The Impacts of Sugar

The impact of the sugar industry in these islands simply cannot be overstated. For over a century sugar was the dominant industry in the islands consuming land, water, and people. These islands were shaped by sugar, physically and culturally.

An abandoned truck sits outside the Kōloa sugar mill
An abandoned truck sits outside the Kōloa sugar mill

So much of what you see today is a direct resut of sugar, many people and cultures that now call these islands home are descended from the immigrant laborers who came to work the plantations. These immigrants brought with them thier languages and so much more. So many traditions, foods, and words, blended with the Native Hawaiian culture to create the island culture we enjoy.

While this legacy is seen on almost all of the islands it seems most visible on the southern shore of Kauai, perhaps as these plantations were some of the last to shut down, and very little has replaced or re-developed in the area. Plantation towns sit in the shadow of rusting mills that loom over the landscape.

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Supporting a Free Press

It is clear that one of the primary goals of the Trump/GOP insurrection is to deligitimize the free press in favor of right leaning partisan news outlets like Fox or OAN. Constant claims of bias and censorship have been red meat for the hard right for some time now, intensifying after the defeat of Trump and the January 6th insurrection. The Big Lie is everything to the modern GOP, repeat the lie or be forced out of the party.

Media Bias Chart from Ad Fortes Media
Media bias chart from Ad Fortes Media

Personally I find this strategy extremely offensive, to the point that anything that the GOP once professed as their platform, values I might otherwise agree with and might support, are now completely stained by this tactic. Personal freedom and responsibilty, limited government, fiscal responsibility? These classic conservative goals have become irrelevant, the ends do not justify the means.

I have realized (maybe a bit late in this game) that I should be more active in supporting a free press. In this day of shrinking newsrooms and limited news choices it has become more important than ever.

For this reason I have given myself a bit of a Christmas gift, a gift I have been enjoying for a few weeks now, a subscription to the New York Times. Reading the NYT app on my pad and phone has become part of my daily routine. Good news, along with a games section… Doing the Times mini crossword is also part of my routine, I try to do it in less than a minute with my record being 24 seconds.

No news source is perfect, the NYT does lean slightly left, maybe a bit moreso in the opinion section, but is generally rated as a high quality new source. I do supplement this with reading of both NPR and the BBC news sites, both links front and center in my home screen and regularly clicked. I got into the habit of listening to the BBC in my years of living in England, and have been a listener, or reader, ever since. The BBC gives a non US-centric view of world news I find useful.

I realize it has been a while since my last donation to our local NPR station, I need to put that on the todo list as well.

The Skills of Living

Owning a home is expensive as maintaining a house demands constant effort and expense. On the other hand owning a home is vastly cheaper if you can do many of your own repairs.

The broken drive coupler of a Chamberlain Liftmaster garage door opener
The broken drive coupler of a Chamberlain Liftmaster garage door opener

This comes to mind as I have recently encountered a couple folks who had no idea how to perform simple tasks like jumping a car or very basic household maintenance. Having grown up with tools in-hand this is a concept I have difficulty with. How do you get by? Do you always call a repairman or a tow truck?

One of these people is the tenant of a friend. Since Tom is no longer on island he sometimes asks me to look in on his old house, now a rental, just a few blocks away. A few weeks ago I got a call that the garage door was stuck open. Sure enough a broken belt on the garage door opener, I texted Tom and he arranged for a repairman a couple days later. In the meantime the lady renting did not understand why it did not work despite a drive belt hanging down in the middle of the garage. She had no idea how to even open or close the door without the garage door opener.

Contrasting this are the repairs I have done over this last weekend… Last week our garage door came to a grinding halt partially open. A loud clattering announced it would no longer move.

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Greeting a New Year

We are now in the year 2021 by the Gregorian calendar used for much of the world. The celebrations are done, with the scars left by fireworks in our street now fading. We look forward to another year after the the stressful and destructive times of the last twelve months, a year that will loom large in memory for the remainder of our lives.

Point Retreat Lighthouse on the north end of Admiralty Island, Alaska
Point Retreat Lighthouse on the north end of Admiralty Island, Alaska

While the calendar now reads 2021, somehow 2020 seems to drag on. I feel that the remnants of 2020 will not truly be gone until January 20th, and maybe not even then. Perhaps later in the spring when vaccination programs end the viral rampage through our communities.

As we rebuild our lives and try to recover some sense of normality we might look back and try to understand the lessons taught by the year 2020. These lessons are both small and personal or large enough to threaten the foundations of our civilization. We have seen into ourselves and into those around us, the true nature of so much revealed by stress and argument.

Will these lessons be learned? Will things change? While we might be able to change ourselves for the better more easily than we can change our country, both need to be done.

While we plan for the coming year and move forward we rely on experience, something that 2020 was rich in. May you live in interesting times… The old curse that seems so applicable to the moment.

An Anticipated Election

Done.

