Washington, DC, and they were taking out US officials in their backyards as they did barbecues in suburban Virginia or as they were going for coffee in Dupont Circle. How would Americans react to that? In fact, how would Americans react if some young American went out and killed some of those al-Qaeda occupiers? The question answers itself.

I mean, when you do things like this, when you make humans into bugsplat, you invite response. So, stop the killing, and you get a benefit. You’ll probably make yourself safer, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to award-winning journalist and activist Allan Nairn. We’re going to go to break, then come back. Want to get your reaction to President Obama’s Nobel address, also to his condemning torture just about a year ago. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. We’ll be back in a minute.


AMY GOOMAN: Our guest for this hour is Allan Nairn, award-winning journalist and activist.

Allan, I want to get your response to President Obama’s invocation of the concept of a just war, this in his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo in December.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We must begin by acknowledging a hard truth: we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations, acting individually or in concert, will find the use of force not only necessary, but morally justified.

    I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King, Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of nonviolence. I know there is nothing weak, nothing passive, nothing naïve, in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

    But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people, for, make no mistake, evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms.

AMY GOOMAN: An excerpt of President Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech in Oslo just about a month ago. Allan Nairn, your response?

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, he’s right. There is evil in the world. And Obama should stop committing it. He should stop bombing, doing bombing raids that kill civilians. He should stop backing forces that kill civilians.

You know, it’s probably true that nonviolence couldn’t have stopped Hitler. There are just resorts to violence. If you’re standing there with your mother, someone comes in with a machine gun, you step in front. And if you’ve got a gun, you try to kill the machine gunner before they blow away you and your mother. Sure, there are lots of situations like that in life.

But that’s not in the situation of the US in foreign policy. As Obama was making that speech, he was saying, when we resort to violence, we will abide by the rules. This was exactly at the moment when the US was blocking the UN from doing precisely that. The Goldstone report had recommended, in just one example, that Israel be brought to the International Criminal Court for their assault on Gaza and that—as well as Hamas—and that let the chips fall where they may. Do an objective investigation and see if rules of law were violated, see if crimes against humanity were committed, as he said they were. And Obama blocked it.

The US itself, in its operations in dozens upon dozens of countries, is violating not just international law, but US law. People have forgotten about them, because they’re not enforced. Here are four US laws currently on the books. There can be no US weapons used for aggression. That’s the old Harkin amendment. There can be no US aid for foreign internal security forces of any kind. That’s Section 660 of the 1974 Foreign Assistance Act. There can be no US military aid for any regime that engages in a pattern of gross human rights violations. That’s 22 US Code 2304(a). There can be no US aid for any military unit that commits atrocities. That’s the Leahy amendment. Now, these are not radical political demands; these are existing US law. And the US systematically violates its own laws, not to mention the murder laws of local countries.

AMY GOOMAN: Where? Name the countries.

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, just—you know, we mentioned before some of the places where the US is bombing and attacking. Less known, these are some examples of the machine being set on kill, repressive—what in RAND’s words—RAND Corporation’s words, repressive regimes being backed by the US: Algeria, where they annulled an election, they stole an election, they do systematic torture; Ethiopia, where there’s mass hunger among the population, but where the US is building up the Ethiopian army and using them against Somalia; Saudi Arabia, the most religious extremist, anti-woman dictatorship in the world; Jordan, a torture center—the Jordanian intelligence outfit was, in the words of George Tenet, owned by the CIA, and both the CIA and Israel use it for torture; Rwanda, whose army and paramilitaries have been pillaging and raping and massively killing in the eastern Congo; Congo itself, Secretary of State Clinton went there and made a good denunciation of rape by the Congolese army, and as that was happening, the US was delivering weapons and training to that same Congolese army; Indonesia, where the army now de facto occupies and terrorizes Papua and has recently resumed assassinations in Aceh, the other end of the archipelago; Colombia, where army and army-backed militaries are the world’s number-one killer of labor activists; Uzbekistan, massive torture backed simultaneously by the US and Russia; Thailand, where officers who—US officers who I spoke to use their US training in what they call “target selection” to assassinate and disappear Muslim rebels in the south; Nepal, where US Green Berets for years created old Guatemala-style civil patrols that carried out lynchings against pro-Maoist forces and civilians in the countryside; India, where the police do daily torture and where their own officers talk about using terror against villages in the Naxalite rebel areas; Egypt, one of the world’s leading torture states and Israel’s accomplice in the blockade and hungering of Gaza; Honduras, where the army recently staged a coup when the oligarchy’s president, Zelaya, turned against his fellow oligarchs; Israel, which committed aggression against Gaza using US white phosphorus and cluster bombs as the US was—the US was shipping in new materiel as this, you know, attack was underway; and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, where, as the British Guardian just reported, the security forces are doing systematic torture of Hamas people and other dissidents under CIA sponsorship. And that’s only a partial list. We’d need another twenty-minute segment to complete the list.

But in not one of these cases has Obama decided to comply with US law, comply with international law, and cut off the killer forces. In fact, in a number of them he has stepped it up. In Indonesia, for example, he’s made a push to renew aid to the Kopassus, the Red Berets, the most deadly of the killer forces, hated by the people, long trained by the US Green Berets.

