Monday, July 06, 2015
Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: OXI or NAI?
There is a very recent history of bad Greece-EU relations: the 2002 Gr-entry based on national accounts faked by Goldman-Sachs–the European Central Bank president has a past with them–and Greece using the EU as a resource by milking agricultural funds for non-existing farms. Greece is by no means an innocent victim; there may also be revenge in it.
OXI or NAI?
6 July 2015
Johan Galtung, 6 Jul 2015 - TRANSCEND Media Service
At the time of starting writing this editorial the referendum is on, so is the TV. Those two Greek words are all over. But the outcome is unknown; it will be known at the time of finishing the editorial.
However, could the most important aspect of the referendum be the referendum itself, not the outcome? The idea of asking people, the very demos in a democracy, even at the risk of losing, resigning?
The most aggressive creditor against Greece, Germany, did not dare to do that over the Euro entry. They decided for a people they knew were against, hiding behind Hitler’s use of a referendum as demagogy.
Any OXI-NAI outcome means a new departure. With no party below, say, 1/3, serious attention has to be paid to both sides’ narratives.
Let us be clinical about that bad EU-Greece relation.
There is a deep culture: another Christianity, with “optimism in the longer run”, another alphabet. They relate across deep gaps.
There is a deep structure: the division of the Roman Empire along those cultural lines more than 1600 years ago. Moreover, whereas the Western part had a millennium of “dark Middle Ages” the Eastern part with Greece had a millennium of continuation from Constantinople; and almost five hundred years more, till 1830, after it became Istanbul. Greece has been deeply embedded in the Orthodox-Islamic East.
There is a recent history to make Greece West: the Anglo-American war 1944-45 against communists who had fought Nazism, General Markos, Russia/Soviet oriented; and then the 1967 military, fascist, coup. Strategically important in East Mediterranean against Russia, Islam.
There is a very recent history of bad Greece-EU relations: the 2002 Gr-entry based on national accounts faked by Goldman-Sachs–the European Central Bank president has a past with them–and Greece using the EU as a resource by milking agricultural funds for non-existing farms. Greece is by no means an innocent victim; there may also be revenge in it.
There is class politics in it. Syriza is at the left in the sense of speaking for the poor, young, unemployed, retired, for those suffering most from the austerities. The EU members and institutions are ruled by center-right governments and institutions speaking for the banks (in which they have money-investments), and for themselves.
There is fear of a left wing domino effect. New parties appear challenging austerities and democracy as party-ocracy; party programs with little participation, only votes, as opposed to Podemos with much participation but little program–and votes. With 134 regional seats and hundreds more in municipalities, the program is now taking shape: transparency, debt relief, progressive taxation, direct democracy.
All of this and more. The stakes are historical: the worst case for OXI is continued austerities destroying the economy it should save; the best case is more bailout, softer terms and some debt forgiveness. The worst case for NAI is Grexit, the best case closer to status quo.
The worst case for EU is not Grexit but Greek Orthodox ties to Russia and Ottoman ties to Turkey, let alone the Chinese ties, already strong in Piraeus as trade entry to Europe. Cheap oil could flow from Russia via Turkey. And how about some million well endowed Chinese tourists on coming Silk railroads, Silk lanes reviving possible Chinese links to East Mediterranean? At the very least Silk flights. Membership in NATO might survive all that, but turn empty, vacuous.
Is this also a best case for OXI and worst for NAI? Not so clear, the public debate has not come to that point. The option is in the hands of all Greeks given their history: fight for independence, but never squeezed economically as by an EU; based on solidarity.
That opens for clever Greek policy beyond inspiration by Argentine and Iceland: good relations to all, EU, Russia, China. Get Russian-Turkish gas, Chinese tourists and at the same time negotiate a better deal with the EU. Neither NAI submission nor OXI revolt.
They are greatly helped by the split of the Troika with the IMF de facto opting out: “We failed to realize the damage austerity would do to Greece” (The Guardian, INYT, 3 Jul 2015). The EU may have wanted to punish them for the past and for leftism; and if they are capable of a mistake like a single–not a common–currency without unified fiscal policy, they may also be capable of this one. Nevertheless, the IMF now tries to get their house in order. They both need to read their Tony Atkinson Inequality: What Can Be Done, with very concrete proposals bringing better distribution into the core of economic theory and practice; more concrete than Thomas Piketty in Capital.
Grexit with drachma is likely, not for surface economic reasons but for deep cultural-structural reasons. Before–Greece–and during the Cold War–DDR-Poland-Hungary-CzechoSlovakia-parts of Ukraine and Romania-the Baltics–had ended up at the wrong side and revolted; the death blow to USSR-WTO coming from the tiny Baltics. Deep culture-structure were stronger than surface politics, then as now. Being 2% of the EU economy the effect should be manageable, and the long term effect might be beneficial in bringing EU and EURASIA closer together.
There might be a domino effect with parties in other countries also wanting to get out, and a race between them and the EU trying to make the EURO-pean Union more solid. As pointed out by Paul Krugman (INYT 4/5 Jul 2015) much of the EU–not only the Southern fringe but also the North, Finland-Denmark-Netherlands are in trouble with declining GNP/capita because of the single currency straitjacket: no currency to devalue, nor a unified system of bank guarantees. Germany, the power house, survives well–as long as the debtors feed the creditor.
Help from China? Offered but rejected, so far. Then, the vote.
OXI, No, made it, as expected, with 61%; opening for all the above–with a little bit of good sense and good will, on all sides.
A great day for Democracy, for Greece, for Europe, for the world.
Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 3.0 United States License.
Repost: Gerald Horne on white supremacy and geostrategy that lead to the illegal takeover of the Hawaiian Kingdom
Hawaii was a modern nation, the envy of its Pacific neighbors, with a skilled diplomatic corps with representatives in major capitals and a modern infrastructure. In 1893 as settler rule was being imposed, a Hawaiian journal boasted that “the country enjoys all the advantages of modern civilization in a higher degree than most European countries: Postal services, telegraphs, telephones, railroads and lighting by electricity. . . . In the government schools two-thirds of the children are educated in the English language and one-third in Hawaiian.--Gerald Horne, in White Pacific: U.S. Imperialism and Black Slavery in the South Seas After the Civil War, University of Hawaii Press, 2007
by Larry Geller
It's July 6, the first workday after the July 4 weekend. We've had our fireworks, our barbeque, and it’s time to go back to work as usual. After July 4, 1894, when the overthrow of Hawaii took effect, some were celebrating, some not so much.
