The Kanaka Maoli Tribe

SUBHEAD: Obama urged by Democrats to use executive order to recognize Hawaiians like native Indians. And you know how well that worked out for the indigenous Americans.

By Valerie Richardson on 22 August 2013 for The Washington Times -

Image above: Hawaiian Tribe Casino in Honolulu circa 2015. Mashup of Herb Kane painting and casino image by Juan Wilson.

Democrats are urging President Obama to bypass Capitol Hill once again and accomplish by executive order what Congress refused to do for 13 years: grant formal federal tribal recognition to Native Hawaiians.

The effort lost its most visible champion in January when Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat, retired without having won passage for his namesake legislation, the so-called Akaka bill. The measure has not been introduced in the current Congress.

Even so, the timing may never be better for action: Mr. Obama, who grew up in Hawaii, has indicated his support for the Akaka bill. He also has shown a willingness to use his executive authority to bypass Congress on a host of issues including health care, welfare reform, immigration and climate change.

“The president is being asked to consider a number of potential executive actions,” Sen. Brian Schatz, Hawaii Democrat, told the (Honolulu) Star-Advertiser last week. “That could take many forms, including something by the Department of Interior, or at the secretary level or something at the presidential level.”

Supporters, including the all-Democrat Hawaiian delegation, say the recognition is needed to ensure that Native Hawaiians continue to receive special services in health care, job training and education.

Opponents argue that the measure sanctions race-based discrimination and would set a precedent for establishing divisive, racially separate societies. Some even fear the designation could open the island to gambling operations along the lines of Indian tribe concessions run on the mainland.

“Hawaiians have never been defined by race or by blood. They’ve always been inclusive,” said Keli'i Akina, president of the free-market Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, which opposes the Akaka bill. “The establishment of a race-based entity is not Hawaiian.”

First introduced in 2000, the Akaka bill was approved by the House three times, most recently in 2010, but the measure never passed the Senate. Among its chief critics during the latest vote was Rep. Doc Hastings, Washington Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Committee spokeswoman Jill Strait said in an email that the executive branch has no authority to establish a Native Hawaiian tribe.

“Aside from the fact that extending federal recognition to Native Hawaiians as a kind of Indian tribe would be an unconstitutional race-based action, Congress is deemed by the Supreme Court to have exclusive and plenary power to deal with Indian affairs,” said Ms. Strait. “It would therefore be an abuse of power for the executive branch to attempt to extend federal recognition to a Native Hawaiian governing entity.”

The Hawaiian government, controlled by Democrats, is moving to assist the administration. In 2011, the state Legislature established a registry of Native Hawaiians through the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, asking anyone with such ancestry to sign the roll, known as Kana’iolowalu.

Only about 9,300 had registered after a year — the 2010 census estimates there are about 527,000 Native Hawaiians — prompting the Legislature to extend the deadline and allow the office to add unilaterally the names of anyone who had signed other lists of Native Hawaiians.

Ken Conklin, a prominent critic of the Akaka bill, said the measure is an attempt to evade legal challenges aimed at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs‘ entitlement programs for Native Hawaiians. Declaring them an Indian tribe would allow the agency to avoid that dilemma, but doing so would create a host of other problems.

“Where would their sovereign lands be?” said Mr. Conklin. “The percentage of ethnic Hawaiians in Hawaii is 21 percent. They live everywhere: They’re in all the neighborhoods, they’re fully assimilated in the economy at all levels. It’s just unimaginable.”

Meanwhile, the Interior Department is engaged in efforts to reform the tribal recognition process, which opponents fear could include the removal of roadblocks to granting status to Native Hawaiians.

Supporters say tribal recognition is needed to ensure that Native Hawaiians have the same rights as other native groups, namely Indian tribes on the U.S. mainland. The Star-Advertiser came out in support of the executive path in an editorial Tuesday.

“The so-called Akaka Bill aimed at achieving Hawaiian sovereignty has been stalled more than a decade in Congress because of opposition by Senate Republicans, leaving the most realistic approach to be executive order,” said the newspaper. “Hawaii’s Democratic delegation is wisely pursuing that approach while Hawaii-born President Barack Obama remains in the White House.”

Public opinion on the idea remains lukewarm. A 2009 Zogby poll found that 58 percent wanted voters to cast ballots on the Akaka bill and that 51 percent opposed it and 34 percent supported it.

An unscientific online poll conducted last week by the Star-Advertiser found that 70 percent of 3,104 votes cast opposed having Mr. Obama enact the Akaka bill by fiat, while 30 percent supported the idea.

Critics note that if the Akaka Bill is approved by executive order, it could be just as easily undone in the next administration. By then, however, a separate Native Hawaiian government may be entrenched on the islands of the 50th state.

“We all know President Obama has done an awful lot of executive-order kind of things,” said Mr. Conklin. “He doesn’t have the right or the authority, but there he is, doing it.”

Image above: Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (right) and Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz sign a petition supporting Native Hawaiian sovereignty in Honolulu in July 2012. Remember the PLDC when you consider the motives of these two snakes. From original article.


Today 8/31/13 Obama backs down

SUBHEAD: The American people, our generals, the British and Russia convinced Obama to stand down.

By Denis Dyomkin on 31 August 2013 for Huffington Post -

Image above: President Vladamir Putin in Kemerovo Western Siberia on Monday, Aug. 26, 2013. From original article.

[IB Publisher's note: Today President Obama addressed the American people, and the world. Instead of announcing a "limited" attack on Bashar al-Assad's command and control infrastructure as was originally planned, he punted the ball. He said although we were ready to attack, he recognized the constitutional nicety of getting a green light from the US Congress. How quaint for a constitutional scholar and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. I think Obama was bitch-slapped reality.  He now realizes that any open act of war against Syria by America would start a worldwide conflagration of biblical proportions.]

Russia's President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday it would be "utter nonsense" for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons when it was winning its war with rebels, and urged U.S. President Barack Obama not to attack Syrian forces.

The United States said on Friday it was planning a limited military response to punish Syria's President Bashar al-Assad for a "brutal and flagrant" chemical weapons attack it says killed more than 1,400 people in Damascus 10 days ago.

Putin told journalists that if Obama had evidence Assad's forces had the chemical weapons and launched the attack, Washington should present it to the U.N. weapons inspectors and the Security Council.

"I am convinced that it (the chemical attack) is nothing more than a provocation by those who want to drag other countries into the Syrian conflict, and who want to win the support of powerful members of the international arena, especially the United States," Putin said.

The Russian president said Obama, as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, should remember the impact any U.S. attack would have on Syrian civilians.

World powers should discuss the Syrian crisis at a meeting of the leaders of the Group of 20 developed and developing nations in St. Petersburg next week, he added. "This (G20 summit) is a good platform to discuss the problem. Why not use it?" Putin said.


Good News - Bad News

SUBHEAD: Recent cooler Pacific temperatures due to El Nino is for now slowing Global Warming.

By Alex Kirby on 31 August 2013 for Climate Network News -

Image above: Scientists say the 2011 Texas drought began when the PDO’s cooling phase started. Photo by Erik A. Ellison. From original article.

Scientists believe they have made significant progress towards explaining why global average surface temperatures have risen more slowly this century than previously.

They say cooling waters in the tropical Pacific Ocean have played a large part in slowing recent warming, a finding which challenges those who argue that the slowdown means climate change is not as serious a problem as most climate scientists are convinced it is.

Before 2000 global temperatures had risen at a rate of 0.13ºC per decade since 1950. The hiatus has occurred while levels of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from human activities, continued a steady rise, reaching 400 parts per million for the first time in human history in May this year.

The eastern tropical Pacific has been distinctly cooler in the last few years, thanks to the influence of one of the world’s biggest ocean circulation systems, the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO).

The better-known El Niño and La Niña weather systems, which also originate in the Pacific and can affect the weather thousands of miles away, occur just a few years apart. Both are parts of the much bigger PDO, which comes and goes over decade-long timescales. It is now in a cooling phase which could last for years – the last one stretched from the 1940s to the 1970s when warmer, drier weather dominated in the midwestern US.

