Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Governor's SuperConspiracy



The Garden Island News #15:

The Governor's SuperConspiracy

image above: On the tarmac Admiral Fallon, Governor Lingle and President Bush agree on something
Photo by Jim Younf of Rueters on 21 Noember 2006

[Editor's Note: Normally these columns are scheduled to appear every other Sunday in the Kauai Garden Island News.The final published version may vary from this text as TGI retains the right to correct and edit the material. The copyright to the published version is held by TGI owner Kauai Publishing. Some material in TGI columns may have appeared on already]

by Juan Wilson on 14 October 2007
The most important business before us
The most important legal issue facing the state of Hawaii today is the operation of the Superferry. From a judicial standpoint the issue has been decided. The Hawaii Supreme Court has ruled that Hawaii's Environmental Protection law (Chapter 343 of state statutes) requires that the Superferry conduct an Environmental Assessment (EA) that would likely lead to an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EA and EIS process could take three years. The law specifies that the operation of the Superferry could not take place until the environmental studies were completed and a permit to operate issued. The Superferry is tied up in Honolulu. Case closed.

Not quite. The governor is calling for a special session of the legislature to pass a law to exclude the Superferry from our environmental protection laws and override an "unpopular" legal ruling. An out of control executive branch can flaunt the law if it whips up enough fear and populist fervor.

This happened at the federal level after 911. We got the Patriot Acts One and Two. We got lies about WMDs,.We got new definitions of torture and Abu Grabe, We got domestic spying on all our long distance calls. We got exceptions to the rules.
Bush pointed a finger at Iraq and Iran and got a greenlight and blank check from the federal legislature take us on the course we have followed for the last five years. Needless to say it has been a disaster. We have squandered good will, money and blood. We are hated by many and almost bankrupt as Bush struggles forward into the deepening quagmire.

Chief Executives out of control
How does that relate to Hawaii? Well, we have an out of control chief executive running our state. She is Governor Linda Lingle. Her right wing agenda is to serve big business and the military. The perfect expression of these two goals is the building and operation of the Superferry.

The Lingle Administration conspired with HSF Corportion to clear the legal hurdles for the Superferry to get it up and running on an expedited schedule. that path did not include any environmental review. I call this cabal the "SuperConspiracy". Despite much evidence to the contrary, the SuperConspiracy denied that the ferry had military implications that hooked it to the peculiar location of the Stryker Brigade in the state of Hawaii. That happened without an EIS too and was successfully challenged in the Ninth Circuit Federal Court.

To operate as a profitable private business, the Superferry builder, Austal LTD, advised the SuperConspiracy to design a much smaller ferry with greater energy efficiency. However, the ships were built to military specifications (to carry the large Stryker force) with nonmilitary state and public funds. The Governor had learned the first lesson of the Bush neo-fascist governing style: Loot the public trust to fund your military-industrial agenda. Privatize your war making capability.

The SuperConspiracy charged ahead like a rhino. When the Supreme Court made its historic ruling on an EA requirement, the SuperConspiracy decided to accelerate the start of operations. They decided to jump the gun on scheduled service to Kauai and Maui for a ridiculous five dollars a pop. It was a popular idea on Oahu. Then they hit the brick wall. Maui and Kauai would not play ball. By legally (Maui) and physically (Kauai) blocking entry to their harbors they foiled the SuperConspiracy.

Superferry is to Lingle as Iraq is to Bush

This is where we come to the analogy of Bush/Iraq and Lingle/Superferry. Both executives have made disastrous choices. They have appealed to populist sentiment and used fear mongering. They both have used appeals to their legislatures to turn over the law of the land to get a go-ahead on an unholy quest.

There is no doubt that decision to enter into Iraq has been a disaster. The responsibility rests with the US Congress that gave Bush a greenlight and blank check to go to war in 2002. The Kauai anti-Superferry demonstrators called kooks today were the same people who were demonstrating before the Iraq War, claiming that George Bush was leading us down a rathole and into a quagmire. They held signs that read "No Iraqnam", "No Blood for Oil" etc. I know, I was there. I suspect the same people that then shook their heads and shouted at us from their SUV's are the same ones who support the Superferry now. After five years of the war are they still supporters of the policy.