AMY GOOMAN: You made a provocative statement at the beginning of this broadcast, comparing an Obama presidency with a possible Palin presidency, and whether you would see a difference when it comes to foreign policy.

ALLAN NAIRN: Right. Well, in terms of killing civilians overseas, no difference. Every single action I’ve laid out could easily be adopted by Palin. In fact, Obama is carrying them out using Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Gates, using Bush’s old counterterrorism man, Brennan, using Admiral Blair, Admiral Dennis Blair, who personally—this is something that we discussed on an earlier show and which I personally reported on—who green-lighted church massacres, massacres of Catholic churches by General Wiranto in occupied East Timor in 1999 to punish the Timorese for voting for independence. So Palin could do all those things.

AMY GOOMAN: Dennis Blair’s position at the time?

ALLAN NAIRN: He was head of the US Pacific forces, and he’s now Obama’s Director of National Intelligence. And he’s now getting some political heat over the Detroit underwear bomber incident, which I actually think is unfair. You know, you can reinforce the—I mean, Blair should have been indicted for crimes against humanity and put on trial. Blair should be in prison now for what he did with General Wiranto. But this is unfair criticism of him on the bomber. I mean, you can’t prevent someone from, you know, trying to sneak in. If you want real security, you stop it on the other end. You stop the provocations and turn down the heat.

ANJALI KAMAT: And Allan Nairn, one of the things that Obama promised—one of the ways he promised he would be different from the Republicans, different from previous presidents, and different from the enemy he’s fighting, is that he would adhere to the rule of law. There would be standards. He’s banning torture. He’s going to close Guantanamo. These were promises he made last year. Can you talk about where—you mentioned the Goldstone report and US efforts to block the Goldstone report at the UN. But can you give us an assessment of where Obama stands in terms of international law? You told us a little bit about domestic law.

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, the violations—and this is not—you know, we’re talking about Obama, but this is the whole US system. I mean, Bush did the same. Clinton did the same. Bush’s father, Reagan, Carter. It’s institutional policy. He’s violating not just law, but especially international law, which defines aggression as the supreme crime. And when you go in and bomb countries because you say there’s a—you know, there’s a militant there you want to kill, that is easily defined as aggression.

When you back forces that are systematically killing civilians, as many are in that list of countries I ran through, you are a party to crimes against humanity and maybe even, arguably, in some cases, genocide. That was certainly the case in Central America in the ’80s, where—actually, now a Spanish court has indicted and is trying various Guatemalan generals for those crimes, charging them with an array of crimes against humanity. And they did it with US backing, with US weapons.

Obama issued a torture ban, a supposed torture ban, which was actually a sham.

AMY GOOMAN: Let me play a clip of President Obama. It was just about a year ago, this executive order banning torture. On January 22nd of last year, this is what Obama promised to do.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This morning, I signed three executive orders. First, I can say, without exception or equivocation, that the United States will not torture. Second, we will close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and determine how to deal with those who have been held there. And third, we will immediately undertake a comprehensive review to determine how to hold and try terrorism suspects to best protect our nation and the rule of law.

AMY GOOMAN: That was President Obama just about a year ago. Allan Nairn?

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, his torture ban is empty. Ninety-eight, 99 percent of the US-backed torture is not done by Americans; it’s done by foreigners acting under US sponsorship. And that continues. His ban does not affect that. And even when it comes to Americans doing hands-on torture, his ban only says they are prohibited from doing so in situations of armed conflict, like in the middle of a war. That means that even an American could today go into Venezuela, go into Cuba, going into Egypt, go into Jordan, go into most of the countries of the world and commit hands-on torture, and it would be perfectly permissible under the so-called Obama torture ban. So it’s fake.

AMY GOOMAN: And what do you mean that others can do it?

ALLAN NAIRN: An American can do it if it’s in a country that’s not in a state of armed conflict. But the vast majority of the torture is carried out by proxies. That’s the way they did it in El Salvador. That’s the way they did it in Guatemala. There’s an intelligence officer, an Army man, a policeman of the local country, and they are trained by the US, they are paid by the US, but they’re not an American citizen. And they’re the one who wields the razor blade. They’re the one who puts the hood on.

AMY GOOMAN: Allan, you spend your time traveling the world. Talk about wealth and poverty.

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, the biggest issue is there are more than a billion people hungry in the world. It recently increased by a hundred million or so because of the Wall Street-induced financial collapse, but it was at about 900 million during the days of top prosperity, as defined by our current economic system. That’s completely intolerable. Until everybody eats, no one should live in luxury.

You know how much it would cost to feed those billion people? Less, much less, than was spent on just the bailout of Citibank. No one in the US, no one in any party leadership, talks about shifting those resources to do that. In fact, the President could do that with his own executive authority. For a deeper, longer-term solution, you’d have to change trade rules, you would have to change the IMF and the World Bank, so that farmers in currently hungry areas would have the same opportunities and protections that US yeoman farmers once had back in the age of Jefferson, when the US protected its farmers. But a president or even a rich person like a Gates or a Carlos Slim or a Buffett could instantly feed half the world. The World Food Programme, every few months, comes out with a desperate bulletin, saying we’ve got to cut back the calorie rations because we’re not getting enough for this or that program.