This is a repost of an article I posted last year. Since last summer, racism in America has returned to the spotlight as demonstrations crisscrossed the country following the August, 2014 police shooting in #Furguson. This post suggests that American racism was involved in the overthrow.
Gerald Horne on white supremacy and geostrategy that lead to the illegal takeover of the Hawaiian Kingdom
It was a pleasure to view Amy Goodman’s interview with historian Gerald Horne on Friday’s Democracy Now. The subject was our war of independence in 1776, which we’ll be celebrating as the July 4 holiday next weekend.
Of course, we know that the Founding Fathers were slave owners, and that the freedom they sought did not extend to their slaves. Horne holds that 1776 was in fact a counter-revolution, a conservative movement fought in order to preserve the colonists’ enslavement of Africans. In a nutshell, London was on the verge of abolishing slavery, which would have carried over to the British colonies. In reaction, the colonists set up the first apartheid state.
This may come as a surprise to non-historians and those who have not had a chance to read Horne’s many books.
Amy notes that July 4 is not a cause for celebration for Native Americans or for African Americans.
It is similarly no cause for celebration in Hawaii. See: Repost: History that should not—and will not—disappear: July 4, 1894, illegal overthrow of Hawaii completed, 7/3/2011.
Gerald Horne wrote also about Hawaii and white supremacy as well as the geostrategy leading to the overthrow. Continuing on a bit from the pull-quote above:
You need to buy or borrow the book from the library to read more, but I’ll stretch a bit further, because it relates directly to the Democracy Now interview:
Nevertheless, for those who cherished white supremacy, the idea of Honolulu challenging this ideology was viewed as outrageous. This outrage metastasized into morbid concern when Hawaii not only sought a diplomatic alliance with Japan—a non-European nation whose rise challenged the very essence of white supremacy—but began to import droves of Japanese workers, permanently altering the demography of the region while compromising the white supremacists who objected to suffrage rights for these migrants and exposing the easy canard that only blackbirding could address the question of labor. That Honolulu was long on record as being opposed to this odious traffic was one more reason for white supremacists to conclude that strangling and suffocating this nation should be a top priority.
Thus, though the Hawaiian Kingdom was contemplating ambitiously extending its influence throughout the Pacific, the United States in particular was casting a covetous eye upon this strategically sited chain of islands. As one naval commander put it in the late nineteenth century, Hawaii was “second in importance to no other single point on the earth’s surface.” The “distinctive feature of Hawaii,” Lucien Young continued portentously, “is that it lies at the center of an area so great the commercial and military operations across it are practically impossible, except by using Hawaii as a coal and supply station. Eliminate Hawaii from the map, and there are scarcely any battleships in existence which can operate across the Pacific, by reason of the fact that they cannot carry coal enough.” As the United States expanded across the North American continent, this presumed asset brought a detriment in that it expanded the territory that needed to be defended, a potential danger as the nation faced European powers in the East and a rising Japan in the West. “There can be no surer defense to the Pacific Coast of the United States,” said Young, “than to prevent any other foreign country from getting possession or control of Hawaii.”
the 1852 Hawaii Constitution proclaimed in a bold challenge to its slave-dominated neighbor and chief trading partner across the Pacific, “Slavery shall under no circumstances whatever be tolerated in the Hawaiian Islands; whenever a slave shall enter Hawaiian territory he shall be free.”
Obviously, that was too much for Washington. So they did something about it.
As July 4, 2014 approaches, don’t count on the true motivations for the illegal overthrow of the independent kingdom appearing in our local newspaper. I wish it would, but that would be expecting too much from the current publishers, I’m afraid. (yes, this is a dare).
Sunday, July 05, 2015
Chomsky on why imposed austerity is no good for Greece
As an economic program, austerity, under recession, makes no sense. It just makes the situation worse. So the Greek debt, relative to GDP, has actually gone up during the period of—which is—well, the policies that are supposed to overcome the debt.
Remember, when a bank makes a dangerous, a risky borrowing, somebody is making a risky lending. And the policies that are designed by the troika, you know, are basically paying off the banks, the perpetrators, much like here. The population is suffering. But one of the things that’s happening is that the—you know, the social democratic policies, so-called welfare state, is being eroded. That’s class war. It’s not an economic policy that makes any sense as to end a serious recession.—Noam Chomsky, Democracy Now interview, March 3, 2015
Amy Goodman spoke with Noam Chomsky on March 3, 2015 on a variety of subjects. Here is the segment on the debt crisis in Greece. For a complete transcript, click the link.
The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Repost of repost: History that should not—and will not—disappear: July 4, 1894, illegal overthrow of Hawaii completed
It's July 5, the day after Independence Day. We've had our fireworks and maybe slept in after last night's party.
Not everyone in Hawaii was celebrating, because the holiday has another meaning here, one which our media would probably rather leave as "disappeared" history. This is a repost of an article originally posted on July 3, 2011.
Tomorrow I’ll repost an article on how white supremacy figured into the overthrow of Hawaii and why July 4 is not a cause for celebration for Native Americans or for African Americans.
History that should not—and will not—disappear: July 4, 1894, illegal overthrow of Hawaii completed
“President Cleveland further concluded that a "substantial wrong has thus been done which a due regard for our national character as well as the rights of the injured people requires we should endeavor to repair" and called for the restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy.”
by Larry Geller
Cannon on the steps of the occupied Iolani Palace
On July 4, 1894, the Republic of Hawaii was declared, with Sanford B. Dole as president. The illegal overthrow of the independent nation of Hawaii was complete.
Yes, although your daily paper may want you to forget this, it is history that should not be ignored. There’s even a federal law confirming the truth of the history they refuse to print.
From the Apology Resolution, United States Public Law 103-150:
Whereas, in a message to Congress on December 18, 1893, President Grover Cleveland reported fully and accurately on the illegal acts of the conspirators, described such acts as an "act of war, committed with the participation of a diplomatic representative of the United States and without authority of Congress", and acknowledged that by such acts the government of a peaceful and friendly people was overthrown... President Cleveland further concluded that a "substantial wrong has thus been done which a due regard for our national character as well as the rights of the injured people requires we should endeavor to repair" and called for the restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy.
Whereas, the indigenous Hawaiian people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people or over their national lands to the United States, either through their monarchy or through a plebiscite or referendum.