‘Compelling’ research

In such a phase the temperature of the eastern Pacific’s waters falls while those in the west warm. In the oscillation’s warming phases this is reversed. In winter the PDO’s cooler phase lowers northern hemisphere temperatures slightly, but in the summer this cooling has less impact.

The scientists are from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California. Their study is published in the journal Nature. Dan Barrie, programme manager at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which supported their research, called it “compelling” and said: “[It] provides a powerful illustration of how the remote eastern tropical Pacific guides the behaviour of the global ocean-atmosphere system, in this case exhibiting a discernible influence on the recent hiatus in global warming.”

The Scripps team, using computer models, compared their results with observations and concluded that global average annual temperatures have been lower than they would otherwise have been because of the oscillation.

But they say the observed recent higher summer temperatures show more of the true effects of global warming. Global average temperatures are calculated over the whole year, blurring the effect of this seasonal variation.

Shang-Ping Xie, professor of environmental science at Scripps and co-author of the study, said: “In summer, the equatorial Pacific’s grip on the northern hemisphere loosens, and the increased greenhouse gases continue to warm temperatures, causing record heat waves and unprecedented Arctic sea ice retreat.”

Oceans’ key role

Dr Alex Sen Gupta, of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, who was not part of the study team, told the London Guardian: “The authors have set up some elegant experiments using a climate model to test whether a natural oscillation that has gone through a large swing in the tropical Pacific Ocean over the last decade can explain the recent halt in surface global warming…

“…[T]he new simulation accurately reproduces the timing and pattern of changes that have occurred over the last four decades with remarkable skill. This clearly shows that the recent slowdown is a consequence of a natural oscillation.”

Research shows that much of the heat caused by global warming has been absorbed by the oceans, and about a third of the extra carbon dioxide emitted since the Industrial Revolution.

Scientists also think the heat is not staying near the ocean surface but is now penetrating to deeper water, and that this may be another factor which can create the impression of a slowdown in global warming. In any case, they say, the slower pace of recent warming is easily explained by natural climate variability – such as the PDO.

The Scripps scientists say that when the PDO’s cooling phase ends the growth of global average temperatures is likely to resume, perhaps faster than before as greenhouse gas emission rates will be higher.


Remote Island Ecosysystems

SUBHEAD: Ascencion Island might help inform strategies to green some deserts or other barren locations in the world.

By Fred Pearce on 26 August 2013 for Yale E360  -

Image above: View from Green Mountain on Ascencion Island showing new manmade ecosystem. From original article.

Transformed by British sailors in the 19th century, Ascension Island in the South Atlantic has a unique tropical forest consisting almost entirely of alien species. Scientists say that what has happened there challenges some basic assumptions about ecosystems and evolution.

I was standing on the summit of an extinct volcano in the center of one of the most remote islands on the planet: Ascension Island in the tropical South Atlantic. Midway between Brazil and Africa, Ascension is a thousand miles from the nearest speck of land. Below me was a harsh treeless moonscape of volcanic clinker, baking in the sun. But in the cool mountain air, 800 meters up, I was surrounded by lush greenery and a light mist from a cloud settled over the mountaintop.

They call it Green Mountain. But the greenery is new. My guide, the island’s conservation development officer, Stedson Stroud, peered around us and smiled. “Nothing you see here is native,” he said. “Except for a few ferns, everything has been introduced in the past 200 years.”

On our way up the mountain, we had walked through New Zealand flax, Bermuda cedar, Chinese ginger, South African yews, guava from Brazil, European blackberries, and screw pines that grow higher here than they do at home on the islands of the Pacific. The summit, improbably covered in a dense stand of Asian bamboo, rattled like a huge wind chime in the brisk trade winds. All this had been introduced by the British Navy during the early- and mid-19th century, along with rabbits, cats, donkeys, hedgehogs, mynah birds, bees, and much else.

The forest that covers Green Mountain is said to be the only tropical forest in the world — apart from monoculture plantations — that is entirely man-made. It is an ecosystem, but like no other. Stroud admitted that, as a conservationist and member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission group for the South Atlantic, he should perhaps be rooting out all those alien species. But if he did, there would be almost nothing left. And in any case, he mused, he is presiding over something profoundly interesting — a functioning ecosystem in which a ragbag of species shipped in from all over the world thrive as if they had been together for millennia.

Though badly under-researched because of the island’s remoteness, Green Mountain is being hailed as the icon for a fundamental reassessment of many nostrums of both environmentalist and ecological science. It is also creating controversy among ecologists. What are we to make of this confected cloud forest? Is it nature or a garden? Is it a beacon for re-greening the planet or a biological abomination?

Ascension Island, which is just under twice the size of Manhattan, erupted from the Atlantic floor a million years ago. The last new lava flows were 700 years ago. The island has been in British hands for almost 200 years, as a base for controlling the Atlantic. These days, the island is peppered with aerials that track orbiting spacecraft, communicate with nuclear submarines, and listen in secretly on satellite-relayed communications. The electronic spies of Britain’s GCHQ, and possibly also the NSA, are here.

It also has one of the longest airstrips in the world. Built by the U.S. Army during World War II on land leased from Britain, it provides a secure stopping point for U.S. military flights into Africa. When I arrived on a British flight in early July, no fewer that nine large U.S. military aircraft were sitting on the tarmac, all busy protecting President Obama during his visit to Africa.

Inevitably, such human traffic brings alien species. Some lava flows and cinder cones are now covered in fast-spreading tobacco plants and Mexican thorns, whose seeds are eaten and distributed by feral donkeys and sheep. They are accidental introductions. But what sits on Green Mountain is largely deliberate.

When Charles Darwin visited Ascension Island aboard the Beagle in 1836, he complained about Ascension’s “naked hideousness.” But the Royal Navy garrison, established in 1815, set about changing that. First, it put together a farm on the few patches of natural soil on the mountain. Then British colonial botanist Sir Joseph Hooker — a future head of the famous botanical gardens at Kew in London who visited the island in 1843 — came up with the idea of growing trees to green the arid island and increase its rainfall. The idea was that the new vegetation on the mountaintop would scavenge moisture from the passing clouds. Further down the slopes, planting would encourage soil growth. Hooker’s ambition was nothing less than “terra-forming” the volcanic island, says Stroud in a recent paper with David Catling of the University of Washington, Seattle.

Today, the island has about 300 introduced species of plants to add to its 25 native species, says David Wilkinson of Liverpool John Moores University in the UK. Many are spreading. Above about 660 meters, Green Mountain is completely vegetated, with coffee bushes, vines, monkey puzzle trees, jacaranda, juniper, bananas, buddleia, Japanese cherry trees, palm trees, clerodendrum, green aloe and the pretty pink flowers of the Madagascan periwinkles. And Stroud says the vegetation captures more cloud moisture, just as Hooker had hoped, even though rainfall has declined in the lowlands around.

The invasion has been double-edged. The invaders have damaged some of the handful of endemic species that had found a foothold on the island during its million-year. Three of the endemic ferns are believed now extinct. But as we stood on the mountain, gazing south over an abandoned NASA tracking station, Stroud pointed out below us the spot where, in 2009, he rediscovered on a cliff face a single specimen of a species believed lost, Anogramma ascensionis. Now it is being propagated in the UK ready for a reintroduction.

In fact, many of the endemics seem to get on remarkably well with the motley collection of invaders, says Stroud. The ferns that once clung to the bare mountainside now prosper on the branches of introduced trees like bamboo. Stroud showed me ferns that he believes now thrive only on the mosses that grow on such branches.

Likewise, the profusion of Ascension land crabs — the island’s largest native land animals — that now feast on the fruits of alien trees like the guava. The only researcher to have studied the land crabs in recent times, Richard Hartnoll of the University of Liverpool, says that the invasive vegetation “increases the area of shade and shelter for crabs, and also provides a large resource of food” — perhaps replacing their former scavenging on seabird colonies.

You might think that this snugness would be of huge ecological interest? Yet, until now, visiting scientists have ignored it, says Stroud. Most researchers who make the long journey — the only practical way in is aboard a British military flight — have concentrated on the island’s charismatic populations of seabirds, green turtles, and the handful of endangered ferns. his blindness in research extends to conservation, says Wilkinson.