You know, in US politics, people face a bitter choice. You can’t vote for the—with a two-party system, you can’t vote against murder, you can’t vote for ending starvation. So they say, “My god, I guess I’ll go for the Democrats, because if I don’t, they’re going to move my Social Security to Wall Street, they’ll end gun control, they’ll end women’s choice.” So you end up backing these direct mass murders and the allowing of babies to have their brains deformed due to lack of food. That’s not tolerable.

I agree with those lunatic tea party people: we need a revolution. We need—now, they’re talking about a revolution to put a white person in charge. I’m talking about a revolution for change. Nothing radical, really. Just enforce the laws, those US laws, the murder laws, and shift a few dollars from people who merely want it, people like us who—you know, we live in luxury; we have all the food we could possibly eat in many lifetimes—and shifting it to people who need it to keep from being stunted, who need it to keep breathing, people—we can do that. You know, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan—

AMY GOOMAN: We have fifteen seconds.

ALLAN NAIRN: —horrible regimes. Today, they’re peaceful and productive. They were crushed by violence. That’s how they transformed their societies. I hope we don’t have to be crushed in that way. We can transform ourselves, but people have to stand up and do it. Surround Congress. Occupy the military bases. The US can become peaceful also, but only if we decide to do so. And we do have that choice. We have freedoms here.

AMY GOOMAN: Allan Nairn, I want to thank you for being with us. Allan Nairn is an award-winning journalist and activist.

Iran protesters' Harvard mentor

SUBHEAD: One-hundred-and-ninety-eight ways to bring down a government non-violently. Image above: Photo of Gene Sharp on 17 December 2009 from Utne article.

By Scott Peterson on 29 December 2009 in The Utne Reader - (

After massive protests shook Iran this past summer, Iran singled out an obscure American political scientist in his 80s as a key figure behind the unrest.

Gene Sharp, a retired Harvard researcher, is considered the godfather of nonviolent resistance. Since the early 1970s, his work has served as the template for taking on authoritarian regimes from Burma to Belgrade. A list of his 198 methods for nonviolent action can be downloaded free of charge, along with his seminal work, “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” which has been translated by his Albert Einstein Institute into two dozen languages ranging from Azeri to Vietnamese.

Hailed as the manual by those who conducted people-power coups in Eastern Europe, its contents were no secret in Iran, where authorities have obsessed for years about their vulnerability to a “velvet revolution.” In fact, a few years ago they requested – and were sent – hard copies of Mr. Sharp’s works. Officials saw this summer’s unrest as the fruit of his strategies.

In a mass trial of some 100 key reformist figures this past August, Iranian prosecutors charged that postelection protests were “completely planned in advance and proceeded according to a timetable and the stages of a velvet coup [such] that more than 100 of the 198 events were executed in accordance with the instructions of Gene Sharp.”

Sharp does not take credit – nor accept blame – for the summer crisis that, in the words of Iran’s most powerful military commanders, brought the regime to the “edge of a downfall.” But Sharp’s ideas are clearly reflected in the continuing political unrest.

“We don’t take charge of movements,” says Sharp, who runs his nonprofit on a modest budget out of his Boston home. “We try to provide materials to enable the people on the scene, who know the scene better than we do, by far, to make those decisions and do those things.”

Protests by the reformists took a bloody turn this weekend, with at least 8 dead by Monday. Antigovernment demonstrators attacked police with stones for the first time and also burned a jeep, according to an eyewitness. The nephew of former presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi was killed. A spokesman for Mr. Mousavi alleged that Seyd Ali Mousavi's killing was a targeted assassination. He said he was shot in the heart.

Farsi downloads of booklet soar

In June, as hundreds of thousands took to Iran’s streets and faced a violent crackdown, downloads of “From Dictatorship to Democracy” in Farsi spiked to 3,487 from just 79 the month before on Sharp’s website. Other sites hosting Sharp’s work reported a similar boost in demand.

“The great irony is that people actually weren’t focused on the velvet revolution option before the elections,” says Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. “It’s only after the elections, when Iranians have come to the realization that they can’t change their political fate with the ballot box, that they’ve looked to more dramatic options.”

The momentous collapse of authoritarian rule, from Czechoslovakia in 1989 to Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, and others, established a model for implementing Sharp’s tactics – one the Iranian authorities sought to avoid.

Authorities in Iran have closely examined past velvet revolutions, as well as Sharp’s books. A 2007 cartoon video created by Iranian intelligence portrayed Sharp as “the theoretician of civil disobedience and velvet revolutions” and “one of the CIA agents in charge of America’s infiltration into other countries.”

But Iranians have their own history of “improvised struggles” that predate his work, says Sharp: the 1905-06 constitutional revolution, and the 1979 Islamic revolution against the shah, during which “protesters were even putting flowers in the guns of the shah’s soldiers.”

