Saturday, February 27, 2016

Taro isn't Maui's future either

When most of HC&S’s water is returned to the streams of East and West Maui, how much of HC&S’s agricultural output will be replaced by other crops?

Taro sounds attractive.

Poi sells at the grocery for $17-18 a pound. (I eat poi every week, usually with ahi shoyu poke. Poi is the only starch I know of that costs more than the protein it is commonly eaten with.)

Yields per acre are high, 8,000-10,000 pounds. At 70 cents a pound, that’s as much as $7,000 an acre.

Demand is high. Hawaii imports over half its poi taro, mostly from Fiji. Taro/kalo has cultural as well as nutritional values going for it.

So how much additional lo’i acreage can we anticipate from the release of sugar water? None.

That’s zero, zip, nil, nada, nothing.

Since 2010, taro acreage (not all in lo’i) has dropped 25%. That’s not because HC&S was hogging the water.

It’s lack of interest in working 10-12-hour days bent over in mud. Also, the average taro farm is only a couple acres. Even at $7,000 an acre, that’s poverty wages.

A little story about the nonsense emitted by the taro farmers. Once upon a time, I attended a meeting of the State Commission on Water Resource Management. It was considering restoration of stream flow to Na Wai Eha. The submissions included surveys of several lo’i seeking more water, with their acreages reported to the fourth decimal place.

As was my practice as a reporter, I started reducing the various numbers to some easily understandable common base. Since I knew how many square feet are in an acre (about 41,000), I knew the size of the lo’i to within 4 square feet.

And since I was bored silly, I stated counting the tiles in he room where we were meeting. They were 12 inches square.

So it was obvious that the lo’i over which we were arguing – there were more than 12 lawyers in the room, running up billable hours at a furious rate – were smaller than the meeting room.

So I don’t take taro farming seriously as an economic activity.

Here are some more figures:

Total annual turnover at HC&S in sugar: $100 million-$140 million.

Total statewide receipts for taro: $2.4 million. Double that after adding value from processing: say, $5 million. Over half of that on Kauai. Maui’s share: around $1 million.

So, whatever the environmental and cultural benefits from restoring stream flows – and those will be considerable – the economic effect will be dire. Closing HC&S will suck billions out of Maui’s economy.

I was surprised to see, in The Maui News, that A&B chairman Chris Benjamin thinks the net cash-flow effect will be neutral. I have always ballparked the cost of closing the plantation at at least $100 million.

Presumably the mill will be sold overseas, like Paia mill was, but unless Puunene is just allowed to decay there will be big cleanup costs.

The big economic question – which so far as I have heard is not even understood by Arakawa and Ige – is supporting water.

RtO will have more to say about that presently.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Are open carry states safer?

No. That's crazy talk.

Police said they believe the shootings were random and not targeting particular people.
“We have our worst case scenario,” said Kalamazoo County Undersheriff Paul Matyas. “These are random murders.”UPDATE Sunday


The shooter was just your normal everyday ammosexual, quiet except when

 “He periodically shot his gun out the back door,” Ms. Pardo said. “He would shoot randomly into the air.”
By Saturday he had graduated to randomly shooting into people.

Running the table

One of these men was out of his mind on drugs
Joe Beese asks:

So who was the last person to win the Republican nomination after losing Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina?
Has anyone?

Not that I recall. Many of the coming primaries are winner-take-all or winner-take-most, which means Trump runs the table, as he claimed he would. (He didn't really lose in Iowa which was effectively a 3-way tie.)

Even before he won South Carolina, I was thinking this morning that Nixon didn't really think through his Southern Strategy to steal the racist vote from the Democrats.

I was started thinking about this by an analysis in the New York Times by Alec MacGillis. MacGillis was reflecting on Mitch McConnell's relentless focus on winning elections, rather than advancing policies, but the thought applies equally well to the Democrats between 1860 and 1968 and to the Republicans since.

In 1860, the Democrats split into northern and southern factions. When they rejoined, after the Southern white racists regained the franchise in 1877, they were an ill-sorted marriage: Southerners who cared nothing except for maintaining race privilege, and northerners and westerners who were interested in things like higher wages. Since the South did not mind giving up prosperity in exchange for keeping the lid on African-Americans, the South ran the party.