For George Bush the problem is solving America's environmental and energy problems. He chose to enter an unending war in the Middle East to reach his goals and it is bringing America down. We can rightly blame the each member of the US Congress who approved and funded Bush's folly. We can blame the American people as well for putting up with it to get "cheap gas" and go on motoring.

The Governor is now asking the Hawaii Legislature to to much the same thing here over the Superferry. She is demanding that the legislature overturn the judicial reading of the law by making a special exception to Chapter 343 for the SuperConspiracy.

A Bad Exception to the Rule
This exception would allow the Superferry to begin unrestricted operations during the period that an environmental review process. This is the equivalent to asking to have unprotected sexual relations while awaiting the results of an AIDS test. No way.

What will the results be if the SuperConspiracy gets it's way. An environmental disaster for humpback whales, sea turtles and monk seals is a possibility. We really don't know if humpback whales can share their calving waters with daily operations of a 40 mph ferry the size of a football field.

But that possible disaster will only be the beginning of the story that is unravelling. The precedent of an exception to environmental law for a "popular" program, regardless of their environmental impact, will be even more sinister in the long run.
The floodgates will be open. Any corporation speculating on doing big business in Hawaii will be tempted to lobby for an exception to Chapter 343 on grounds that their project is popular and good for Hawaii.

If that happens the governor will have reached a major milestone on her real agenda - the unrestricted growth of business and the military in Hawaii. The pesky environmental laws protecting us will be swept under the carpet or ignored, much like the Kauai Planning Department ignores pesky Special Management Area (SMA) requirements and Visitor Destination Area (VDA) restrictions.

This will be a catastrophe for Hawaii. Of course the people on Oahu won't recognize it as such. There are almost a million people on Oahu. On its own, Oahu is already lost, not sustainable and overburdened by development. Where the real difference will be is on the Outer Islands. Suburbanization will accelerate on the Big Island, Maui and Kauai. Maui is probably past the point of sustainability but might be able "go on a diet" to get back to some balance. The Big Island may have some growing room left but not as much as many may think. The real canary in the coal mine is Kauai.  Kauai is poised at the edge of what is sustainable.

But if our state legislature lays waste to the intent of Chapter 343 at the request of the SuperConspiracy, we will see what is happening to Koloa-Poipu happening throughout our island. "Growth Good - EIS Bad!" It will be the kiss of death for Kauai.

According to one state senator I spoke to, this Special Session of the legislature is a done deal and there are not the votes to stop an approval of ferry service commencing. The only question left is what, if any, restrictions their might be on their operations. His suggestion was to make the legislature hear our voices from the outer islands. Make a wind.

A Compromise to Save our Islands
There is no set of conditions that will make for a satisfying compromise. No consensus is possible between the SuperConspiracy and those of us committed to the aina. The best we can hope for is a compromise that is face-saving and acceptable to our legislators and not to the SuperConspracy.

It appears Lingle has no intent to admit she has made even a tiny mistake in any of this. She is not even looking for a way to back out of the corner she has painted herself into. If necessaey, she is going down with the ship. We will have to rely on the judgment of the legislators. Three quarters of them represent Oahu and there are rumblings of social unrest there.

I believe that part of the populist support for the Superferry stems from the inherent understanding of the environmental gloom facing Oahu and the desire to have free access to the resources and space of the outer islands.

Solving that problem is the real issue, not getting the Superferry running. If there is any sustainable solution for Hawaii after the Peak Oil Wave passes over us, it will be founded on the outer islands which are not overdeveloped, and can grow food and provide resources that will be needed thoughout the state. To overrun these islands now with "economic growth" will doom the current population of our islands.

There is a small window of opportunity to affect our legislature. Let them know the conditions under which you would allow passenger ferry service to begin between the islands, even if those conditions are reasonable to Oahu's representatives and unacceptable to the SuperConspiracy.

Governor Lingle's "Patriot Act" is on the table. Act now!

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