Today, the stated aim of former presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and other key reformists in Iran is not to overthrow the Islamic system set up in 1979, which they themselves helped build. Instead, they seek to reverse what they say was a fraudulent election, and make pro-democracy reforms within the existing system.

Still, some reformist actions are vintage Sharp, from Mr. Mousavi’s refusal to negotiate or back down on demands about the election to strict nonviolence. Sharp says it’s “quite amazing” that the protests are continuing despite an extensive crackdown that left scores dead and subjected detainees to torture and rape.

While fewer are brave enough to come out in the streets today, Sharp says massive demonstrations are only one way to bring down a regime. A variety of methods can be used to undermine dictators, who “require the assistance of the people they rule.”

Aggravate regime’s weaknesses

“These regimes always present themselves as all-powerful – absolutely omnipotent, so that resistance becomes futile,” says Sharp. “But if you learn this regime has these five ... or 20 weaknesses – and you can deliberately aggravate those weaknesses – it weakens the regime. It helps it fall apart.”

Sharp’s ideas, adapted for Iran, are circulated by people such as Mohsen Sazegara, a founder of the ideological Revolutionary Guard who was arrested after becoming a reformist editor in the 1990s.

He now lives in Virginia, where he produces a daily 10-minute video to encourage nonviolent action, which he says reaches hundreds of thousands in Iran. He has read Sharp’s work closely.

Farsi translations of two of Sharp’s books can be downloaded from Mr. Sazegara’s website, which receives 2,000 e-mails a day – often including new tactics that he beams back into Iran in his videos.

“Iranians are an educated nation, especially the younger generation ... and I’m sure that many of them study the experience of nonviolent movements in other countries,” says Sazegara, who adds that the strategy of Mousavi’s Green Movement is strictly nonviolent. “We think if we make a mistake and go for violent actions, the regime [can be] more brutal than any violent opposition.”

But it can still be a dangerous business, even from thousands of miles away from Iran. Sazegara says he has received a number of death threats.

“If they kill me, so what? There will be thousands of Mohsen Sazegaras right now,” he says. “Every one of the young generation has read these books, and knows everything better than me.”

Of Sharp's 198 strategies, some of the main ones used by Iranian protesters were:

7. Slogans

18. Symbolic colors (green)

26. Paint as protest

28. Symbolic sounds

38. Marches

52. Silence

71. Consumer boycott (Nokia, Siemens)

135. Popular nonobedience

194. Disclosing identities of secret agents

See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Iranian Protests Deepen 12/29/09

"Nation Within" - Free Movie

SOURCE: Ray Catania (
SUBHEAD: Free Documentary Sunday January 17th at Kapaa Neighborhood Center.

  Image above: Book cover graphics for "Nation Within" by Tom Coffman. From  

[IB Editor's Note: The following is a portion of the book review of "Nation Within", upon which the movie was based: "Nation Within" Review A Gripping tale of Hawaii's illegal overthrow]

By Jeanne Cooper on 19 September 2009 in San Francisco Chronicle - 

Given everything else the Obama administration has to deal with -- from health care to war in Iraq -- it's hard to imagine that a a political injustice that took place more than a century ago, thousands of miles from Washington, D.C., is going to rise to the top of the list.

But this particular injustice involves the American-led takeover of President Barack Obama's boyhood home of Hawaii, leading to high hopes that he may pick up the hot potato dropped by President Clinton 16 years ago, just after formally apologizing for the events of 1893. Raising the sovereignty issue is a sure-fire way to get some right-wing knickers in a twist, and even relatively liberal folk may wonder why revisit "ancient history."

But that's where Coffman's expertise as a journalist, historian and gifted writer come in handy. At the very beginning of his painstakingly researched, grippingly told narrative, he lays out how the dominant Western view of time and national identity eventually submerged the very question of Hawaiian sovereignty -- without claiming any easy answers for resolving the issue in the present day.

A chance find in an antiques bookstore revealed to him how Hawaii's history began to be rewritten at the very point most Americans think it started. But, as Coffman definitively shows, the loss of Hawai'i isn't ancient history, especially not in a culture with "a hundred generations of history."

The Native Hawaiian grandparents of people still alive today (like Prof. Meyer) signed petitions by the thousands protesting the annexation of their country, while constitutionally elected but forcibly deposed Queen Lili'uokalani made numerous appeals, as did other Hawaiian delegates, to Washington. Initially the queen had some sway with the White House, and Coffman writes that experiences earlier in the 19th century would have taught her that distant regimes (including Russia, England and France) always backed away from the impulsive imperialism of individuals. But in this case, he expalins, the manifest destiny/social Darwinist fever had taken hold of many American politicians, and the entrance of California into the Union fixed their eyes even farther west.

Coffman's cast of American (born or descended) characters -- a young and ambitious Theodore Roosevelt, the prime instigator Lorrin Thurston and the missionary scion Sanford B. Dole, among others -- are vividly but not unfairly drawn, placed in the cultural context of their time, as are their Hawaiian counterparts:

King Kalākaua, his sister Lili'uokalani, the hapa insurrectionist Robert Wilcox, nationalist Joseph Nāwahī and more. Their personalities, as much as political views, played key roles in the events that unfolded -- and continue to unfold today. The plunging number of Native Hawaiians was also critical, but Coffman is also careful to note how very few people (nearly all American-descended men) were involved in the takeover, perhaps 2 percent of Hawaii's total population at the time.