2020 Hawaii Ballot
The 2020 Hawaii county ballot section for president

Ballots complete, stuffed, signed, and deposited in the drop box at the county elections service center that just opened. While decisions on the various candidates had been made quite some time ago, we had to spend some time reading to understand a few of the county charter amendments I was unfamiliar with.

I cannot recall a ballot I was so anticipating filling out or dropped in the box with such satisfaction. Even if the deeply blue Hawaiʻi result on the presidential election is already well known, filling in that box was something of a catharsis. I may have used a bit more ink than necessary to register the vote properly.

I realize I have voted in nine presidential elections across the decades. I have always made a point to vote, even in primary elections. I look back and realize that years past I often voted without much concern for which party a candidate declared, particularly in traditionally conservative Arizona where the best candidates were usually in the GOP. Those days are gone, maybe for quite a while.

Voting in Hawaii is very easy… Get the ballots in the mail, fill out at leisure, mail them in. Deb and I opted to drop them off directly to the elections office as the service center site is just a skip and hop off the main road into town.

The elections service center for the island’s west side is located in the county office complex off Kealakehe Parkway. Around back in the multi use room, easy parking, no crowd, the kind ladies manning the center will point out the box just inside the door.

Now we just have to wait 14 days for a result, and perhaps a bit more for confirmation.

Comfort Food

Eating habits in our communities have drastically changed. The most obvious evidence of this is the consistently bare shelves in the local supermarket.

Empty shelves in the baking goods aisle
Empty shelves in the baking goods aisle

Going out to do our weekly grocery shopping I wander the isles and make note of empty store shelves that were never empty before. There is a theme in those empty shelves, a pattern that reveals that how we eat has changed in substantial ways.

One of the first things to disappear from our local grocery were what I consider comfort foods… Boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese, tins of biscuit dough, and that Hawaiian favorite SPAM. In those early days of stay at home orders people bought foods that were familiar from childhood, offering a reassurance of normalcy, at least in the kitchen.

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Farmers Market with COVID-19

Local farmers markets have thankfully been declared essential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Weds I had to run into Keck for a quick pickup and gladly noted that the mid-week market at Pukulani Stables was open. I would stop by after completing my errand.

The Pukulani Stables mid-week farmers market in Waimea
The Pukulani Stables mid-week farmers market in Waimea

The market was running light on vendors, but doing just fine on customers. Many of the non-food vendors were not there, Warren and his photographic prints were missing, the candy gal with homemade cakes and brittle absent, as were the various gift and craft vendors. Selling non-essential items they are likely not covered in the closure exemption, and the usual tourists who are their real customers are gone.

Who was there are the usual produce vendors. I immediately head to Honopua Farms table looking for beets and lettuce. To my pleasure they have both and I scoop up a bag of beets. Fresh veggies will go well with all of the basics from our last Costco run.

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Mauna Kea Public Access Rules Take Effect

On January 13th, 2020 Governor Ige signed the controversial rules governing public and commercial activities on Mauna Kea Lands. They take effect ten days from the signing, on January 23rd.

Mauna Kea sits above a fog shrouded Saddle Road
Mauna Kea sits above a fog shrouded Saddle Road

I have mixed feelings on these rules. Some of the rules are badly needed to control public activity atop the summit of Mauna Kea, rules that can help preserve and protect this place. I believe other rules go too far, attempting to regulate visitor activities that have no impact on the mauna.

My concerns on these rules are known, I have written about them here on DV and I have testified at each round of public hearings. I will not editorialize this time, the rules are now finalized. Those who go to the mauna should be aware of what has changed, and much has changed, expect these rules to be implemented in coming months.

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Living in the Protest Bubble

Given my interactions with various protesters I have wondered just what information is exchanged in the camp privately among those who have been living there. I wonder how that information has shaped their views and driven the core of the Kia’i movement.

Tents of the protest camp at the base of Mauna Kea
Tents of the protest camp at the base of Mauna Kea

My worry is that the camp is serving as an environment where a more extreme stance in this controversy can be created and thrive.

The recipe for this is simple… Take a number of people that already share the same views, isolate them together, and bring in speakers and teachers that amplify the message. The result of this process is well understood in human psychology.

One of the common statements from those in the camp, one repeated over and over, is to come on up and live in the camp, only then you will understand.

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Were cultural sites destroyed when building observatories?

Another of the myths that plague this conversation. While not as commonly stated as some of the other myths discussed here, it has been persistent and seems to pop up regularly.

A photo of the Mauna Kea summit area from the Preston expedition of 1892
A photo of the Mauna Kea summit area from the Preston expedition of 1892

When the 12 existing facilities were built, not only were laws waived, heiau and ahus were bulldozed into trash heaps. 

wailana in a comment on Ian Lind’s blog 14Sep2019

The myth is clearly an attempt to show that the state callously allowed the destruction of cultural properties in the past, thus showing that the state does not care for Hawaiian issues and would break its own laws.

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