A treaty of annexation was never passed by Congress, and President Grover Cleveland withdrew the treaty. Then on this day in history…
On July 4, 1894, the archipelago's new leaders responded to this rebuff by proclaiming a Republic of Hawaii, with Sanford Dole as president. Under its constitution, most legislators would be appointed rather than elected, and only men with savings and property would be eligible for public office. This all but excluded native Hawaiians from the government of their land… [From Overthrow, a book by Stephen Kinzer]
What was the motivation? Need you ask? Why is the US in Iraq?From the Washington Post review of Overthrow:
As Stephen Kinzer tells the story in Overthrow, America's century of regime changing began not in Iraq but Hawaii. Hawaii? Indeed. Kinzer explains that Hawaii's white haole minority -- in cahoots with the U.S. Navy, the White House and Washington's local representative -- conspired to remove Queen Liliuokalani from her throne in 1893 as a step toward annexing the islands. The haole plantation owners believed that by removing the queen (who planned to expand the rights of Hawaii's native majority) and making Hawaii part of the United States, they could get in on a lucrative but protected mainland sugar market. Ever wonder why free trade has such a bad name?
The road leading up to the declaration of the Republic of Hawaii was rocky, and can’t be summed up in a short blog article. Did you know, for example, that a US Senate investigation revealed that a bribe had been offered to Queen Liliuokalani to turn against her people and support the Republic? This snip is from a New York Times article on the Senate investigation, dated 1/29/1894:
The declaration of the Republic was not a single, static event. There was considerable debate in Congress on resolutions condemning the overthrow and proposed annexation. For example, this snip from the 1/25/1894 New York Times will give you an idea of the complexity that we lose in simplifying Hawaii’s history:
Each article is much longer than the snips above. It would be worthwhile to skim the New York Times for a complete account of the Congressional debate. No doubt this has already been done. If not, the articles are available on-line for the harvesting..
If you’re not familiar with Hawaiian history, beware of websites that work hard to re-write it. The true picture of the overthrow is not pretty, nor can the acts of the US government be justified or whitewashed. Google cautiously.
Let your children know that there is more to July 4 than barbeques and fireworks. It is a holiday that tears people apart here in Hawaii. See how you can work this history into your celebrations and festivities, so that it will never disappear.
Saturday, July 04, 2015
Disappeared news: Blaisdell Center is a war memorial
Elvis Presley’s 1973 “Aloha from Hawaii” concert at Blaisdell Center is credited as the first program to be beamed around the world by satellite. It was viewed by an estimated 1 billion people. While this concert is still remembered, the origin of the Center as a war memorial has been “disappeared”.
by Larry Geller
Blaisdell Arena, Exhibition Hall, and Concert Hall were dedicated as a War Memorial in 1964. These buildings ARE the War Memorial, and they are the only things left that connects us to that history. Preservation of the historic elements of this War Memorial are essential to ensuring that it's story is never forgotten again.
A memorial plaque is now gone. According to the website, it once read:
“Honolulu International Center: Dedicated to All the Sons and Daughters of Hawaii Who Served Their Country in Time of War and in Special Tribute to Those Who Gave Their Lives in Order That Freedom and Justice Might Prevail Throughout the World.”
It’s kind of hard to lose a memorial plaque—I’m guessing it is hidden away inside a dusty closet somewhere on the property.
In case you’re skeptical, I took the liberty of snipping two images from the website that prove it. Click the images for a larger, readable size:
The website is not anti-redevelopment, but holds that ensuring respectful treatment of the site as a war memorial requires that the public be fully informed of its history and value. In fact, the media has obscured this history in articles reporting on redevelopment efforts. See for example, here, here, here or here.
These articles focus on the future without considering the past. If that continues, yet another part of Hawaii’s history will be obliterated.
The redevelopment of Blaisdell Center falls under the authority of the HCDA. As we know, they don’t seem to rest until areas under their control are paved over with buildings as high as they can get away with. Buildings are machines that turn land into money. The higher they rise, the more money they make.
HCDA-controlled buildings seem to be guaranteed front-page coverage in the newspaper, but the story is always about the new building. In this case, history would not be served by that narrow commercial focus.
Also spurring the redevelopment has been the condition of the current buildings. Our fair city doesn’t really believe in maintenance. I recall waiting in line to get into the concert hall as the rain leaked through holes in the never-maintained corrugated roof over the walkway. Thank goodness that was ultimately fixed.
You can check out the website or Facebook page, or follow the project on Twitter as @BlaisdellWarMem:
I'm an endangered historic community center in Honolulu named Neal Blaisdell Center. I was built as a war memorial to serve the living while honoring the dead.
The website seeks documentation, oral history, and of course you can leave a donation to support the project.
Video: Fireworks from a drone—must see on July 4 holiday
View this on the largest screen you own, today, July 4.
It’s gone ultra-viral. Original is here, with notes and thousands of comments.
Be sure to click the thingy for full screen.
Rep. Brower reaches out to media as House plans to “talk” with him
The focus only on Rep. Tom Brower is misplaced. Dear House members: please look into a mirror before you take any action against Rep. Brower. Arguably, the Legislature as a whole is responsible, along with the City, for the very existence of the Kakaako homeless camp.
by Larry Geller
Rep. Tom Brower has apparently reached out to news organizations to clarify the events that led teenagers in Kakaako to assault him as he visited the homeless encampment there with his camera. Brower also sent me some attachments for my reference.
While the tweets and news coverage initially ceased (his 15 minutes of fame had expired), suddenly a new story appeared in the New York Daily News. They did report Brower’s clarification, but they also took the opportunity to recap the recent incident, and, since it’s too juicy for editors to resist, they re-ran one of the infamous pictures in which Brower poses with his sledgehammer.
So while the copy was good, including a summary of the most recent witness report of “a coordinated, gang-style attack,” the reader will not fail to see and be influenced by that sledgehammer pic. It also gave the reporter the opportunity to remind readers that
Hawaii has one of the worst homelessness rates in the United States.
[New York Daily News, Hawaii politician opens up about assault near homeless encampment: ‘I have no ill will to anyone’ , 7/3/2015]
So far, this and a new Star-Advertiser story (see below) are the only ones that Google turns up, and so (for the moment at least) the tsunami has abated.
Realistically, these stories are not going to put a dent in tourism at the moment, if ever. It’s simply another embarrassment for our state legislators to have their dirty laundry on display nationally.
Perhaps (?) this is part of the motivation for the “talk” that House leaders will reportedly have with Brower, as reported in today’s paper, in the Local section rather than the front page.