 The "revolution," as Thurston styled it, was virtually bloodless (though not completely, as Coffman details) but in some ways that makes it more difficult for a modern government to redress. After all, everyone knows an apology won't bring the dead back to life, so there's no risk in expressing contrition there.

But Native Hawaiians are very much alive today, as is their concept of a sovereign Hawaiian nation, though they might not agree on exactly what a restored version would look like. (There were differences of opinion before the annexation, too, Coffman relates, but republicans and monarchists were united in opposing absorption by the States.)

 Coffman draws on the research of Native Hawaiian scholars to explore the historical Hawaiian perspective of the loss of nationhood and the contemporary challenges they cause, without pretending to assume their voice.

His final words explain his position, and implicitly reveal why we travelers to Hawaii -- and all Americans -- should care about the real history of the islands: "I ... attempted to stay centered in my experience as an American and to write about annexation as an American event, believing that America will soon be dealing with the rising demand by Hawaiians for a renewal of national sovereignty. ... Obviously we in Hawai'i today are in transition.

We are variously living inside of -- or in proximity to -- an indigenous nation that has been submerged by the American nation. To see and sense the revival of this Hawaiian lāhui, to feel it thumping on the interior of the womb, is a thing of awe. Yet if destiny is not manifest, then outcomes are not inevitable.

Our relative success in developing a more real and honest history will have something to do with determining the future -- not only of Hawai'i, but perhaps of America as well."

Free movie showing of "Nation Within" by Tom Coffman, author of the book by the same name. The film details how the US annexing Hawaii was part of it's expansionist plans in the Pacific and it's drive for fulling it's "Manifest Destiny". But also portrayed in detail is the resistance of the Kanaka Maoli to the US plans. Also featured are Native Hawaiian scholars Noenoe Silva and Jon Osorio. A discusssion will follow the movie. Light refreshments will also be served.  

WHEN: Sunday, January 17th, at 12:15 PM  

Kapaa Neighborhood Center Auditorium  

Sponsored by Manaoha. For more information about the event please call Ben Nihi at 634-0469. For more information about the movie, go to

Together We Can’t

SUBHEAD: Year of conflicting ethics in County of Kauai that is operated like a " Banana Republic".

By Rolf Bieber on 5 January 2010 in The Garden Isand -   

Image above: Banana Republic flag satire. From  

In January of 2009, I promised the people of Kauai as a Board of Ethics (BOE) member to uphold the Charter and hold myself, my colleagues and all officers and employees of the county accountable to the Code of Ethics. Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho Jr.’s appointment of me to the quasi-judicial body paid dividends to a public hungry for action beyond political rhetoric.

I delivered to you what you deserve from a BOE member — integrity, openness and a political will to enforce the law. In my single year on the BOE, your view into government achieved unprecedented depths by release of four County Attorney opinions and a significant change in policy regarding the county’s disclosure statements and an advisory opinion given to Charter Review Commissioner Mattie Yoshioka that now correctly supports the plain meaning of Charter Section 20.02 (D).

In response, several county commissioners have chosen to resign their posts. These important works and corresponding news stories can be read in detail in The Garden Island, at and Yet these significant strides were achieved at a cost. My cost came in the form of an ousting from the board.

Conviction and oath to preserve the Charter soon aligned me against BOE colleagues, mayoral appointees, the Office of Boards and Commissions (OBC), the County Attorney (CA) and apparently Mayor Carvalho himself, who inexplicably refused to reappoint me to the board for a second term. Perhaps I should have read the writing on the wall my first day.

 During Council’s approval interview, Councilman Dickie Chang questioned whether I would be writing letters to the editor of The Garden Island while on the BOE. His suggestion was that I should not. This concept, to muzzle a basic tenet of our Constitution, struck me with insult and my response, received solemnly, addressed my First Amendment Right to free speech-- a right I enjoy liberally. The law says ethics members are only restricted in political campaigning.

Not a problem — for me. Or that the writing was on the wall within weeks of my appointment when I was encouraged at a Charter Review Commission meeting by OBC Administrator John Isobe to seek out a job in the administration, a computer position with the County (I did not).

Or that Mr. Isobe would on several other occasions try inappropriately to influence me — once, when I requested public documents that could expose members of the administration and commissions he asked that I not share the documents with anyone, and later calling me to meet in his office “to see how things were going” but to actually express his desire for the BOE to reach a “super-majority or unanimous-vote only for release of County Attorney opinions to the public.”

That writing on the wall should have been clear enough months before as the only piece of advice I received from Interim Mayor Kaipo Asing during my 2008 mayoral campaign when he told me, 
“Don’t rock the boat.” 
Why I refused to comply with these things can be explained simply: because to do so would deny you access to the workings of your government and I swore to uphold the law. Early as an BOE member I contacted newly appointed County Attorney Al Castillo with documentation received from various sources including the county that I determined clearly showed dealings to oust 20.02 (D) from the Charter and a case to uphold the plain meaning of Charter Section 20.02 (D):
“No officer or employee of the county shall appear in behalf of private interests before any county board, commission or agency.” 