The British government’s environmental policy for the island is the “control and eradication of invasive species” in order to “ensure the protection and restoration of key habitats.” (A major exercise to eradicate feral cats has been implemented under this policy.) But the policy has nothing to say about the protection of — or even ecological research into — the extraordinary novel ecosystem in their midst on which the indigenous species often depend.

That is a shame. For, according to an increasing number of ecologists, the unique ecosystem on Green Mountain may hold important lessons about how ecosystems around the world function. In the growing scientific literature over the past decade about “novel” ecosystems, in which human agency or interference is a central factor in their makeup, Green Mountain is one of the most cited examples. More than that, the mountain’s ecosystem calls into question a series of widely held assumptions about how complex, biodiverse ecosystems evolve — or indeed whether they evolve at all.

According to mainstream ecological theory, this cloud forest really should not exist. Certainly it should not thrive. Complex forests ecosystems are believed to take millions of years to develop, as each species evolves to fill its own niche in the system, creating a perfected “climax” ecosystem. But Green Mountain doesn’t fit that paradigm. It just seemed to happen according to the chance introductions of British sailors.

As Stroud and Catling wrote, species on Green Mountain “have bucked the standard theory that complexity emerges only through co-evolution.” On Ascension, plants gathered from across the world “self-organized by the mechanism of ecological fitting,” says Thomas Jones of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Logan, Utah.

The implications are important. Wilkinson is among the scientists who have proposed that the Green Mountain forest is good evidence for an alternative ecological theory — ecological fitting. A term coined by University of Pennsylvania ecologist Daniel Janzen, it holds that ecosystems are typically much more random. Stuff happens.

Not everyone agrees. Alan Gray, an ecologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, suggests that some species that washed up on Ascension may have known each other before. “There would appear to be a high likelihood of importing already established coevolutionary relationships,” such as moths and other invertebrates arriving with the trees in which they have evolved to lay their eggs, he says. According to Stroud, there has been no systematic study of invertebrates to unravel this conundrum.

Nonetheless, Wilkinson argues that the accidental cloud forest suggests strongly that even highly biodiverse ecosystems may often be accidental, temporary, and versatile.

Whatever the truth, the stakes are high for ecologists. But while the ideas about ecological fitting go against the grain of mainstream thinking among environmentalists, they are not out of line with the teachings of Charles Darwin. Some see co-evolution and the creation of perfected ecosystems of native species as the ecological flowering of Darwin’s thinking on evolution. But the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould has been among those who disagree strongly.

In an essay published in 1998, he attacked the “romanticism” of ecologists who sought to protect native plants against invasive species. He said their idea that Darwinian evolution created collections of species that were perfectly evolved to work together, like cogs in a machine, was false. “The Darwinian mechanism includes no concept of general progress or of optimization,” Gould wrote. In fact, Darwin never said it did. Most of the time, species simply fitted in as best they could. “Survival of the fittest” was just that.

Whatever the theoretical implications of the forest on Green Mountain, there are practical implications for conservationists, too. Harvard University ecologist E. O. Wilson has said that the 21st century will be the century of ecological restoration. And Green Mountain suggests that restoration could be much easier than many believe. Ecologists may not have to painstakingly reassemble the complex ecosystems that have been lost. They often may be able to let nature take its course.

As Wilkinson put it: “Is it possible... to suggest, for example, that large deforested areas of Amazonia could be returned to functioning forest on a 100-year time-scale?” And maybe not just former rainforests. If a forest can form so quickly and successfully on a volcano in the middle of the Atlantic, they why not in other unlikely places?

As Catling and Stroud note, “Green Mountain might help inform strategies to green some deserts or other barren locations in the world.” 

Midway Island Ecosystem

SUBHEAD: The US Fish and Wildlife Service think they know how to run a small island. Midway in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is one such place.

By Jan TenBruggencate on 2 February 2002 for Honolulu Advertiser - 

Image above: View from Sand Island towards Eastern Island at Midway Atoll. Note lush ironwood trees introduced by US Navy covering hillside down to beach. From original article.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cleared ironwood trees at Midway Atoll, which angered those who see it as a move to denude the site. The agency says it wants to improve ground nesting habitat restore native vegetation.  
Midway Phoenix Corp.'s announcement that it will stop providing airport, utility and tourism services on Midway Atoll has raised a firestorm of criticism — most of it aimed not at Midway Phoenix but at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The agency will find another operator or multiple operators to run facilities if Midway Phoenix leaves, but the company has not said it is pulling out, said Rob Shallenberger, deputy project leader for the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Midway Phoenix executive vice president Bob Tracey said the company has stopped flights to the atoll, is no longer accepting reservations for visitors and "we're demobilizing our operation as we speak."

He said the company hasn't had time to send a formal letter of withdrawal.

However, Tracey also said the company would like to stay but under different circumstances — perhaps with a government stipend to help cover its losses, or in partnership with a different government agency than the Fish and Wildlife Service.

He said the company concluded that it cannot recoup its investment in running Midway under the restrictions that the Fish and Wildlife Service places on it. The service is so committed to its views of conservation that it does not concede the needs of a commercial operator, he said.

Among the complaints: Fish and Wildlife Service officials have chopped down scenic trees, limited visitors' access to many areas and ordered Midway Phoenix to deny landing rights at times to planes seeking to refuel, from which the company makes a profit.

"Unfortunately, we're dealing with the wrong agency," he said.

Ultimately, another Department of Interior agency, such as the National Park Service, would have been a better partner, Tracey said, since it has more experience dealing with private business entities.

Midway, an atoll near the end of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, lies 1,200 miles northwest of Honolulu. It has a firm place in military history — the battle that turned the tide of World War II in the Pacific occurred around it.

It continued as a Navy base through the mid-1990s, and tens of thousands of military personnel and contractors have stayed there. Many developed a deep love for the place, and have returned as visitors during the past five years.

It also has a long history as a wildlife refuge. The other Northwestern Hawaiian Islands were designated a seabird refuge in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt, but Roosevelt turned over Midway to the Navy. Despite a century of human activity, it remained dense with nesting seabirds, and was regularly visited by seals and turtles. When the Navy had no more use for it, the Fish and Wildlife Service took over.

In an unusual step, the service invited a contractor to manage the old military base, run its airport and establish an eco-tourist and history tour center, partly as a way to defray its expenses in managing such a remote site.

Midway Phoenix has been the contractor for more than five years. It said it has sunk nearly $20 million into the island and now does not believe it can make a profit there, given the service's aggressive conservation stances.

The service makes no apologies for its efforts at preservation, which it sees as its mission.

A point of contention is trees. Tracey concedes that early photographs of the island show no trees at all, and that imported trees were planted by the Navy for both shade and to retain eroding sand.

Most people who have visited the island during the past half century have known a Midway thick with trees, and many are appalled by the Fish and Wildlife Service's removal of all the trees from Eastern Island, one of the two largest islands within Midway Atoll, and the removal of a small portion of the trees on Sand Island, where human activity is centered.

"Eastern was the island from which the bombers and fighter planes flew from in World War II," said Michael Denison, who worked on Midway as a contractor in 1940 and 1941. "It is one of the very few places belonging to the United States that a battle was waged from during that war.ÊNow it is naked."

Bob Wilson, a Midway Phoenix employee and the harbormaster at Midway, said: "There is a map showing the areas of priority for tree removal on Sand Island (the only inhabited island in the atoll), with the stated intention to have all trees removed in 15 years."

Shallenberger said his staff has removed about 10 percent of the ironwood trees on Sand Island, and plans to cut down the trees from another one or two coastal acres, to provide additional habitat for black-footed albatross, a species whose numbers are declining. He said the service does not intend to remove all the trees, and said some species on Sand Island, notably terns, have begun using ironwood trees for nesting habitat.

But the service is also actively planting. The trees being removed are mostly introduced ironwoods. The service wants Midway revegetated with native species, most of which are much lower-growing than ironwoods. "Naked" Eastern Island is in the intermediate stage between ironwood removal and a new growth of native coastal plants, said the Fish and Wildlife Services public information officer Barbara Maxfield.