"The House leadership will sit down with him to discuss this," referring to "his conduct and whether it is appropriate or not," said state Rep. Scott Saiki (D, McCully-Kaheka-Kaka-ako-Downtown), House majority leader.
[Star-Advertiser p. B1, House leaders to talk to Brower about his conduct, 7/4/2015]
As I said earlier, news folk can’t resist reiterating the sledgehammer thing. At least, in this article, it was comparatively low-key, and of course it is relevant to any questions of conduct that may come up:
Brower made national news two years ago when he used a sledgehammer to bash shopping carts used by the homeless.
And too bad that the article is so far back in the paper, because it does introduce to Star-Advertiser readers the issue of conflicting versions of events leading to Brower’s beating. Just a snip:
Kathryn Xian, head of the nonprofit Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, said she is looking into filing an ethics complaint against Brower, saying he provoked the reaction by his taunts, which she called inappropriate conduct.
While quiet descends on this incident, should the House announce the results of its “talk” and our local intrepid AP reporter write it up, we could see another wave of unfavorable national coverage.
While this sideshow continues, the main event—the state’s failure to expeditiously implement a real Housing First program—remains “disappeared news.”
Governor Ige’s waffling on homeless czar Colin Kippen’s continuity in his position (see: Homeless Czar Gets One-Month Contract Extension, Civil Beat, 6/29/2915) exemplifies the state’s inaction on its long-standing homeless crisis.
Any commitment on the part of the state to actually implement an evidence-based Housing First program might be measured by Kippen’s budget while he has been czar: zero. He has been a czar without an army, a czar without horses. It follows that without support, he can’t help but be a czar without a conquest.
As far as I know, the legislature is not planning to “talk” to anyone about this.
The focus only on Rep. Tom Brower is misplaced.
Dear House members: please look into a mirror before you take any action against Brower. Arguably, the Legislature as a whole is responsible, along with the City, for the very existence of the Kakaako homeless camp.
Do I need to spell it out? Had the Legislature taken any effective action over the past decade to deal with growing poverty in the state and to create the affordable housing its residents demand, there would be no homeless encampment in Kakaako and nothing for Rep. Brower to do about it.
Friday, July 03, 2015
Grrr… I should have done my research before buying this Epson WF-3640
by Larry Geller
This is a public service announcement. May Google find this post forever and ever.
I’m on my third – dead – Epson printer.
They are very helpful on the phone, and I have to call back on Monday to have a replacement (the 4th!) sent to me, since it is a holiday for them today.
So I did what I should have done before buying it – googled for reviews on Amazon. I did that just now.
There are several one-star reviews with the same problems I have had, and also requiring multiple replacement units.
My first printer said it had a paper jam when there was no jam. The second wouldn’t feed paper in the document feeder. It’s still on its way back to them. The third machine has just come up with an error message that others also reported in the reviews and for which there is no recourse but to return the machine to them.
And the reviews I’m looking at now go back to last year. Had I done my due diligence, I would never have bought this machine.
It was on sale at Costco. I’ll be checking to see what alternative there is before deciding whether to let Epson replace this or just ask Costco to give me a refund. It’s not their fault, I hate to do that. But thank goodness it was purchased at Costco.
So be warned. Check first, no matter how good the sale price looks. I will be more careful in the future.
Headline asserts one witness’s story of assault on state legislator is fact
by Larry Geller
It was a fantastic experience watching the live feed of the Solar Impulse coming in for a landing close to 6 a.m. this morning. As an engineer, I have a great sense of how far we have come since I studied vacuum tube amplifiers in college.
And then to some breakfast and the newspaper.
Today’s main story, taking up most of the front page, is headlined “Legislator was victim of ‘gang-style attack’.”
I can’t dispute that this could be a fact, but at this point, it is one of now four accounts, and the only one that describes a “gang-style” attack.
So should the newspaper adopt this version as fact? What about Rep. Brower’s own statement, which is also different from the others? He did not mention a ‘gang-style attack’ at all. Yet, here you have the headline asserting that this is true. Maybe in the heat of the conflict he did not notice.
I first posted Rep. Brower’s statement in an article uploaded on June 30. You can get a readable copy by clicking on the image to the right.
Each of the four accounts has similarities and differences. How editors came to rely on this one (today), they do not make clear.
Incidental comment: in the S-A front-page picture you can see some of the high-rises that will soon dominate the Kakaako area. Sadly, none of them are for the folks in the tents pictured in the foreground who have been relegated by our economy and social policies to live on the street.
Thursday, July 02, 2015
Kakaako as an example of economic segregation in Hawaii
by Larry Geller
The Kakaako homeless encampment currently spotlighted in the news is an extreme example of the economic segregation of neighborhoods in Honolulu that mirrors similar divides in other major American cities.
The segregation is not benign. It is a result of anti-poor policies on a national, state and city level over the past 30 years at least. In the racially-biased South of the Mainland USA, anti-black and anti-poor policies are more blatant, but anti-poor policies are not far below the surface here in Hawaii.
Whites in the American South learned to exercise their privilege and routinely (on a daily, continuous basis) used the structure of social stratification and income segregation to intimidate and keep African-Americans “in their place.” We see a reflection of that attitude here.
In Honolulu, the well-off can be housed. It’s pricy, but that’s no issue for those with money. Interestingly, the Kakaako area is planned to be re-developed (“gentrified”) for the sole benefit of this moneyed class, at the expense of everyone else. As to those living in poverty, the situation is now at a crisis stage but remains off the media radar.
Yesterday’s newspaper editorial actually called for the destruction of the homeless camp currently located in Kakaako.
Waikiki and the business district are currently off-limits to street dwellers due to recently passed city ordinances (some passed despite warnings of the city’s own legal counsel). Parks and beaches are closed to them. So where would the homeless go? Into the safety of income-segregated neighborhoods where the affluent not only won’t see them but could even more conveniently choose to ignore their very existence.
Honolulu faces a growing and perhaps insurmountable shortage of affordable housing. Add to that an increasingly regressive tax burden, the lack of jobs that pay a living wage, the failure of the state legislature to pass a realistic minimum wage bill, cuts in social welfare programs instituted at the national level, and the devaluation of everyone’s income in the past 30 years or so, and the stratification and marginalization of the poor in Hawaii is likely to increase.
The situation is far from hopeless, but to make progress in creating affordable housing will involve a leap over the institutional and psychological mechanisms that assign people to social categories. It’s not just the government that needs to change. It is society at large, as reflected in our media and in our acceptance of miserly public policies.