2008 had already seen contention between an angered public and the BOE regarding 20.02 (D) then again when the voters rejected change to this Charter section that November.

 The voters overwhelmingly supported stricter guidelines by voting down a proposal to allow board & commission members ability to represent private interest before other boards and commissions. In other words, the citizenry likes the prohibition as it stands-- I agreed, despite what a colleague said about voter “knee-jerk, over-reaction”.

I believe the voters got it right. If the voters had passed the changes to the law, none of the following would have occurred, yet little did I know at that time my involvement in county government would soon ignite a firestorm.

In April of 2009, Castillo told me he had meetings with Kauai Circuit Court Judge Randal Valenciano on several occasions concerning 20.02 (D) and that it was clear to him that attorneys like Charter Review Commissioner Jonathan Chun (or later, Lorna Nishimitsu) who represented clients for pay before other commissions were indeed in violation, but Castillo drew the line there. This ethics law would not apply to other non-paid individuals he told me.

I questioned him about the failed ballot measure in November 2008 that would have relieved “the other non-paid individuals” (county board and commission members) and the potential for quid pro quo amongst county officers/ employees but Castillo failed to convince me even then, long before our public conflicts stemming from three ethics complaints I’d file later in May 2009 against BOE Vice-Chairman Mark Hubbard and Judith Lenthall and Cost Control Commissioner Lorna Nishimitsu for violation of 20.02 (D).

Castillo for the first time referred to an obscure 1976 Michael Belles document to help make his case, that, upon investigation, mistakenly declared that the “county code interprets the Charter.”

No. The code can only supplement, it in no way interprets, yet Castillo would sell this concept like his predecessor to a majority of BOE members with past mistakes to protect. To counter this I challenged the BOE to examine supremacy laws. At the time of my first approaching Castillo, the possibilities for positive change in the county were real, many folks who paid attention to such things were hopeful after long years of dismal results and secrecy from prior County Attorneys.

BOE attorney Margaret Sueoka, fired by Castillo and replaced by Mona Clark and Mauna Kea Trask, filed suit against the county. Nobody complained of Sueoka’s absence. But, the fact that many of the old-guard remained under Carvalho, like Lani Nakazawa, should have clued us into the fact that nothing significant would change in the CA’s office. Yes, we would see some new faces, but...

 Now, in retrospect, Castillo made things worse for the BOE than his predecessor. Not only would he scam you with old-school tact like recycling an old opinion into a “new” one with the same confusing outcome, but he’d bully you, too, like telling you that you must comply with his opinion or risk personal liability. This was not your grandfather’s CA — or maybe it was. What’s most confounding to me is the vast confusion and conflicting opinions coming out of Castillo’s office concerning those 21 plain words in 20.02 (D).

Castillo reversed himself from our April discussion and it appeared to me he was making a bid to wipe the books clean of 20.02(D). All three attorneys that served BOE in 2009: Mona Clark, Mauna Kea Trask and Castillo did an unconvincing job cajoling the board with outlandish arguments, for example “this is the way our county has done things for decades” and “perhaps that sort of thinking applies on the mainland”-- insults of intelligence even to the dullest mind in an argument against upholding plain law to protect a handful of politically privileged associates, campaign supporters and a majority board membership mired in past mistakes.

Worse, out of the newly interchangeable-counsel-triplet, supported by the majority BOE membership came a spinning of such fantasy yarn as to confuse plain meaning and basic supremacy law: Castillo and Trask particularly embraced aforementioned “county code interpreting the Charter”, “Charter cannot be read in a vacuum” bizarre scenarios conjuring “a chilling effect” on the county that “upholding 20.02 (D) would create ‘absurd results’ which would keep county officers and employees from applying for building permits, driver’s licenses and camping passes”-- all this obscure nonsense in the face of actual, legitimate complaints against three county officers violating a clear prohibition in the Code of Ethics.

The public, outraged and dumbfounded, quickly identified Castillo’s dirty tricks and doubletalk and The Garden Island newspaper among other outlets reported it frequently. I was pleased to fight Castillo’s rubbish all the way, but it cost me.

After an unceremoniously dumping in December 2009, I asked the mayor what I was supposed to do as a sworn BOE officer when witnessing at Council Budget Hearings and a Budget Committee three county officers violating Charter 20.02 (D). Was I supposed to do ‘what has been done for decades’ by turning a blind eye? I told the mayor, I couldn’t do it.

Disappointingly, he responded woodenly. A puppet’s recital: “…my commissioners need to work together as a team… I am looking for balance… it’s not about me… you shouldn’t take this personal.” It reminded me of a short, unsatisfying conversation I had with Councilman Daryl Kaneshiro a year earlier-- he too was not smitten with the concept of a democratic process with its pesky checks and balances negotiated through a practice of conflicting ideology as though we must all conform to the wishes of the plantation master.