Wilson said he believes Fish and Wildlife Service officials ultimately want all humans off the Northwestern Hawaiians Islands so the agency's personnel can have the islands to themselves.

"These 'island paradises' are entirely supported by tax dollars, but the various agencies are quite reluctant to have any 'outsiders' see how they spend the monies supplied by taxpayers," Wilson said.

Guy Haggard, a Florida resident who once lived on Midway, agrees: "My opinion is that the real aim of FWS is eliminate any evidence of man on Midway."

Maxfield said that perception is incorrect.

"We saw it as a unique opportunity to experience a remote island wildlife spectacle and a historical treasure," she said. "We were convinced it could be done, and I don't think we've changed our minds on that."


Marijuana law turns to reason

SUBHEAD: Police groups furiously protest Eric Holder's marijuana policy announcement not to pursue state sanctioned recreational use of marijuana.

By Staff on 5 August 2013 in The Last Marijuana Trial - 

Image above: Roger Christie in happier days before being incarcerated without trial for three years at the request of ObamaJustice Department. From (

On Wednesday, July 31, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi ruled that imprisoned Cannabis Minister, Rev. Roger Christie, can present a religious defense at trial.

The court ruled as a matter of law that Christie’s religion is legitimate, his belief is sincere, and that the government’s action was a substantial burden on the legitimate exercise of his religion.

The ruling establishes that the prosecution must now prove at a hearing that Christie’s arrest and incarceration was the least restrictive means of upholding the law — and that the federal government had a compelling interest in prosecuting him.

The Court has yet to rule on Christie’s recent RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) motion. If she grants the motion, the case against Christie will be dismissed. If she does not grant the motion, Christie will still be able to present a religious defense at trial as to the element of the intent to distribute.

Christie has been held in detention without bail at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center since his arrest by federal authorities on July 8, 2010. He is charged with distributing marijuana to his parishioners.

Comment by Vicki:
 The case of Roger Christie will go down in history as one of the most egregious abrogations of a citizen’s Constitutional rights – ever. Murderers, rapists, psychopaths, even cannibals roam free on bail while the Reverend of a Church sits in a dungeon for the crime of seeking God with the help of the herb that He placed here to take care of most of our needs.

Cannabis nourishes our bodies and our souls, clothes us, inspires ideas and provides the paper to write them on, inspires music and the joy to dance to it, can be used as fuel, and is the most potent medicine available that can cure cancer and a myriad other ills, with no toxic side effects. No one has ever died from taking it.

Yet, these agents of our Federal Government whom we pay with our hard-earned tax dollars to keep us safe, have seen fit to deny him his Constitutional rights – the very rights that define us as a nation. The rights that once set this nation apart from those such as North Korea or China.

I ask you, who presents the greatest threat to our safety? Roger, or these misguided agents?

Justice Dept won't challenge States

By Phil Mattingly on 30 August 2013 for Bloomberg News

The U.S. won’t challenge laws in Colorado and Washington that legalized the recreational use of marijuana and will focus federal prosecutions on ties to criminal organizations, distribution to minors and transportation across state lines, the Justice Department said.

Attorney General Eric Holder told the governors of the two states that U.S. attorneys will focus on certain priority areas and work with them to set rules for the marijuana industry.

The decision marks the first time the U.S. government has condoned recreational marijuana use and opens the door for other states to consider it. Voters in Washington and Colorado became the first to legalize it in November. Nineteen states allow medical marijuana use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In a memo to federal prosecutors around the country, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said that, beyond the priority areas, “the federal government has traditionally relied on states and local law enforcement agencies to address marijuana activity” under their own laws.

The new guidelines are “a major and historic step toward ending marijuana prohibition,” said Dan Riffle, federal policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

“The next step is for Congress to act,” said Riffle, whose Washington-based group is the largest advocating legalization. “We need to fix our nation’s broken marijuana laws and not just continue to work around them.”

Growing, selling or possessing marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Criminal Activity

The federal priorities include monitoring marijuana activities for ties to criminal organizations, distribution to minors and transportation across state lines. Prosecutors have also been instructed to focus on preventing state-authorized endeavors from being used as a cover for trafficking other illegal drugs, violence in pot cultivation and driving under the influence of marijuana.

The government will also pursue cases where marijuana is grown on public lands or when it is carried on federal property, according to the Justice Department’s memo.

Officials in Washington and Colorado, as well as businesses associated with marijuana, have been pressing the Justice Department to make a decision on what the federal government would do where recreational use has been legalized.

“This very carefully considered approach by the federal government will allow our state to move forward and show the country a way a well-regulated system can be effectuated in a state while still respecting the federal Controlled Substances Act,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee, a 62-year-old Democrat, said today at a news briefing in Olympia.

Trusting States

“What I’m hearing from the federal government is that they believe there’s a reason to trust the states of Colorado and Washington,” Inslee told reporters. “So we’re not going to allow distribution of this product in a way that has massive leakage outside the state of Washington. We’re not going to allow distribution of this product to minors.”

Colorado Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, 61, said the state shares the Justice Department’s enforcement priorities. The state is “determined to keep marijuana businesses from being fronts for criminal enterprises or other illegal activity,” he said in a statement.

‘A Mistake’

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, 50, a Republican who is seeking re-election in November and may run for president in 2016, called Holder’s decision not to challenge recreational marijuana laws “a mistake.”

It amounts to a “de facto” legalization, said Christie, a former U.S. attorney. New Jersey won’t move toward legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, the governor told reporters in Point Pleasant today.

Washington and Colorado have been designing regulations for the cultivation and sale of recreational marijuana while the Obama administration formulated its position on the state laws.

The Justice Department said it reserves the right to preempt the states should they run afoul of the new guidelines.

 Cops want continuing drug money 

By Ryan Grim on 30 August 2013 for Huffington Post -

Image above: DEA agents remove "evidence" in pot dispensary raid in san Diaego 4/23/13. Look like regular cops to me - except for the face hoods. From (

A broad coalition of law enforcement officers who have spent the past three decades waging an increasingly militarized drug war that has failed to reduce drug use doesn't want to give up the fight.

Organizations that include sheriffs, narcotics officers and big-city police chiefs slammed Attorney General Eric Holder in a joint letter Friday, expressing "extreme disappointment" at his announcement that the Department of Justice would allow Colorado and Washington to implement state laws that legalized recreational marijuana for adults.

If there had been doubt about how meaningful Holder's move was, the fury reflected in the police response eliminates it. The role of law enforcement is traditionally understood to be limited to enforcing laws, but police organizations have become increasingly powerful political actors, and lashed out at Holder for not consulting sufficiently before adopting the new policy.

"It is unacceptable that the Department of Justice did not consult our organizations -- whose members will be directly impacted -- for meaningful input ahead of this important decision," the letter reads. "Our organizations were given notice just thirty minutes before the official announcement was made public and were not given the adequate forum ahead of time to express our concerns with the Department’s conclusion on this matter.

Simply 'checking the box' by alerting law enforcement officials right before a decision is announced is not enough and certainly does not show an understanding of the value the Federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement partnerships bring to the Department of Justice and the public safety discussion."

The missive was signed by the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Narcotic Officers Associations’ Coalition, the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association and the Police Executive Research Forum.

Law enforcement, the police groups said, "becomes infinitely harder for our front-line men and women given the Department’s position."

The Justice Department declined to respond.

Local law enforcement agencies rely heavily on the drug war for funding. Police departments are often able to keep a large portion of the assets they seize during drug raids, even if charges are never brought. And federal grants for drug war operations make up a sizable portion of local law enforcement funding.

The letter warns that marijuana can cause suicidal thoughts, impairs driving and is a "gateway drug." The missive does not, however, address the failure of law enforcement generally to reduce drug use, even while tripling the number of people behind bars. Instead, the police warn that liberalizing pot laws will lead to an increase in crime.

"The decision will undoubtedly have grave unintended consequences, including a reversal of the declining crime rates that we as law enforcement practitioners have spent more than a decade maintaining," the officers write.

Worse, they warn, more states are likely to follow Washington and Colorado.