Homelessness, now in the spotlight in Kakaako, is but a symptom of this stratification. It shows that we have a kind of caste system at work that must be benefiting those privileged citizens a the top of the heap. As in other parts of the country, poverty is growing, and so is the affluence of those at the top. This doesn’t bode well for a cure in the near-term.
Hawaii is different, though. Although the word “aloha” has been stolen from Native Hawaiians and exploited for the benefit of the hospitality industry, it is still widely used and valued across the economic divide, perhaps influencing the psychological mechanisms of characterization and stratification.
Still, there is little contact between those at the top, who wield political power, and those living in economically-segregated neighborhoods. Does Hawaii Kai every come to Kalihi? The homeless encampment in Kakaako is clearly in danger because those living under expensive roofs or in luxury condos know little about the lives or living conditions of those in the encampment and could care less about their needs or what might befall them if the camp is bulldozed. Psychologically, those in the lower economic groups are often despised, never admired, and often stereotyped and scapegoated by those at the top of the heap.
This means there is no quick or obvious antidote to the structural and economic segregation prevalent in Honolulu. It will take work to bring about some measure of equality over time.
The bulldozing of the Kakaako encampment would not be pretty, and it would, in this age of social media, be very damaging to Honolulu’s reputation. We are already saddled with the image of a state legislator taking matters into his own hands by wielding a sledgehammer. It could get worse than that.
(scenes from the movie Soylent Green)
So how about we work together on an alternative, one that reflects the uniqueness of the people of this state and the capacity of its citizens to bring about positive change.
Star-Advertiser Big Q demonstrates Big Bias against homeless residents
by Larry Geller
Today’s Big Q, which is only a poll in the loosest sense of the word since little effort is put in to crafting fair questions, is “In light of the assault on a legislator, should the growing homeless encampment in Kakaako be dismantled?”
Suppose they had worded this differently. For example, “Given that they have no place to go, should the homeless encampment in Kakaako be dismantled?”
But coming up with a fair question (and my wording is also not the best) would require both a degree of compassion in this case as well as an understanding of research methodology, both of which seem demonstrably lacking over there at the offices of our one remaining daily newspaper.
The wording of this question is perfectly congruent with the strong opinions voiced by the editorial page editors yesterday—see Star-Advertiser editors push for exterminating homeless from Kakaako (7/1/2015). Their egregious bias in the poll wording effectively predetermines the outcome in the way they prefer.
Yes, I understand it’s an “unscientific” poll. Clearly.
What this and other Big Q polls can demonstrate very scientifically is the extent of any bias on the part of the writers and editors.
I’m sure that a research project limited to analyzing these polls could come up with something interesting to say about the attitude of the editors who determine what content appears in the paper—on a variety of subjects in the public spotlight.
Let me contrast the position of the newspaper with a snip from a Civil Beat editorial posted today:
And let’s be clear: To an extent there is danger in the area, it is specific to the homeless who live there in unsanitary conditions, scorched by temperatures consistently in the 90s, buffeted by occasional summer rains and vulnerable to any number of disease outbreaks that are common in such camps.
Others are calling for the Kakaako encampment to be demolished. Assuming the hundreds of living and breathing people who reside there won’t simply vanish into thin air, bulldozing their makeshift shelters would lack a degree of basic humanity that we ought to require in our public policies.
How is this related to the wording of a Big Q poll? It’s a similar lack of any “degree of basic humanity” revealed by the wording of today’s question, obviously.
Must read: awesome Civil Beat editorial: Brower Tempest Obscures Real Issues in Kakaako
by Larry Geller
The pen is mightier than the sledgehammer.
I’m impressed. Today’s editorial by the Civil Beat editorial staff is perhaps the most comprehensive and hard-hitting essay on many of Hawaii’s homeless issues that I have seen to-date. I wish they would somehow grant permission for every newspaper and blogger in the country to reproduce it. It is also quality journalism in every sense of the word.
Parts of it squarely refute the bias and narrow vision of certain other editors, who happen to run the one newspaper we have left in this town. Other parts skewer the City Council and our Mayor for their pursuit of draconian measures even against legal advice, and Governor Ige’s demonstrated lack of attention to the homelessness crisis.
Look, I can only snip a little. You’ll have to read Brower Tempest Obscures Real Issues in Kakaako (Civil Beat, 7/2/2015) yourself. Go do that now.
This snip demonstrates concern and compassion for those living on the street, a quality notably absent in that other group of editors and our city leaders:
The City Council’s belligerent recent expansion of sit-lie — against the advice of attorneys and overriding a mayoral veto — threatens to grow the challenge in Kakaako and sprout new ones in other areas. And as the weather warms this summer, the deplorable conditions on the street are becoming worse, more difficult for residents to bear, and yet remain the only option many see for themselves.
But some are instead using the Brower incident to call for a bigger police force in Kakaako — inexplicable, given that criminal charges are unlikely to be filed in this matter. There is no evidence that tourists or others have been endangered in the area and no real reason to think they might be. Limited police resources should be invested where they’re needed, not used as political window dressing.
More snipping is not fair use of this remarkable material. Please click over and read it as soon as you can.
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
Tweet storm created by AP story of Kakaako assault petering out
by Larry Geller
It’s amazing, the penetration of some AP stories. The story about the assault on Rep. Brower has been covered far and wide, but the tweet storm is slowing down.
Almost all referenced the earlier smashing of shopping carts by the very same Rep. Tom Brower. The notoriety his earlier vigilantism achieved certainly accounts for the rapid spread if the current AP story.
He’s famous! But the publicity cannot be said to be positive or good for Honolulu.
There are also numerous links at the bottom of stories. You know, the ones that try to send you to related stories on the same website or elsewhere. Like this:
Probably, there won’t be much more.
Unless the AP should follow up.
Star-Advertiser editors push for exterminating homeless from Kakaako
The response of homeless teenagers who admit beating up state Rep. Tom Brower reveals how entrenched a sprawling encampment in Kakaako has become, feeding the youths' alarming mindset that sidewalk squatters are entitled to the same expectation of privacy as property owners. They are not…. The Kakaako settlement must come down, and soon. In the meantime, a heavier police presence is necessary to ensure security—Star-Advertiser editorial, July 1, 2015
by Larry Geller
Today’s Star-Advertiser editorial came as a gift to one blogger, juxtaposed as it is with their main news story.