 I insisted on clarification from the mayor but he refused to delve into the subject further and repeated his script, “… as a team… balance… it’s not personal…” The Carvalho Regime: Together We Can’t.

Worse still, by June’s ethics meeting Castillo went beyond the fold by telling us that although the BOE is the client we “must” follow his advice. Thankfully, member Paul Weil, an extremely skillful attorney, did not allow this abuse, but somehow to my dismay Paul did manage to let Nishimitsu off the hook — in his words-- a regrettable error.

That portion of the June meeting which Hubbard, Lenthall nor I could participate, a confounding deal was struck by the four-member BOE quorum and Castillo: all three respondents to the May complaints would be found not guilty of violating 20.02 (D) based on a future county attorney opinion. That’s right. As soon as the board “received” an opinion from the CA, the charges would be dropped. But thanks again to Paul Weil it was not as easy as the status-quo desired.

Weil filleted the work product of Castillo & Co. plastering it with the now notorious “fatally flawed” label eventually hashing-out details with Castillo at Weil’s home-- forging compromise. I respected Weil very much for this move. Not only did he make the extra effort for everyone, but he did it with the best of intentions at a time when was torn apart. Weil seemed optimistic.

When Castillo agreed and worked to a deal then backed-out by the following ethics meeting leaving Weil to see Castillo’s true colors— the attorneys parted in canyon-sized proportions. Weil, not to be played like a sucker, exposed Castillo and Trask, by releasing his e-mail communications publicly, understandably, in the name of good governance and transparency (

 During these months of unprecedented openness, confusion and in-fighting within the BOE, I began requesting digital audio minutes from the OBC for the ethics meeting open sessions. The summary minutes supplied by staff approved by the board and posted to the Internet paled in comparison to the actual dialog of these hotly contested meetings.

The atmosphere at ethics became critically charged and I wanted the verbatim record preserved, especially since the law was being perverted in a very concerted effort between status-quo board members, the CA, and OBC.

By this point in time I felt fully alienated by my government chums, Mr. Isobe no longer smiled in passing, Castillo made no eye contact with me at Council meetings and many of my ethics mates resented me for challenging them. BOE meetings became longer and more heated and Chair Leila Fuller who sat to my right grumbled ever more frequently under her breath and became unsympathetic and sometimes mean-spirited toward public testimony.

Even my requests for audio were met with increasingly deflated responses, and worse, “If you keep this up I don’t know if we can be friends any longer.” the secretary addressed me.

A joke, yes, but the message was clear: Bieber’s rocking the boat — it’s unwelcomed and he must pay. One way of making me pay was to intimidate me by rallying an “investigation”.

This investigation, predicated on an inquiry by Vice Chair Hubbard as to how his name and the names of Judith Lenthall and Lorna Nishimitsu got into the newspaper over ethics complaints never unfurled but remained a dark and misty cloud on the ever growing list of executive sessions.

In a weird turn of events, a copy of the board’s executive session minutes concerning the investigation turned up in my subsequent BOE package so I read all about what our discombobulated board was up to — again, Isobe was at the forefront ready to assist the investigation with any and all resources available from the OBC, all too zealously the minutes read.

Crazier still was Hubbard’s and Lenthall’s lame attempt at espionage when during our recusal of the June meeting they attempted a ridiculous display of “good-cop/ bad-cop” to get me to answer questions concerning complaints and names getting into

The Garden Island. Lenthall did an especially bad job hiding the fact that she was holding her Black Berry device too close to my mouth. The pinnacle of insanity surrounded the October 2009 BOE meeting. It wasn’t enough that the board meetings were now regularly fraught with ridiculous numbers of executive sessions with never enough votes to get into and unclear as to who should participate and who should recuse themselves for conflicts-of-interest or that now the county disclosure statements were examined by the board in open session — a concept unheard of in the history of Kauai County.

Or that nobody really understood how the BOE was going to circumvent responsibility of upholding the law concerning the three complaints filed by now five months earlier. No, what happened next was a new journey down another rabbit hole replete in recognition. October 2009, Deputy CA Mona Clark said in open session that “private interest: is defined as anything other than a government entity.” This definition was refused all year in not one, but two new county attorney opinions given the board in prior months of 2009, subsequently challenged by the BOE, particularly

Weil, and released to the public. The definition of private interest that sprang forth out of the blue like a sunbeam that morning had been denied long before the May complaints that kept the board in fog was now batted about in open session deliberation between board members as if a beach ball.

When Clark defined private interest I could not believe my ears — literally, “private interest— a non-government entity”.

But my joy would soon be countered by Weil. Ironically, this is the one definition where the county attorney got it correct and Weil got it wrong. This definition would set the table not only for future interpretations of 20.02 (D) but what the board currently faces in complaints still pending (for example, Vice- Chair Hubbard as respondent for representing a “private interest” 501(c) 3 before Council).

In a further perverse twist, eventually, Lenthall and Hubbard agreed! Later, I requested the audio just like I had done each month prior wanting to hear those words again, “private interest — a non-government entity” in full audio but to my shock and horror my request had been denied from the OBC.