"The failure of the Department of Justice to challenge state policies that clearly contradict Federal law is both unacceptable and unprecedented. The failure of the Federal government to act in this matter is an open invitation to other states to legalize marijuana in defiance of federal law," they write.E


The Mana Mirage

SOURCE: Hope Kallai (
SUBHEAD: Mana means supernatural and dry in Hawaiian and these visitors to Kauai in 1847 found magic there.

By Chester S. Lyman 17 April 1847 in Island Breath -

Image above: Bonafide water in Queens Pond north of the Barking Sands in Kolo ahupuaa along the shoreline. Photo by Juan Wilson (truck tracks edited out).

Below is excerpt from "Around the Horn to the Sandwich Islands and California" 1845-1850 by Chester S. Lyman. Edited by Frederick John Teggart. Starting at Page 184 to 191.

Saturday 17th April [calculated as1847] The horses having been got up, Messrs Alexander and Douglass and Miss Dibble started at 11am for a ride to Mana, 12 miles distant along the coast westerly, to witness the Mana Mirage and the Musical Sand [Barking Sands].

Our route lay over a level plain, scarcely at all elevated above the ocean, and from 1 to 2 miles wide between the sea and the inland bluff by which it is bounded. All along the shore and throughout the plain a coarse sandstone appears, composed chiefly of comminuted shells.

This plain in dry weather is the scene of a remarkable exhibition of the mirage, like that seen by the French soldiers in Egypt. The traveler sees spread out on the plain what seems to be an extensive pond of water, so perfectly resembling the real element as often effectually to deceive the spectator. On approaching it however the illusion vanishes and nothing remains but the dry sandy plain.

On passing this pseudo lake and looking back the apparent water is again visible. Mr Rowell mentions having often witnessed this and all the natives with whom we conversed gave the same account of the matter.

After riding two or three miles over the plain, we came indeed to what seemed to be a sheet of water spreading out for miles over the low level plain. This of course must be the wonderful mirage. To be sure it looked like real water and, on approaching it, we could discern little rippling waves raised by the wind, which so thoroughly completed the illusion that we could scarcely doubt that the exhibition before us was bonafide water.

Nor were we more undeceived when we saw a veritable canoe lying on one of the seeming banks partly on land and partly on the mirage.

Our wits were completely nonplussed when on beginning to cross the Mirage instead of the vision vanishing the horses feet made a splashing and splattering and some large drops of the mirage in a substantial form were actually thrown upon our clothes.

The seemingly clear lake also became to the eye muddled and dark where the hooves passed along, and we had not ridden many rods into the phenomenon before we found that unless we lifted up our feet and gathered them up under us on the saddle they would become wet and soggy in the mirage just as readily as in a real pond of water.

Moreover tall bulrushes grew up from the bottom, and by the time we had reached the opposite bank of 20 or 30 rods of troublesome and muddy wading we were so impressed by the wonderful perfectness of the illusion that we came unanimously to the conclusion that if the phenomenon we had witnessed and felt was not actual water we could not tell what it was.

It is proper to say however that the natives had forewarned us that in place of the mirage we should now find real water, the recent rains having covered the whole plain with a shallow lake of water 5 or 6 miles long and in places half a mile or more wide.

There is no doubt of the reality of the Mirage in dry weather, but on the present occasion it was flooded, and actual water had usurped its place.

Image above: Looking towards Polihale along Barking Sands shoreline. From (

Eleven or twelve miles from Waimea we reached the sand hills at the western extremely of the plain, which stretches off towards the North several miles further and terminates at the precipitous coast which extends along the Western side of the Island to the Caves at Haena, being an almost perpendicular rocky bluff in places attaining an elevation of 3000 or 4000 feet.

At the termination of the plain over which we had ridden is a ridge of sand hill extending from the bluff on the right a mile or more along the shore towards the left. Some parts of this ridge reach to the height of 100 feet or more above the plain, especially the southern extremity, where we first came up to it. The sand here is famous for its peculiar musical, or granting quality. The natives have observed it from time immemorial. The name of the sand bank is Nohili.

It is a beautiful clean bank of white or reddish sand, formed mostly of polished particles of seashells, and perfectly dry from direct exposure to the rays of the sun. This bank is over 100 feet perpendicular elevation above the plain, and the slope of It (30º or 35º) is as great as the particles of the sand will allow. It is steadily advancing along the plain, and the strong breezes from the North are constantly wafting along fresh supplies of sand, which coming over the summit lie on this southern slope at as steep an angle as possible. The natives say that this bank was formerly a great way off, but that now it is coming very nigh.

But the great curiosity here is the barking or grunting property of the sand. On stirring it, or rather on pressing it together with both hands, 'it gives out an audible and peculiar squeak, grunt or hark, more resembling the barking of the little toy dog which children play with than anything else. We it at various places on the sand bank, even on its s t and every where with the same result, except where it was damp.

The particles of the sand viewed with a glass are more or less rounded and highly polished, being comminuted fragments of shells. It seems to be nearly free from finer particles of dust and the sound must in some way be owing to this circumstance together with the smoothness and dryness of the particles. The natives say that they know of no other sand that has the barking quality, but that this when carried elsewhere and dried in the sun still retains it.

Image above: Ocean view of Barking Sands dunes at Nohili Point with cliffs over Mana plain in distance. Area is restricted by US Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility or PMRF. Photo by Juan Wilson.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: The Golden Plain 8/27/13


Useless Obama Blow

SOURCE: Katherine Muzik (
SUBHEAD: President Obama promises any strike against Syrian government will have no objective.

By Andy Borowitz on 29 August 2013 for the New Yorker -

Image above: President Obama speaks from the White House. From original article.

Attempting to quell criticism of his proposal for a limited military mission in Syria, President Obama floated a more modest strategy today, saying that any U.S. action in Syria would have “no objective whatsoever.”

“Let me be clear,” he said in an interview on CNN. “Our goal will not be to effect régime change, or alter the balance of power in Syria, or bring the civil war there to an end. We will simply do something random there for one or two days and then leave.”

“I want to reassure our allies and the people of Syria that what we are about to undertake, if we undertake it at all, will have no purpose or goal,” he said. “This is consistent with U.S. foreign policy of the past.”

While Mr. Obama clearly hoped that his proposal of a brief and pointless intervention in Syria would reassure the international community, it immediately drew howls of protest from U.S. allies, who argued that two days was too open-ended a timeframe for such a mission.

That criticism led White House spokesman Jay Carney to brief reporters later in the day, arguing that the President was willing to scale down the U.S. mission to “twenty-four hours, thirty-six tops.”

“It may take twenty-four hours, but it could also take twelve,” Mr. Carney said.

“Maybe we get in there, take a look around, and get out right away. But however long it takes, one thing will not change: this mission will have no point. The President is resolute about that.”


The Nadir of Materialism

SUBHEAD: Come together in co-operative, resilient, giving communities. There is no other way beyond here.

By Ben Croser on 30 August 2013 for Nature bats Last -

Image above: Painting by Bruce Harmon of "Goddess Pele" From (

Materialism and Spirituality are on a spectrum of values, a pendulum, where we find our Human Identity. We have now moved so completely into a cycle of Materialism, which began many thousands of years ago, we see great changes now in our world.

Catastrophic Climate Change, and The Great Slide Toward Inverted Totalitarianism

Chris Hedges writes of “Inverted Totalitarianism”; 
Inverted totalitarianism is a term coined by political philosopher Sheldon Wolin to describe the emerging form of government of the United States. Wolin believes that the United States is increasingly turning into an illiberal democracy, and he uses the term “inverted totalitarianism” to illustrate the similarities and differences between the United States governmental system and totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union.

… Inverted totalitarianism reverses things. It is all politics all of the time but a politics largely untempered by the political. Party squabbles are occasionally on public display, and there is a frantic and continuous politics among factions of the party, interest groups, competing corporate powers, and rival media concerns. And there is, of course, the culminating moment of national elections when the attention of the nation is required to make a choice of personalities rather than a choice between alternatives. What is absent is the political, the commitment to finding where the common good lies amidst the welter of well-financed, highly organized, single-minded interests rabidly seeking governmental favors and overwhelming the practices of representative government and public administration by a sea of cash.
Materialism Extremis has lead to Inverted Totalitarianism, lead us to see this world as entirely Material in essence, and to see ourselves as Eating, Talking and Procreating Machines. The Spirit of previous ages, the Animistic traditions that prevailed before the rise of Science, and the Industrial Revolution, permeated the way of life of virtually all Native Peoples, and Cultures.