The lead story is headlined, “Attack unprovoked, state lawmaker says”—although there are still competing accounts of whether the assault victim, Rep. Tom Brower, did in fact, act provocatively.
Not that anything would or could justify the attack on him, but journalists are often accused of “stenography,” that is, simply reproducing an official’s line. That’s what they did here.
But then the editors pounced and demanded in their editorial that “The Kakaako settlement must come down, and soon.” As to needing policing, since the police have cooperated in illegally seizing the possessions of homeless people in the numerous raids, it doesn’t appear that they would necessarily have the trust of the community. Whether police would be viewed as oppressors or not, I do not know.
But why not assign police to enforce traffic laws? That would actually save lives. Guess what editors: the greatest lawbreakers may be drivers, including perhaps you, yourselves, or your staff, not homeless people.
Essentially treating houseless people as vermin has been a running theme in the media—the homeless are to be exterminated because they are in the way and do bad things in Waikiki.
As to the question of whether Brower was in any way provocative, he is the currently the poster child for provocation against the homeless, not just here but nationwide. While again, there is no excuse for the assault, the question of provocation remains open at this point, and should have been treated with some editorial detachment until it is settled.
Here’s a message tweeted today by Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington that could be addressed to either the Star-Advertiser editors or to Rep. Brower:
But that would perhaps be a stretch for the current editors. Still, they could give it a try. They have a lot to atone for:
“Homeless hoard”! Shame on you, editors.
This journalist asked, “Is anyone else disturbed with the front page of today’s @Star-Advertiser, using Legos to depict #homeless people?!”
There are several things that really excite the editors, including any new condo for the rich or super-rich, which they feature prominently on the front page, often with an outsized graphic. The other is any move against the homeless:
It’s somehow not news that the state and city government have failed to implement any workable plan to close the affordable housing gap, which is currently numbering in the tens of thousands of units and growing. Or that there’s always money for “cleanups,” and the newspaper coverage of that spending is at best simply matter-of-fact, not critical:
State landscaping crews and prisoners are busy this week, clearing out homeless people and their belongings from 17 areas along Nimitz Highway and the H-1 freeway that will be seen by delegations.
[Star-Advertiser, State clearing homeless from APEC sight lines, 10/26/2011]
So, what if the paper were to treat homeless people, if not as “friends,” at least as fellow human beings?
If they did that, they might become concerned with the decades-long growth of poverty in Honolulu, of which homelessness is but one symptom. Instead of calling for extermination of the Kakaako encampment they might become advocates for Housing First and push both the city and state to get busy with it. They might become champions of legislative support for truly affordable housing in Hawaii and quit using the word “affordable” in deceptive ways in their news stories. They could become more critical of government housing policies that are failing the people, or are inadequate to solve the entrenched problems we all face in this state.
It’s clear that those living on the sidewalks, in Kakaako or elsewhere, have no better place to go. The editors know that clearing Kakaako of tents is the solution to nothing.
I’m sure that they won’t be happy until everyone camped in Kakaako is pushed out to the Waianae coast. They’ve never been too concerned about what happens out there. (Out of sight, out of mind?) It’s safely far from Waikiki and out of sight of their office windows.
There is another way. If only the editors would abandon the dark side, embrace the light of compassion, and realize the power they have to push for positive change:
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
A third version of Monday’s incident involving Rep. Tom Brower emerges
by Larry Geller
A third account of Rep. Tom Brower’s encounter at a Kakaako homeless camp has emerged. From advocate Kathryn Xian’s Facebook page:
Sledgehammer Brower Update: got word from eye witnesses in Kakaako that Rep. Brower actually stuck his camera into people's tents, violating their privacy. Additionally, he taunted and provoked the residents in a very mean way before he was assaulted. Again, residents asked him to stop video taping before the altercation began.
Watch Hawaii News Now tonight (6/30) for an update on this incident.
Kakaako residents are now sensitive about their misrepresentation in many media reports which they feel are dehumanizing. They also want to protect the school children who live there who suffer bullying if they are shown in the news. So they implemented a no camera without permission rule.
There should be additional coverage on Hawaii News Now tonight, tune in or check their web pages afterward.
A new story is already posted on the Hawaii News Now website: Hawaii lawmaker denies provoking attackers at homeless camp (Hawaii News Now, 6/30/2015). This article is worth reading, so I won’t snip from it. It also explores the dimensions of privacy of those living on the sidewalk and whether they may be photographed. Hawaii News Now has separated itself from the pack by not simply accepting the official’s word about what happened—they went back to gather other witness accounts. Good job by @MilekaLincoln.
On her Facebook page she posts Rep. Brower’s statement about the incident, which oddly has been released on official House stationery and posted by the House Majority on their Facebook page. (For a readable copy, click on the image).
I’m wondering if Rep. Brower was visiting the Kakaako encampment as an individual, or if he was somehow on House business, as the use of official stationery might imply?
Given the differing versions of what took place last night, I would like to suggest that if there is to be an investigation, it should include a forensic analysis of Rep. Brower’s camera. It is often possible to recover photos or videos from a memory card even if they have been deleted. For the best chance of recovery, investigators should have access to the camera as soon as possible—preferably, immediately.
Tom Brower gives his account of his assault as the news spreads nationally
by Larry Geller
Well, now we have two differing accounts of what took place in Kakaako when Rep. Tom Brower was assaulted Monday evening. The two stories differ completely.
You can compare them. Brower held a press conference today, which is reported by AP and carried by ABC in Hawaii Lawmaker Assaulted at Homeless Camp (ABC News, 6/30/2015). The earlier report by two teenage boys was State Rep. Tom Brower injured in altercation at Kakaako homeless camp (Hawaii News Now, 6/30/2015).
Now that the AP has filed a report, the story will be carried by many more news outlets. So far, it has been carried by the Minneapolis StarTribune, the Houston Chronicle, and Yahoo News. Oops…as I type this Google reports that it has appeared in a flock of media outlets from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to West Point, to Chicago, to Washington, DC. The New York Daily News updated its earlier story.
In addition to the current incident, AP the story briefly recaps Brower’s adventures with his sledgehammer:
Brower, 50, has had encounters with homeless people before.
In 2013, he used a sledgehammer to smash about 30 shopping carts used by homeless people to carry belongings in Waikiki. Brower has said he returned carts marked with a store's logo.
Brower later said he would no longer use a sledgehammer, but added his main purpose was to raise awareness of homeless issues. He said his actions were not an attack on the homeless.