Into the ground. The Democrats could win the presidency only when an election year coincided with economic distress plus division among Republicans. Even spotting the Democrats the Solid South, the Republicans almost couldn't lose.

Looking back on it, Nixon's paranoid decision to appropriate the South's electoral votes by reversing the Republican Party's historic role as the party favorable to blacks seems insane. It's true that FDR had switched the allegiance of black voters to the Democratic Party (at least in presidential elections), but black votes did not swing Electoral College votes.

Looking ahead, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 foretold that black votes might someday determine the electoral votes of the South -- and more doubtfully, some urban states. But that wasn't going to happen in 1968.

By hiving off the racist vote, Nixon unified the Democratic Party, moving it left, and divided the Republican Party. However, rather than staggering forward, Democrat style, with a party at war with itself, the Republicans purged their liberals -- the Javitses, Cases and Rockefellers.

Winning the South did not give the Republicans a lock on the presidency any more than it had for the Democrats. The Democrats were only able to win the White House by nominating men with liberal policies and Southern roots, but they did that 3 times.

Then Obama came along and, taking advantage of shifts in population, upset all the old calculations.

But that left the Republicans in a fix. They now had to keep their racists or decline rapidly into long-term minority status. Thus the landslide in South Carolina for the nakedly racist candidates Saturday: Trump and Cruz got 55% combined.

It's not easy to see where non-racist Republicans go now.


The more I think about the Southern Strategy, the stupider it seems from a purely political standpoint. That it was evil goes without saying, at least if you re a liberal.

I confess I never thought about it in a purely political sense until just now. Of course, going racist was personally congenial for Nixon and most of his closest minions. But he was supposed to be so calculating. The liberal chronicler Rick Perlstein ("Nixonand") considers him the most skilled politician of his time.

Maybe so. He and FDR were the only men to win the presidency 3 times; since Nixon was robbed in '60.

But . . .

Did he really have to go Southern? Even before the Southern Strategy the South was trending Republican. Goldwater won the Deep South in '64 in the biggest Democratic landslide since '36.

While I do not believe Goldwater was personally racist, his John Birch-inflected positions overlapped a lot with those of the White Citizens Councils.

The councils existed to maintain white supremacy, but no political movement can exist without having subsidiary ideas adhering to it. The councils were as antisemitic as theywere antiblack, despite Jewish influence in the South being nearly invisible. They also tended toward small town populism and small town middle class (merchant) resentment. Feelings not unlike those that adhered to Hitler's antiJewish shtick.

It was a mixture seen before in Tom Watson's populism in Georgia around 1900.

What I am saying is that Nixon could have had the South without nakedly repudiating the legacy of his party.

But perhaps I have it wrong. Perhaps the Southern Strategy was not designed to get votes in the South but from copperheads in other states.

We see today the Confederate flag waved by a certain kind of anti-gummint anti-modern redneck in states as far from Dixie as you can get. I don't think those guys are a significant voting category, but possibly (like blog commenters) their views represent a larger category of silent lurkers who do vote.

In 2016, as the Republican Party seems ready to tear itself to bits, the Southern Strategy looks like a slow-acting poison pill.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cheese it, the cops!

This story about fraudulent Parmesan manages to use up most of the available puns, except the one I used above.

Well, puns grate on some people.

Seriously, though, I didn't know grated cheese was cut with cellulose.

Next thing you know, they'll be telling us "processed cheese food product" is neither cheese nor food.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Replays in American politics

Of the 20 or so presidential candidates this year, quite a few remind me of bygone candidates. And I don't mean Sanders's  claim to be another FDR.

The bygone candidates I am thinking of were, for the most part, embarrassments.

Clinton is the reincarnation of Victoria Woodhull, right down to the Wall Street sponsors.

Sanders is Henry Wallace when he's not Gene McCarthy.

The Republican comparisons are all far worse.

Carson, who always seems to have just awakened from a deep sleep, is Coolidge, who slept 18 hours a day.