The world views of Cultures of the Spirit, that preceded the rise of civilizations, all included as a central component the Land, Country, and the Elements, but these were not seen as Material only. With a complex weaving, they all had stories that detailed how they came to be, how the world came to be, and what their place was in this Magnificent World.

Cycle ahead to the present, and we find ourselves living in what can only be hoped is the Nadir of Materialism. Whatever the specific formative reasons, be they Overpopulation, Social and Cultural Collisions, Resource Depletion, Abundant Fossil Fuel Energy, Habitat Destruction, Ecosystem Destruction, Ocean Plastification, and Human Exploitation and Debt Slavery, we as a Species are faced with the limits of our devastating acceptance of Materialism as a model for reality and ourselves.

With the enormous crescendo of Scientific understanding, we begin to also understand the power and fragility of the systems we need to survive on this, our planet, our only home – Earth. The rise of civilizations, and now their apex, a Monoculture atop cultures, we arrive at Materialism. There is no longer any surviving vestige of Stabilized Spiritual Culture, powerful enough to counter-vale and transform Materialist ethics and laws.

Materialism dominates our world view, our cosmological view, if not every individual, then a vast majority, and all the nodes of institutional legitimacy and such a degree, Materialism dominates such that we accept the most horrendous abuses to ourselves, or the greater underclasses within cultures, and our planet, all in the name of supplying an ugly over-abundance and sheer terror of waste, resulting in a cascade of pollution, species and ecosystem loss, and the extreme dehumanization, and dishonor of Homo sapiens.

Were we to conceive of ourselves as we once did, we may still be fewer, we may still be nomadic, we may rely far more on those close by for deep love and communal support, and we also may be a meaningful part of an awesome living planet.

But no longer.

We cannot go back. That world is no longer obtainable again – Seas so abundant in life it was obvious to everyone all life arose there; Air so clear and fresh any solitary mind could shape a winged thought so steeped in time that memory of ancestors would come calling; Land so sacred and alive no place was not part of oneself, and Fire, so precious to a sacred heart-filled merging of Spirit and Self, it become the defining tool that was respected, mastered, and known as the inspiration for all dreams, visions and foreknowledge.

All this we have lost. Our tacit connection to the very center of our own consciousness is in doubt, as Materialism prevails, like a cloud of confusion and death covering the globe. Few today know deeply why they have the gift of life, why they have so much cultural promise of freedom, but little Spiritual Understanding that has always been the door to the riches of the Heart, and that freedom. Few today know any Real Spiritual Touchstones, once embedded in their unique Cultural heritage. Lost, almost all now have been replaced with a shallow mummery of life-business transactions, with all the joy of endless Having and Getting, but no ways to contact the Self.

The Self -the manifestation in all beings that Carl Jung described as the Transcendental reality inflected in us. In a worlds apart description, Jung would have rejected, utterly, and with passion, the modern Adam Smith dictum that at the core of our being is self interest. In a macabre word-play, we see the small self the Ego, of Smith attribution, being lauded as a meaningless material coil of flesh, and then extolled as the legitimate human seat of being, and meaning. A very far cry from what all ancient conceptions of what it is to be Human, and what Jung called the Self, the very Transcendent loci of reality.

The Self is the project of all manifestation, especially here on this Jewel of a planet. The Self is what we seek, but it is our very essence, and as the seductions and consolations of Materialism lock our gaze and capture our hearts, in so doing it empties our experience of its Crowning Bliss – the Heart Joy of Being.

Spiritualism and Spirituality were never simply a series of hokey rituals to fool the Child-Mind into giving over power to others. Spiritualism and Spirituality emerged within Hunter Gatherer life which was completely adapted, and co-evolving with the Land, Sea, Air and the Fire of a living planet. There was no attempt to ever ‘escape’ to other imaginary places, many now conceive Spiritualism and Spirituality to be.

Being so completely adapted to the Real matrix of this world, all the dimensions of our being emerged and were revealed over time. All the functions of Consciousness developed and demonstrated their purposes; that being to experience the diversity of the currents of Reality, as they are. Sensation, Thinking, Feeling, and Intuition, all describe and report to the conscious host, what exists, what its features are, and are not, if we like it or not, and its ultimate place in the cycle of its own being.

Materialism only perceives, and therefore, only reports on, the Sensation and Thinking functions of consciousness. ‘Objective’ reality then becomes a cage from which the human Self and its Transcendental correlate in Reality, vanishes. Consciousness has no ‘position’, and therefore, no ‘meaning’ in a Materialist existence.

Subjective by definition, Feeling and Intuition, describe the experience Consciousness has of itself as a subject. In earlier forms of Culture, the True, Transcendental Self was a projected conception of the Divine. These capacities, in Truth are our own – Human.

This is only old Greek Hubris if we, as we now do in a Materialist way of existence, conflate Ego with Self, or in the old world we assign Ego with divine powers.

As Jung was at pains to point out to ‘Moderns’, Self is revealed by Ego Surrender, not Ego Reinforcement, and Deification. Earlier Cultures found that projection of Self in the Land, Sea, Sky, and in the Fire, and with the rise of civilizations – the cults of Pantheism, and Monotheism – of closer personifications of our own unrealized capacities.

That experience of Self and the World, with far less separation and fear than today, was not an idyllic period we can romanticize from our contemporary outpost here, now. It was full immersion and interface with the Biosphere, shielded from no force of Natural Systems, nor consequence of human action. Its legitimacy is not from the Truth of its descriptions of Reality, but in the fact that they were Child-like adaptation to the Transcendental. Greater Truths were usually embedded in the Esoteric marginal segments of the civilizing Spiritual traditions, out of reach of the orthodoxy.

We no longer have that Child-like adaptation, no matter how hard the network of Global Corporations may seek to maintain for us.

We are Adolescents, in a sea of shifting haze, an indeterminate self.

Old ways have past, new ways are emerging, but the required Understanding to the vast majority, seems out of reach.

The Transcendental Heart is what we need, but conventional conceptions of what that Heart is, and all its greater functions are even less well understood.

As the Yang and the Yin of manifestation describe a unity, the Transcendental Heart is not only the Seat of all being, very much conceived like our physical heart gives to the body the vital life blood it needs. The Transcendental heart is also a Bridge, to the new stage of being.

We are at the world cultural moment where we, like the snake, need to shed a skin to grow.

That skin is Materialism.

We need to realize we are not base replicating machines. The only purpose of replicating machines is to convey over time a living being, in a changing landscape, until it Realizes itself. The diversity of forms masks the Real Essence, which is like the Promethean heat of an earlier time – the unrealized essence of our Very Self.

The heartbreaking state of the planet – the rapid Catastrophic Climatic Changes, the Long Polluted and now Dying Oceans, and the Choking Air pollutants, and Land that no longer supports Species in their normal Habitat, all culminates in this time as the Sixth Great Extinction – the delusional thinking that got us here so rapidly, is coming to an end, but not without some struggle.

That struggle is really a struggle of and for Spiritual Understanding.

It is only Understanding that reveals to us our need to grow.

Grow we must, and quickly, or we may perish.

We must make the change – shed the skin of Materialism – into a new experience of human identity, human compassion for all beings, and a new relation to the Living Planet.

Heartfelt effort is needed to reject the ways of Ego, of a Having and Getting culture, of Consumerism as a training ground for Emptiness and a harrowing, unfulfilled Hollow-Being world-view, and the Planet Devouring, Planet Killing ways of Materialism.
Come together in Co-operative, Resilient, Giving Communities.

Please – I beg you – this is a plea from a heart … breaking!

Look Long and Deep into the Eyes of A Child You Love.

There Is No Other Way Beyond Here.