They said the digital audio was not available due to a “flash drive error — no audio”. This meant the entire verbatim record was lost. A question crashed through me immediately: was this done intentionally because of Clark’s words? Shock and horror turned to disgust and suspicion when the following County Council meeting had on its agenda a request from Isobe to destroy audio records.

My God, what is going on? In response to this news I wrote letters to the CA and Council to deny request to destroy any audio records from the BOE because they needed to be preserved in case of any litigation, especially regarding the board’s dealing with 20.02 (D). I found the coincidence between my denial of the October audio and this Council request uncanny.

How could this be a mere coincidence?

To me it wasn’t coincidence and felt I needed to confront yet again those whom I shared the public trust. Was this a cover-up? A friend asked me how I thought I could get any kind of support from the CA and Council after all the public scrutiny. Why not just talk to Isobe about the records yourself? By this time I had lost trust in the OBC Administrator.

Certainly the feeling was mutual.

Since I came on board, no longer was Isobe able to coerce BOE members into protecting CA work product with a super-majority or unanimous vote, or keep disclosure statements secret, or protect political allies like Mattie Yoshioka with favorable advisory opinions vis-à-vis Jonathan Chun a year earlier. O’ the difference a year makes. For Isobe, maintaining a stranglehold on appointees — his kuleana beginning in 2006 under Baptiste was beginning to slip in serious ways.

The more I examined this dynamic, the clearer the idea became-- Isobe’s loss is your gain. Or in the case of these records our loss was his gain, so I imagined. For better or worse, I was not going to let BOE records get destroyed without a fight, even if it meant another costly challenge to yet another pillar in the Carvalho regime. When the agenda item finally came to the floor of Council, a strange thing happened.

A letter from the administration suddenly appeared signed by Isobe and Mayor Carvalho wishing to withdraw the agenda item. I was relieved. The records would be saved. But I felt the Council deserved some explanation as to what was happening behind the scenes.

After calling for recess, Chairman Asing asked for public testimony. I approached the microphone, introduced myself and disclosed my membership in the BOE. At this point something terribly surprising happened and if I had anticipated it I would have handled it differently, but I didn’t. I had no clue that CA Castillo would cut off my testimony before it started. As soon as I introduced myself, Castillo responded with authority. He stated that I would be in violation of the charter and code if I continued testimony. Time froze. I watched in awe as Castillo grinded this testimony to a halt.

I looked at the Council, back to Castillo and then back again — Council sat silently and obediently and as still as I did. Castillo, who has no authority in this situation, boldly challenged me and the Council — gambled, and won, initially anyway. It is the Chairman’s prerogative on how to handle public testimony, not the CA.

If the Chairman has a question as to the opinion of law concerning testimony he would then ask the testifier to wait a moment while getting legal advice from the attorney. The CA would then offer advice to which the Chairman would respond in conducting the business of testimony. If a testifier chooses, even knowingly, to condemn himself or violate the law he has every right to do so. But the CA may not keep anyone from testimony. It is a violation of one’s

 First Amendment Right of free speech. Had I anticipated this move by Castillo, I would have put him on the spot and asked what law was being violated by testifying before Council. But I didn’t.

In my inexperience I backed away and I’ll never forget it and always regret not challenging him on the spot.

Fortunately for all of us, Michael Levine of The Garden Island did put Castillo on the spot and asked what law I would have violated. Castillo’s answer: 20.02 (D) “No officer or employee of the county shall appear in behalf of private interests before any county board, commission or agency.”

And thankfully, for the public record, Levine printed it.

 More importantly, it exposed Castillo as a bad attorney or a political fraud. And if you think there was no political gamesmanship being played there by Castillo considers this: why didn’t Castillo stop Charter Review Commission Chairman Sherman Sheraishi from testifying in favor of the Charter Review Commission appointees at the County Council meeting only weeks later in December 2009?

 Because Bieber must pay. None of the progress in ethics could have been successful without keen journalism and those already participating in our special brand of “democracy”— those willing to chance ridicule, or worse, to point out our government’s faults and needs for improvement.

Attention to detail by Michael Levine, Nathan Eagle at The Garden Island and super-heavyweight political reporter Andy Parx at PNN as well as other media outlets have supplied the oft needed exposure the people require and the government deserves. And I would be remiss not to mention the public’s outcry for justice in testimony and the many letters to the editor during the year.

Charter champion Horace Stoessel; Attorney and columnist Walter Lewis; Bruce “No-red-tape” Pleas; Government watchdogs like Glenn Mickens, Ken Taylor, Rob Abrew, Caren Diamond and many, more have as much to do with recent breakthroughs in government transparency as I do. Yet, current political movements for change are not nearly enough to take us into 2010 and beyond. This government desperately needs more public involvement.

And bravery is required more consistently from the county rank-in-file to the protester on the streets; from reporters and editors of news pages and blogs to a public willing to write letters and give testimony in commissions and Council meetings. Courageous effort is needed from those who strive to sacrifice for honor and dignity and oath to serve the best interest of the most Kauaians.

Remember, my brother and sister citizens, like the mayor says, “It’s not personal.” But I say it’s okay to make it so. Who of you is willing to pay the price for a better government?