Cruz is Joe McCarthy. I have already had a deal to say about Cruz as McCarthy (Restating the Obvious, review of "McCarthyism," Oct. 20, 2013) and many others have noticed the same thing.

Huckabee is Pat Robertson, and to a somewhat lesser extent, so is Santorum. Or perhaps Santorum is Harold Stassen.

Jeb Bush is George Bush.

The other Republicans either have no obvious predecessors (Fiorina cannot be Wendell Willkie because Willkie was both a successful business manager and a decent human being) or not enough personality to distinguish them in a crowd (Pataki, Graham).

But the one candidate who most closely parallels a famous candidate of the past is Trump. Trump is Huey Long.

It seems the Kingfish is forgotten now. Everyone interested in politics should read Harnett Kane's "Louisiana Hayride." Long's slogan was "Every man a king," and Roosevelt, who had the most perfectly attuned political cat's whiskers of any 20th century American politician, was worried that Long could run away with the 1936 election.

At least, so Robert Sherwood and Rex Tugwell reported. Sherwood in particular was in a position to know.

The stock market is down around 13% this year and some big-time money managers are predicting it will go down that much more by the end of the year. If the market is down a quarter in 2016, with all the results that would attend such a slide, then no Democrat wins.

My Democratic friends who are flailing away at Clinton will not end up with Sanders.

Unless, perhaps, the Republican vote is split between the standard-bearer Trump and some Bull Mooser. It is hard to picture Bush in the role of Teddy Roosevelt, but we have already seen strange things this year.

Trump wins the nomination. He speaks for the frightened, racist failures who vote in the primaries. These do not make up a majority of Republicans but they do make up a majority of primary Republicans. So far, this vote represents two-thirds or more of primary Republicans. Cruz and Rubio get some of them, but Trump keeps getting most of them.

It will not be the first time that powerbrokers have thought it expedient to unleash an irresponsible popular leader, thinking they could control or eliminate him and keep the reins in their own hands.  It often backfires.

Of course, in this case, the party bosses did not unleash Trump. But they did encourage the Teadiots and the stew of resentments they represented. Trump saw the chance and took it. Cruz saw it, too, but is not quite taking it.

What the party bosses got was a divided majority in the Congress that they have been unable to do anything with. So far the people eliminated have not been the rough beasts used to whip the Dems but Boehner and Cantor, with cloakholder McCarthy (Kevin not Joe) also 86'd.

Some leaders. 

Long was shot by the son-in-law of a man he tried to ruin. So far, the GOP establishment has no idea even that good for halting Trump.

The Scalia scandal

Bird murderer and legal fantasist Antonin Scalia died just the way he wanted 22 million Americans to die, without medical attention. Karma is a bitch.

On all sides, memorialists are saying he elevated the concept of original intent into constitutional law. Since nobody else will say it, let me state the obvious: hogwash.

The original intent of the Framers was to preserve chattel slavery. A Roman Catholic scholar -- but a very different kind of Catholic from the ritualist Scalia -- Garry Wills, says this:

"One of the effects of this line of argument [that the slave power conspired against freedom] was to continue the marginalizing of abolitionists, an effort at which the South was very effective. William Lloyd Garrison was the Ur-conspiratorialist in this view. He thought even the Constitution a plot against freedom ('a covenant with death'). He went beyond  criticism of the open concessions to southern demands -- on the three-fifths clause, the slave trade, and fugitive slaves -- and found a pro-slavery slant throughout the document. A claim that this was the conscious aim of the framers cannot be sustained.

But Paul Finkelman shows that the South did find ways to use many clauses of the Constitution, and many interpretations of it, to protect their slave property. The concept of  'state sovereignty' was just one of these tools. For southerners 'state's rights'  meant first and foremost the right to declare that their slaveholding was no one else's business. Other constitutional conveniences afforded them included the bans on taxing exports or interstate taxes, which favored the products of slave labor. Similarly, the guarantee of states against domestic insurrection, and the use of the militia for that purpose, put the federal government on the slave owners' side if their property should rebel. The 'full faith and credit' clause made other states recognize all the South's legal provisions for slavery. And so on."
("Negro President": Jefferson and the Slave Power, pp. 10-11)

Friday, February 12, 2016

The biggest discovery in over 100 years?