This Has Got to be The Nadir of Materialism.
• Ben Croser is a peace-loving 50-year-old ordinary dad. The realisation that Climate Change is the biggest and most devastating threat to all life on Earth has prodded him to do something. He has a solo Biosphere Reconciliation Walk around Australia planned for early 2014, in order to raise awareness on these issues. Ben will pull a modified Recycling Wheelie Bin, especially kitted out to address the needs of the walk. Many obstacles have already arisen in realising the plans for the walk — everything one could expect really. Follow him at

See also:
The Ego Empire by Arius Hopman


TPP revealed once more

SOURCE: Arius Hopman (
SUBHEAD: The Trans-Pacific Partnership is not about free trade. It's a corporate coup d'etat--against us!

By Jim Hightower on 15 August 2013 for Hightower Lowdown -

Image above: Demonstration with sign reading: "Trading away: People's lives & Planet's future". From (

In 2002, it was reported that British Prime Minister Tony Blair had told a friend an amusing tale about our man George W. Bush. It seems that the two of them and French President Jacques Chirac had gotten into an economics discussion, after which George supposedly confided to Tony that he was decidedly unimpressed with Jacques' views: "The problem with the French," Bush scoffed, "is that they don't have a word for 'entrepreneur.'"

W's head has always been a no-fly-zone for factual reality. However, what would boggle his mind even more than the fact that we Americans filched that word from the French, is the reality that government is not quite the entrepreneur-devouring ogre (Mon dieu! George, another French word!) that Bush's cartoonish dogma paints it to be. Actually, government-at-its-best can be an entrepreneur's buddy. One surprising place to see this buddyship at work is in one of the most mundane of government offices: Procurement (i.e., the Department of Buying Stuff).

Where does your mayor, school board, governor, or any other "public shopper" go to purchase fixtures, food, furniture, ferns, and whatnot? Where I live, various agencies have Buy Austin, Buy Texas, Buy American, Buy Green, Buy Sweatshop-Free, and other targeted policies that apply our tax dollars to our values. This sensible idea has swept across the country, most likely including where you live, and these agency purchases add up to a big financial boost for start-ups, independents, women-owned, and other homegrown enterprises.

Rather than buying everything from Walmart or China (excuse the redundancy there)--thus shipping truckloads and boatloads of cash out of our communities--plow that public money back into the home turf for grassroots economic growth and the flowering of local jobs.

Imagine the uproar if President Obama and Congress tried to pass a bill to outlaw such "preferential procurement" policies, summarily cancelling our democratic right to decide where to make public purchases. I'd get pretty PO'd, wouldn't you? And what if they also proposed that foreign corporations in Brunei, New Zealand, Vietnam, and other nations must be given the right to make the sale on any and all products purchased with our tax dollars? That'd set my hair on fire!

The American people would never stand for this brazen affront to our sovereignty, so I can assure you that Obama and Congress will definitely NOT be proposing any such thing. Not directly, that is.

Instead, their hope is to tiptoe it around us. The nullification of our people's right to direct expenditures of our own tax dollars is but one of the horror stories being quietly packed into a political-and-economic bombshell benignly labeled TPP --the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

This thing is a supersized and nuclearized NAFTA, the 1994 trade scam rammed through Congress by Bill Clinton, Wall Street's Robert Rubin, and the entire corporate establishment. They promised that the "glories of globalization" would shower prosperity across our land. They lied. Corporations got the gold. We got the shaft--thousands of factories closed, millions of middle-class jobs went south, and the economies of hundreds of towns and cities (including Detroit) were hollowed out. (Most Mexicans got the NAFTA shafta, too. US grain traders like ADM dumped corn into Mexico, wiping out millions of peasant farmers' livelihoods, and thousands of local businesses were crushed when Walmart invaded with its Chinese-made wares.)

Twenty years later, the corporate gang that stuck us with NAFTA is back, hoping to fool us with an even more destructive multinational deal. (This calls for another immortal quote from George W: "Fool me once, shame on--shame on you. Fool me--you can't get fooled again." Well, you know what he meant).

This time we really must pay attention, because TPP is not just another trade deal. First, it is massive and open-ended. It would hitch us immediately to 11 Pacific Rim nations (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam), and its door would remain wide open to lure China, Indonesia, Russia, and other nations to come in. Second, note that many of those countries already have trade agreements with the US. Hence,

TPP is a "trade deal" that mostly does not deal with trade. In fact, of the 29 chapters in this document, only five cover traditional trade matters!

The other two dozen chapters amount to a devilish "partnership" for corporate protectionism. They create sweeping new "rights" and escape hatches to protect multinational corporations from accountability to our governments... and to us. Here are a few of TPP's provisos that would make our daily lives riskier, poorer, and less free:

Food safety
Any of our government's food safety regulations (on pesticide levels, bacterial contamination, fecal exposure, toxic additives, GMOs, non-edible fillers, etc.) that are stricter than "international standards," as most are, could be ruled as "illegal trade barriers." Then our government would have to revise our consumer protections to comply with the weaker global standards. Also, our government could no longer ban meat imports that don't meet our safe-to-eat laws, as long as the exporting nation simply claims that its inspection system is "equivalent" to ours. In addition, food labeling laws we rely on (organic, country-of-origin, animal-welfare approved, GMO-free, etc.) would also be subject to challenge as trade barriers.

Our Department of Energy would lose its authority to regulate exports of natural gas to any TPP nation. This would create an explosion of the destructive fracking process across our land, for both foreign and US corporations could export fracked gas from America to member nations without any DOE review of the environmental and economic impacts on local communities--or on our national interests. It also means that most of the gas produced by this violently polluting process will not go to us, but to foreign users, which will raise our consumer prices and cut manufacturing growth.

US corporations would get special foreign-investor protections to limit the cost and risk of relocating their factories to low-wage nations that sign onto this agreement. For example, an American corporation thinking about moving a factory would know it is guaranteed a sweetheart deal if it exports to a TPP nation like Vietnam. The corporation could skirt Vietnam's laws and demand compensation at an international tribunal for any government policy or action (such as a hike in the minimum wage) that undermined its "expected" profits. These guarantees would be strong incentives for corporate chieftains to export even more of our middle-class jobs.

Drug prices
 Big Pharma would be given more years of monopoly pricing on each of their patents and be empowered to block distribution of cheaper generic drugs. Besides artificially keeping everyone's prices high, this would be a death sentence to many people suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other treatable diseases in impoverished lands. The deal would also restrict the rights of our government to negotiate with drug giants to get lower consumer prices with bulk purchases, as Medicare and Medicaid do in the US.

Wall Street and the financial giants in other TPP countries would make out like bandits: The deal explicitly prohibits transaction taxes (such as the proposed Robin Hood Tax here) that would shut down super-rich speculators who have repeatedly triggered financial crises and economic crashes around the world; it restricts "firewall" reforms that separate consumer banking from risky investment banking (thus prohibiting Congress from reinstating the much needed Glass-Steagall firewall in our country); it could roll back reforms that governments adopted to fix the extreme bank-deregulation regimen that caused Wall Street's 2007 crash; and it provides a backdoor escape from national rules that would limit the size of "too-big-to-fail" behemoths.

These extreme provisions would be enforceable by the banks themselves--TPP empowers them to force governments either to repeal reform laws or to compensate banks with taxpayer money for "losses" they say are caused by reforms.

Internet freedom
Thanks to public rebellion, corporations hoping to lock up and monopolize the internet failed in Congress last year to pass their repressive "Stop Online Piracy Act." However, they've slipped SOPA's most pernicious provisions into TPP. Corporate-created content, for example, would be given copyright protection for a stunning 120 years!

The deal would also transform internet service providers into a private, Big Brother police force, empowered to monitor our "user activity," arbitrarily take down our content, and cut off our access to the internet. To top that off, consumers could be assessed mandatory fines for non-commercial, small-scale copying--like sending your mom a recipe you got off of a paid site.

Public services
TPP rules would limit how governments regulate such public services as utilities, transportation, and education, including restricting policies meant to ensure broad or universal access to those essential needs. One especially insidious rule says that member countries must open their service sectors to private competitors, which would allow the corporate provider to cherry pick the profitable customers and sink the public service. Also, corporations from any TPP nation must be allowed to bid on contracts to provide public services in the US on the same terms as American corporations.