"I'm trying to attack the issue of cleanliness, but some people interpreted it as an attack on the homeless," he told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser at the time.
The Huffington Post updated its earlier story this afternoon. If readers outside of Hawaii were not aware of the growing crisis in Hawaii and its failure to implement any but punitive measures, they’re being educated:
Brower's self-proclaimed "tough guy" approach to Honolulu's homelessness problem was criticized in 2013 when he publicly toured Honolulu streets with a sledgehammer, using it to destroy any shopping carts that didn't have a store's logo on them.
"If I see shopping carts that I can't identify," he told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser at the time, "I will destroy them so they can't be pushed on the streets."
Homelessness is currently reaching a crisis point in Hawaii. In the past year, the number of chronically homeless individuals has risen 24 percent. Both the state and the city of Honolulu have adopted a number of measures to address the issue, including a controversial "sit-lie" ban and periodic homeless sweeps.
[Huffington Post, Hawaii Lawmaker Who Smashed Homeless People's Shopping Carts Beaten Up By Group Of Homeless: Report, 6/30/2015]
A Star-Advertiser story accessible on the web features a close-up of Brower, clearly showing his injuries. See Brower gives his account of assault in Kakaako (Star-Advertiser, 6/30/2015).
These stories reveal a far different picture of Hawaii than potential visitors usually see. Will there be more interactions between Brower and Honolulu’s homeless residents that end up in the national spotlight?
If there is any upside to this, perhaps the negative publicity will spur lawmakers at the state and city level to get busy implementing an evidence-based Housing First solution, and to take meaningful action to create truly affordable housing so that the tide of houselessness might be turned through peaceful means.
State Rep. Tom Brower reported injured while videoing homeless campers in Kakaako
by Larry Geller
Rep. Tom Brower was reported by the media, citing “sources,” to have been assaulted and badly injured at around 5 p.m yesterday as he shot video of a homeless encampment in Kakaako. According to the account, he was asked to stop. News reports described his injuries as serious, including a concussion and swollen eyes.
Additional information is likely to come out, perhaps including a description of events by Brower himself. Unless details reveal otherwise, this appears to be a clear case of assault and should be pursued by law enforcement. Hawaii News Now has already interviewed two men who appear to have been involved (see below). The next knock on their tent flaps will likely be the police, seeking an interview of their own.
Brower is best remembered as the sledge-hammer wielding vigilante who took it upon himself to seek out and destroy shopping carts used by the homeless in Waikiki in 2013. Pictures of him with his hammer made national and even international news. And so, since those photos are in news files, they appeared again with today’s story. Here is an example from this morning’s New York Daily News:
Headline: Hawaii politician gets beaten by homeless people years after destroying their belongings with sledgehammer.
Hawaii News Now posted an updated account this morning including an interview with two of the homeless people. Since the two are named, they are perhaps likely to be prosecuted if they participated in the assault.
Jonah Iose, 14, and Isaiah Totoa, 17, said they got mad when state Rep. Tom Brower, also known as the sledgehammer lawmaker, refused to put away his camera after they asked nicely.
"He was video recording me and walked up to him and asked him if he could please delete that picture and that video, and he was telling me no, you should back off,” Iose said.
Added Totoa, “He caught his whole face on camera. So we don't like that when people come and do that without permission. So we asked him nicely if he could put down his camera. He asked nicely to put down the camera. And the guy said no."
How would you feel if I walked in your house and just started recording you, right? We live here, this our house, respect it," Totoa said. "We don't choose to live like this. If I had a choice to go to a house right now and live in that house, and I can pay for it. Trust and believe, I would be in my house. I wouldn't be living underneath one tent."
[HawaiiNewsNow, State Rep. Tom Brower injured in altercation at Kakaako homeless camp, 6/30/2015]
The story is already spreading, and it doesn’t do Hawaii’s image any good. For example, this from the end of a CBS account based on the Hawaii News Now report:
Hawaii is the worst state among homelessness with a rate of 465 per 100,000 according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Washington, D.C., has the worst rate of homelessness at 1,133 per 100,000 people.
It appears unlikely that the alleged assault is “payback” for Brower’s actions in 2013. From the Hawaii News Now report, it appears to be a reaction to Brower’s activities last night.
Since two people have been specifically identified, there will be prosecutions of the assailants. While there is no comparison between this alleged assault and Brower’s own actions in 2013, it should be noted that Brower admitted to rousing homeless people found sleeping at bus stops, and if he had his sledgehammer in his possession at the time, that could be considered potentially as an assault. But police filed no charges against Brower related to his activities that were reported in the media.
Brower, according to the Star-Advertiser, is "disgusted" by the city's chronic homelessness problem and has decided to take a self-proclaimed "tough-guy" approach to solving it. In addition to his shopping cart rampage, he also rouses homeless people if he sees them sleeping at bus stops during the day.
[Huffington Post, Hawaii Rep. Tom Brower Takes A Sledgehammer (Literally) To Homelessness Problem, 11/18/2013]
Again, there is no excuse possible for whatever happened last night, but still, if there were any chance that Brower would take my suggestion, I’d advise him to work hard at getting the state to implement a proper Housing First program, and to otherwise think of how he could better interact with his constituents other than a “tough-guy” approach.
Monday, June 29, 2015
Honolulu’s train, 2060: Express service to the beach
by Larry Geller
This week’s (July 6) New Yorker cover is a picture worth the proverbial 1,000 words. It suggests an innovation for Honolulu—since the rail line runs along Nimitz Highway, and since that will eventually be under water, make it a feature, not a fault.
Friday, June 26, 2015
Memo to: @MayorKirkHNL @ikaikaanderson @AnnKobayashi–@POTUS would be ashamed of you
by Larry Geller
Memo to: @MayorKirkHNL @ikaikaanderson @AnnKobayashi:
@POTUS would be ashamed at how you are dragging your feet on Housing First and instead criminalizing the homeless in Honolulu.
The White House @WhiteHouse
"To feed the hungry...and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society." -@POTUS
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Tonight: “Creative Placemaking: Art of Urban Transformation”
by Larry Geller
You can probably still get into this event tonight—see info here.
An interactive workshop on neighborhood development and local land use decision-making with Anne Frederick, founder of the community design organization, Hester Street Collaborative, which coordinated a resident-led process for a New York City waterfront. What educational or engagement tools can increase resident participation in urban planning and urban design? How can temporary parks and other placemaking strategies bring resources and inspire collective action? The workshop will include case studies as well as discussion about current opportunities here in Honolulu.