So they are saying about gravitational waves. Some qualify it by saying "greatest astronomical discovery."

I'm not buying that. A remarkable discovery, sure enough, but more significant than the discovery of the neutron? I think not. Even if we limit ourselves to astronomy, it isn't more significant than the mapping of the variations in the cosmic microwave background, which led to the proof that 95% of the substance of the universe is (still undetected) dark matter and dark energy, plus proof that the universe is accelerating.

I am happy to report that, according to the New York Times, some 2nd Amendment patriots participated in the experiment:

 Hunters once shot up the outside of one of the antenna arms in Louisiana
Probably it looked like a deer.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book Review 362: The Silk Road Journey with Xuanzang

THE SILK ROAD JOURNEY WITH XUANZANG, by Sally Hovey Wriggins. 326 pages, illustrated. Westview paperback, $25

The destruction of the giant Buddhas at Bamiyan got the attention of and outraged the world in 2001. It also brought to some in the West the name of Xuanzang, famous for centuries in the East, who was the first traveler to describe the statues.

The concurrent and continuing destruction of idols in the Pacific by (mostly white) Christian missionaries is unknown to the wide world; and no doubt American Christians would not care if they did know. Some do know, and pay for it to happen.

Therein lies one difference between East and West. Xuanzang was a Buddhist missionary, one of the four most important in spreading Buddhism to China, but he was not about destroying idols. He spent 15 years collecting manuscripts and images of the Buddha in India, and back in China, with imperial favor, was involved in building pagodas, including the Big Wild Goose pagoda in Xian, still standing, to house the 500 horse loads of sacred writings he brought back.

In Sally Hovey Wriggins’s description, Xuanzang is a most attractive character, a man of intellect and of action, bold enough to defy emperors and savvy enough to negotiate with kings. Singleminded, both in his devotion to Buddhism (especially his patron Maitreya) and in his mission to find the best sources of Buddhist thought and to translate them into Chinese.

Though a partisan — he was Mahayana, and beyond that a fervent proselytizer of an Idealist school of philosophy, now extinct — he also brought back and translated other documents, both religious and secular.

His versions of the Heart and Diamond sutras are commonly known in Asia still.

Wriggins calls him the greatest traveler the world has known after ibn Battuta (a spot that might be disputed in favor of, among others, James Cook), but Battuta did not also contribute a mighty intellectual transfer that changed the future of hundreds of millions of people.

To put this in some context, Xuanyang arrived in India just as Muhammad was dying.  Buddhism was more than a thousand years old and had been brought to China hundreds of years earlier; but it was in retreat in India, what are now Pakistan and Afghanistan and along the Silk Road.

Xuanzang recorded thousands of empty monasteries; all the kingdoms he visited have long since disappeared.

“The Silk Road Journey” is a bit of an odd book. The framework traces Xuanzang’s 10,000-mile journey from China to India and back, at each important node noticing the Buddhist artwork found there later by (mostly European) investigators, notably Aurel Stein. Important images are reproduced, though in small size and not in color. Along the way Wriggins inserts a small — very small — dose of Buddhist doctrine.

All in all, it makes for a readable small book, a good invitation to western-oriented readers to start familiarizing themselves with the historical personages familiar to Asians.

For Xuanzang in particular, this is made more difficult by the very large numbers of ways to spell his name in the Latin alphabet: a reader of several books who encountered Hwen Thsang, Yuan Chwang, Hieun Tsiang, Hsuan-Tsang and Xuanzang could be forgiven if he did not immediately recognize that they were all the same man. And there are other variants, too. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Book Review 361: A Black Woman's Civil War Memoirs

A BLACK  WOMAN’S CIVIL WAR MEMOIRS, by Susie King Taylor. 154 pages, illustrated. Markus Weiner paperback, $9.95

Susie King Taylor was a woman when she wrote these memoirs in 1902, but a girl during the Civil War – just 14 when the Yankee army occupied the Sea Islands and she crossed their lines.