A corporatocracy

 Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's superb research and activist group, Global Trade Watch, correctly calls the Trans-Pacific Partnership "a corporate coup d'etat." Indeed, nations that join must conform their laws and rules to TPP's strictures, effectively supplanting US sovereignty and cancelling our people's right to be self-governing. Worse, it creates virtually permanent corporate rule over us--there's no expiration date on the agreement, and no provision in it can be altered unless all countries agree. Thus, even if Americans voted in an election to make changes, any other TPP country could overrule us by not agreeing.

Well, you might think, we'll still have our courts to redress corporate misuse of TPP's provisions. Uh... no. One of the deal's chapters creates a monstrous monkey wrench called the "Investor-State Dispute Resolution" system. In this private, supra-legal "court," corporations are empowered to sue TPP governments over environmental, health, consumer, zoning, or any other public policies that the corporations claim are either undermining their TPP "rights" or diminishing--get this--their "expected future profits."

This elevates thousands of private, profit-seeking entities to the legal status of sovereign nations. Under the investor-state system, a smaller version of which was included in NAFTA and other free-trade schemes, the deck is stacked for corporate interests. Cases are decided behind closed doors by three-person international tribunals of private attorneys who often have a glaring corporate bias. The same lawyers who represent corporations in these cases routinely switch over in other cases to serve as "judges." Holy revolving door!

These "tribunalists" are not accountable to any electorate, and their decisions are final--there's no appeal to a real court. If a corporation wins a case, taxpayers of the government being sued lose, for they must pony up cash to compensate the corporation for its "loss" of profit.

At present, even before the elephantine TPP is imposed on us, corporations are demanding a total of nearly $14 billion just in cases brought under free trade arrangements that include the US. Among the current corporate giants suing governments in investor-state tribunals are:
  • Philip Morris (Altria), attacking Australia's and Uruguay's cigarette labeling policies
  • Chevron, trying to avoid its liability for the gross toxic contamination in the Amazon
  • Eli Lilly, demanding that Canada revise patent law to extended monopoly protection
  • Several European investment firms, assaulting Egypt's minimum wage law.
Why isn't this a screaming, bold-type, take-to-the-streets, call-out-the-dogs, roll-out-the-guillotine news story and political issue? Because the corporate and political powers (apologies again for redundancy) definitely don't want us to kick up a fuss that could squirrel their little surprise, so they've thrown a suffocating blanket of secrecy over the whole process.

TPP negotiations were initiated back in 2008 by none other than President Can't-Be-Fooled-Again. (Okay, one more Bushism: "I think--tide turning. See, as I remember--I was raised in the desert, but tides kind of--it's easy to see a tide turn.") The incurious mass media, however, didn't see the story then and have since devoted zero investigative energy to it. They've accepted the official cover story that the deal is just another yawner of a trade agreement, so pay no mind--even as 17 rounds of closed-door negotiations have zipped under their radar.

Obama--who pledged in 2008 to avoid sneaky, NAFTA-style, corporate sell-outs--promptly surrendered to the global schemers once in office. Team Obama goosed up the TPP negotiating process and has gone to extremes to make it more furtive than Bush did. In 2010, all nations involved even signed a formal pledge to keep details of their deliberations from the public--and to keep documents related to the deal under cover until four years after the process is completed.

Last year, Obama's top trade rep, Ron Kirk, declared that locking out the people is necessary, because the deal's details would outrage Americans and spook Congress from rubber stamping it. In short, to win public approval of TPP, the Obamacans say they must keep it hidden from the public.

Where, you might ask, is Congress? In the dark.

Even though the Constitution says Congress has exclusive authority "to regulate commerce with foreign nations," the White House has repeatedly rejected pretty-please requests by lawmakers merely to attend negotiations as observers, and congressional leaders have not been allowed to review, much less have any meaningful input on, the draft texts of TPP's 29 chapters. In June, our progressive friend, Rep. Alan Grayson, who has been a tenacious critic of the shady process, was finally granted a peek at the full draft--though not allowed to take a copy. "It's easy to understand why [it's] been kept secret," Grayson says, confirming that "It puts corporate interests ahead of American interests."

The corporate team

There are, however, 600 or so "outsiders" who've been welcomed inside to help write TPP. They are handpicked members of the 16 Industry Trade Advisory Committees--practically all of them corporate executives. From AT&T to Zippo Manufacturing, and from the Koch boys' empire to Walmart's billionaires, corporate powers are cheek to jowl with the government negotiators to make sure the final document serves their very special interests.

In addition, Obama has now named one of their own to replace Kirk: Michael Froman, an Obama classmate in law school and a protege of Robert Rubin in the Clinton administration. Post-Clinton, Froman traipsed along with Rubin to Citigroup, which made him a Wall Street multi-millionaire. From there, he went back to Obama in 2004 as a senate campaign advisor and money-bagger (including introducing the rising political star to Rubin). Now he's been brought in to wire all these connections to the TPP sovereignty bomb.

Will the new trade representative finally apply Obama's 2009 pledge of "transparency, public participation, and collaboration" to these momentous negotiations? Sen. Elizabeth Warren asked Froman this very question in June, offering three specific suggestions for shining a little of democracy's beneficial light on the process. "Mr. Froman's response was clear," Sen. Warren later reported: "No, no, no."

Obama & Co. can shut us out of the room, but they can't consummate the deal there. While he wants to wrap up formal negotiations by October, he then has to get Congress's okay. This means imploring the same members he's been stiffing to sign America's name (i.e., yours and mine) to the document.
How will he get them to do that? As Clinton and Bush did in previous free trade hustles, he'll try to use a rush-rush legislative procedure called "fast track," while TPP's boosters simultaneously envelop the public debate in a disorienting fog of corporate PR.

The White House and its corporate allies will also mount a heavy-handed lobbying campaign to shove their package into law. Yet, even with all of the above, by no means is passage assured--or likely.

Start with fast track. The very term suggests a railroad job, which is apt, for it's a little-used, anti-democratic maneuver to choo-choo a bill right over Congress. Under this procedure, Obama is allowed to sign TPP before Congress votes. Then he writes an "implementing bill" to make US laws conform to the hundreds of pages of TPP dictates. That's what he sends to Congress, where no amendments will be allowed and debate will be strictly limited.
The idea is to force members to swallow the whole deal in one, hurried, up-or-down vote. However, Congress first has to authorize the White House's use of the fast track ploy--and that's very iffy. Republican leaders have shown they're unwilling to give anything to Obama. Meanwhile, congressional Democrats are not likely to grease the skids for this stinker of a deal.

The people's team

But the fundamental problem for the deal's boosters is not procedure, it's content: TPP stinks. If Americans get a whiff of it, they'll gag. Yes, corporations will put a ton of money behind TPP's passage, but even they might not have enough PR perfume to make Congress hug it.
There is also a broad, well-organized, knowledgeable, and politically experienced coalition of grassroots groups already at work to prevent this perversion of America's fundamental governing principles. Still, many pundits will tell us that it's impossible to stop them, because the public can't understand these complex deals.

Baloney. First, this one is not at all complex; it's a plain old power grab by the world's moneyed elites, and people today have no interest in giving more money and power to the world's 1-percenters. Second, populist forces now opposing TPP have won many of these brawls in the past, including:

Stopping Clinton's demand for fast track authority in 1998.

Sidetracking the Multilateral Agreement on Investment in 1998.

Derailing an expansion of the World Trade Organization in 1999 and again in 2010.

Defeating the Free Trade Area of the Americas (a 14-nation expansion of NAFTA) in 1999.

Halting such multi-nation trade deals as AFTA (Andean countries) and NAFTA-style deals with
APEC (an earlier attempt at the TPP with 18 Pacific Rim Countries), SACU (Southern Africa), Malaysia, and Thailand.

My message: We can do this. We The People can protect our democratic rights from this latest threat of corporate usurpation. The only way the Powers That Be can win is to keep the public in the dark about what TPP is.

So now is the time for to sound the alarm, spread the news about the Trans-Pacific Partnership and shine the light of day on their power play before it gets to Congress.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: The Green Shadow Cabinet 6/17/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Obama's Third World USA 5/18/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Obama & Multi-Nationals in Pacific 11/25/12