Thursday, October 11, 2007


Disappeared meerkat--Legislature should call special session

by Larry Geller

Press coverage of the mysterious disappearance of Hulu, a meerkat until recently residing at the Honolulu Zoo, has been overshadowed in the face of mounting tensions surrounding successful court challenges to the sailing of the Hawaii Superferry without completion of an environmental assessment.

Could Hulu's disappearance be related to the formation of a militarized "unified command" by Hawaii's Republican governor, Linda Lingle, designed to deal harshly with peaceful protests expected if the ferry should sail prior to completing an EA?

We should be concerned, very concerned, that just after Lingle declared her "unified command," bringing federal, state and county into a single militarized force, news of an unexplainable disappearance like this came to light.

Is it a coincidence that Hulu disappeared (or was taken) on the exact same day that a Big Island attorney asked for a temporary restraining order in federal court to block the Coast Guard from setting up a new federal security zone that Lingle's "unified command," let's call it UNICOM, is designed to enforce?

In an article by Joan Conrow in yesterday's Honolulu Weekly, history professor Andy Bushnell said that "he could recall nothing similar to such a command in Hawaii's past—except when martial law was imposed after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor." Even before Hulu's absence was noticed, UNICOM was busy preparing its first manifesto, targeted for distribution the next day to unsuspecting residents of Kauai who were to attend what they thought would be a friendly discussion with the Governor on the Superferry issue.

Newspaper reports ignored the bullying manifesto and portrayed only the community's loud and angry reaction to Lingle, who informed them basically that she was the Decider and that she had Decided. What she decided was that the Superferry would sail, environmental assessment or no environmental assessment. 

Backing her up would be the full force of UNICOM. Any children involved in future protests would become collateral damage as their parents would be charged with child neglect.

The blogs filled in where newspaper reporters feared to tread. Here is the reaction of blogger and writer Juan Wilson, whose work appears in The Garden Island paper (click link for pic and full article):

The Governor has brought to bear as much force as she can command. She calls it the Unified Command and it includes the National Guard, USCG, FBI, The Hawaii Attorney General, State Police, PUC, DLNR, HDOT, and pathetically our mayor, Brian Baptiste and the Kauai Police Force. She seems to be following the old motto:

"If brute force is not working - you are not using enough of it!"

Last Thursday night, at the Peace & Freedom Convention Hall in Lihue, the people of Kauai overflowed the arena to meet with the Unified Command.

The original agenda was for the Governor to tell Kauai residents about the regulations to restrict our activities in the Emergency Security Zone, then describe the lethal forces arrayed to stop our “illegal” activities and finally explain the punishment for violating those regulations. Thence would take questions from the public on the security issues. That was not the meeting the people of Kauai had in mind. It was overwhelmingly clear that Kauai still demands an EA and EIS be done before Superferry operations start here. “EIS First! “ was the chant. It was clear to the Unified Command that intimidation and fear mongering were not working.

The very next day the administration requested the purchase of protective body gear through an emergency request filed with the State Procurement Office (thanks to Ian Lind for discovering this). The on-line document omits the purchase requisition. I contacted the SPO yesterday and asked for a copy. I'm curious about what gear has been ordered. After all, our troops in Iraq often don't have the body protection that UNICOM forces may be given.

But back to Hulu. So far Kapa, Hulu's partner, has been silent (yes, it's a domestic union). Meerkats are creatures of action, and very regimented. For example, they stand sentry for one hour, and are the first non-human mammals that actively teach their young. They love wrestling and foot races. One can only wonder if Kapa has been intimidated or threatened, like the residents of Kauai, many of whom may also like wrestling and foot races. Kapa has every reason to wonder if Hulu is being held at some undisclosed location in Honolulu or at a black site elsewhere. Or has Hulu chosen to flee for the safety of Meerkat Manor? We just don't know.

The only proper response to Hawaii being taken over by a military command is that the Legislature should immediately call a special session to demand an explanation for the disappearance of Hulu and to pass new laws breaking up UNICOM before further damage is done. UNICOM is as much of a threat to Hawaii as was martial law.

Next thing you know, Kauai residents may be disappeared. Hulu might have been only a dry run for the surge that is yet to come. There is no emergency to justify this crackdown, although Superferry executives may be sweating a little extra as the courts take down their plan to sail without the necessary environmental assessments.

Of course Lingle is mum about whether Hulu was disappeared and where he is currently being held. However, Hawaii's reputation as a state that cares for its environment, protects whales and other creatures, and respects the rights of its citizens to be free from coercive actions of its government is clearly at stake.

So legislators, your responsibility is great. We need you to act responsibly and stop this Superferry nonsense and end the "unified command" approach to state government.

You can let legislators know your views. Emails to reach all state senators, and emails to reach all representatives. Tell them that protecting whales is more important than whether a ferry sails immediately, and demand an end to military rule in Hawaii.

[Note to readers outside Hawaii: the Legislature is contemplating convening a special session, but not to save whales. If they hold a session it will be to pass a law exempting the Hawaii Superferry Corporation from environmental laws. That's why your emails are important!] [... and the plight of meerkats aside, the threat of the Unified Command is very real.]


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