Related: Beth-Ann Kozlovich’s Town Square program Thursday, June 18. You can listen by clicking on this link.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
FSRN: Civil suits against police cost taxpayers millions but rarely result in reforms
This blog has pointed out that cities, whether they are Honolulu or New York or Seattle, for example, appear to treat the cost of settling with the victims of their civil rights violations as just a cost of doing business. After all, none of them have to pay personally. The money comes out of our wallets and purses as taxes. Same for our Department of Education’s settlements with families of special needs children whose rights they have violated. Also same for payments for damages due to our badly maintained streets.
I’ve pointed out that because there are no consequences, the violations (and the later settlements) happen over and over again.
Here’s confirmation that these settlements also fail to bring about necessary reforms, from a Free Speech Radio News report, reproduced here without alteration (except that the picture doesn’t seem to play the audio report when you click it, go to the original article for that).
Civil suits against police cost taxpayers millions but rarely result in reforms
When grand juries failed to indict police officers for misconduct in several recent killings of unarmed men, including New York City and Ferguson, Missouri, there was widespread public outrage. Many who believed the officers were guilty hoped that, even if the officers escaped criminal responsibility, at least civil penalties would bring justice and accountability.
But new research shows that, while civil suits against police misconduct have a much better chance of winning a verdict against the officers in question, those suits are unlikely to change police department policies, and they rarely affect officers who committed the acts.
FSRN’s Larry Buhl has more from Los Angeles.
Joanna Schwartz is an assistant professor at UCLA law school. She analyzed thousands of civil rights settlements from 44 large and 37 small and medium-sized police departments from 2006 to 2011. She found that officers are almost always protected from paying money a court might award a victim as a result of the officer’s actions. In large cities, Schwartz found that that individual officers paid out only a tiny fraction of one percent of all settlement money in cases filed against police, and nothing at all in cases in smaller cities.
And Schwartz found something else very surprising: In the vast majority of cases she reviewed, the police departments didn’t even know how much their city was paying in damages, and didn’t even make the effort to learn from those lawsuits.
“When a lawsuit is filed the city attorney or county attorney generally handles the case and any money paid in those cases generally comes out of the city or county’s general budget and no information is kept by the law enforcement agency about what officer was named, what claims were alleged, what information came out during discovery, what was the resolution of the case or how much was paid,” Schwartz explains.
Schwartz says that information may reside somewhere in the city bureaucracy but is unlikely to reach supervisors who could analyze that data and learn what lessons it might offer.
Police accountability professionals say these results confirm what they’ve seen for years: a tort system that sometimes benefits the victims of police misconduct, always benefits the attorneys, and rarely leads to meaningful reform.
Cynthia Anderson-Barker is a civil rights and criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles. She tells FSRN she’s happy to win damage claims for her clients, but frustrated to see major law enforcement problems go unchanged. She says the opaque and defensive culture of police is partly to blame. And she puts part of the blame with lawyers.
“There is a problem with lawyers, when we litigate these cases, the lawyers on the other side, contract lawyers hired by the city, contract lawyers they’re paid by the hour,” Anderson-Barker points out. “And these lawyers have no incentive to settle these cases early on or to fix or reform the problem that is causing us to sue the city or the public entity.”
She says even when a claim seeks includes injunctive relief – a demand for policy changes as part of the lawsuit – and the police agree, often it’s still business as usual.
In 2000, Anderson-Barker and partners sued LAPD for opening fire on protesters and bystanders with hard rubber bullets, batons and beanbags outside a Democratic National Committee event. The city eventually paid out $4.1 million dollars in damages and lawyers fees. In addition to money, the court also issued an injunction, prohibiting the LAPD from shooting people with rubber bullets and beanbags and using batons for crowd control.
But seven years later, at a May Day celebration, LAPD ignored the injunction and used the same procedures.
“Police opened fire in the park using rubber bullets also with baton strikes, injuring scores of innocent folks. And that case was settled for $12.6 million. A huge hit the city took,” Anderson-Barker recalls.
Police reform advocates point out another reason why civil suits are ineffective in changing police policies: The U.S. Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court has made it extremely difficult for individuals to bring litigation to seek the kind of reforms that caused them harm. They can only seek compensation,” says Jonathan Smith.
Jonathan Smith is associate dean of experimental and clinical programs at the University of District of Columbia School of Law. He points to a 1983 case, the City of Los Angeles versus Lyons, brought after Los Angeles police officers – under the department’s then prevailing policy – placed the plaintiff, Adolph Lyons, in a chokehold following a traffic stop.
“It went all the way to the Supreme Court, and what the Supreme Court said in Lyons was he didn’t have standing to challenge the policy. He could get compensated, but he didn’t have standing to force them to change the policy because he couldn’t prove they would use the policy against him again. He didn’t have a dog in the fight of what happened going forward,” explains Smith. “And that decision in Lyons interrupted a long string of cases where an individual was able to leverage what happened to them to the greater good.”
Right now, the most effective tool for reform, one that’s used in only the most egregious cases of misconduct, is the consent decree.
The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division can issue a consent decree to any law enforcement organization that shows “pattern and practice” of using excessive force or violating people’s civil rights, and force them to change a policy.
Consent decrees were initiated in response to the Rodney King beating in 1991, and have been issued most recently against police departments in Ferguson, Missouri, Cleveland, and Baltimore in the wake of killings of unarmed black men.
But even a consent decree is no guarantee of long-term change.
“Federal consent decrees, the effectiveness depends on who are enforcing the consent decree, or not enforcing the consent decree, and it depends on the leadership of the police department,” says Joe Dominick.
Joe Dominick is the associate director of the Center on Media Crime and Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the author of the upcoming book, “Blue: The LAPD and Battle to Redeem American Policing.”
He says consent decrees are the best tool for reform right now but admits the Justice Department can’t use them everywhere, and because of stringent requirements against using them against individual officers, consent decrees are usually only effective against whole departments.
But, Dominick is optimistic that the worst law enforcement policies will be reformed, just not as a result of big civil suits. He says it will stem from public pressure .
“You have a new generation of journalists now who think that this is wrong, that what’s been going on for the past thirty years is wrong. A lot of those young people are for police reform, which wasn’t the case in the seventies and eighties and nineties when the majority of white people wanted the police to be tough,” Dominick points out.
Dominick and other police reform advocates say that, while more Americans are starting to understand what needs to change, whether and how fast those changes will happen remains to be seen.