She did a woman’s work, though. Officially a laundress, she was mostly a teacher and nurse for the soldiers of the First South Carolina Volunteers, the first formation of black soldiers raised by the Union. She married a sergeant, but we don’t learn much about him or, indeed, much of anything personal to her – not until the 1890s.

These brief remembrances, self-published as “My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops Late 1st S.C Volunteers” read more like a diary and were intended to perpetuate the story of the service of the black soldiers, to whom she remained devoted all her life. (Which ended in 1912, one of many facts we might have wished the editors to have included, but they didn’t.)

It is not a specially good memoir but it is the only one we have from a black woman in the war. Nevertheless, we can learn a good deal from it.

There are occasional glimpses of the girl, as when the soldiers hold a big barbecue, which is good but not as good as it would have been “at home” in Savannah.

Susie Baker King Taylor was born a slave but apparently was free in 1862. We are not told how that came about.

We learn a little, but not much, about how she learned to read and write, an unusual accomplishment at the time. Because the soldiers – some escaped slaves, some free blacks; some volunteers, some pressed – wanted so much to learn to read, she was important in the camp.

The most interesting parts of the book are not her wartime experiences, but her “Thoughts on Present Conditions” and her account of a mission to her dying son in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1898.

She had been living in Boston, where racial harmony was cherished by many, and she was shocked by what she found in the Jim Crow South. Her account is restrained but the anguish comes through.

She was not allowed to take her boy home to die, because he was too sick to sit up in the railroad car but was not allowed to hire a berth.

Her testament of faith that her country would eventually do the right thing was misplaced but makes for inspiring reading, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Matthew 7:16

How crazy are the Republicans?

This crazy.

I urge you to listen to the entire 8-minute tirade, meanwhile remembering that this person was a legitimate contender for the Republican nomination for president -- as were Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan.

As are, this year, Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum.

Meanwhile, in the crazy candidate contest, the Democrats have no one -- not a single person -- in the same league.

Kucinich is about as crazy but he was never a contendah.

If you were not raised on the Bible, Matthew 7:16 is the place where it says "by their fruits you shall know them."

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Close call

Going up Baldwin Avenue Monday afternoon, I was just pulling around the hairpin turn at Rainbow Park when a downhill biker from Arkansas hit me.

If I had been a quarter second later, she would have hit me head on and gone through the windshield. A quarter second earlier, she'd have missed me and gone over the wall. As it was, thanks to plastic body panels, the Miata didn't get a scratch. She knocked off my radio aerial but she didn't even fall off her bike, although the combined speed impact must have been over 50 miles an hour.

I asked her husband, "Did the bike rental company give you any safety instructions?" "Yes, a long list."


Monday, February 1, 2016

Bad, bad news for RtO

Long-time readers will recall that the purpose of starting Restating the Obvious was to extol the delectability of greasy pork and lament its rarity. Making fun of rightwingers is just a placeholder, because you cannot write about bacon every day.

But the New York Times reports that fire has destroyed the Edwards smokehouse in Surry, Virginia. When I lived in Norfolk, we often drove out to Surry and Smithfield to get ham dinners, with vegetables picked from a garden right outside the window of the dining room at the Staunton Inn (closed long ago).

Then we'd put the top down on my 1967 Corvair Monza Spyder and return home using the ferry run by Mr. Edwards' forebears.

The fire has had ripple effects far beyond Surry. Heritage farmers here and in the Midwest, who raise the rare-breed hogs Mr. Edwards requires for his specialty pork, have lost their biggest customer. A Brooklyn purveyor of sustainable meats who buys those farmers’ hogs and sells Mr. Edwards his pork is grappling with a break in his supply chain. Chefs from Washington to New York are busy adjusting their menus.
Ugh. I guess I should be grateful that hipsters are helping to preserve the old ways, but a Southerner doesn't have to adjust his menu.

If you can get real ham, here's what to do with it.

Make thin, crispy corn cakes. Cover with paper thin slices of ham, top those with shucked Chesapeake oysters. Run this under a broiler long enough to make the oysters curl.