Sunday, November 9, 2008

Musings: Getting Away With It

Waialeale was totally blotted out with yellow clouds and mist crawled down Makaleha when Koko and I went walking this morning. Above us, a patch of rainbow appeared in a blue and white sky, and the shiny pavement served as a reminder of the previous night’s rain.

We ran into my neighbor Andy, walking two dogs, and he asked me: “So, do things feel any different?”

I knew he was talking about the world since Obama was elected President, and I answered without hesitation, “Yes, they do.” Several people told me they felt like a psychic burden had been lifted, as if a dark, ominous cloud had suddenly blown away and the sun was out again. Perhaps what they were describing was the return of hope.

I was reading “How they see us” in The Week last night, and it seems that Europe is feeling it, too:

America has been “resurrected,” said Reymer Klüver in Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung. “The election of Barack Obama was an act of liberation, indeed, of cleansing, for America.”

This is not just a breakthrough on race, said Vittorio Zucconi in Italy’s La Repubblica. It is also the triumph of the intellectual. American voters finally stood up and declared that “they were tired of being treated like a bunch of idiots content to be governed by a drinking buddy who makes them feel less stupid.” The next inhabitant of the Oval Office will be someone who is not “just like me” but, when it comes to the ability to lead and govern, is “better than me.”

It’s a good thing Obama is so exceptional, said Spain’s El Pais in an editorial. All over the globe, “Bush has left an enormous legacy of bitterness, and unenviable challenges await” the next president.


Fortunately, Obama is moving quickly to meet those challenges, and a group of advisers already has compiled a list of about 200 of Bush’s more odious and onerous administration actions and executive orders that could be swiftly undone, according to The Washington Post.

I know I’m not the only one wondering if Obama and Congress will finally investigate some of the illegal actions of the Bush Administration, especially violations of the Geneva Convention. As several people have told me, that’s not being partisan, that’s pursuing justice. The thought of Bush and his cronies being able to get away with their dirty deeds leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of many.

Speaking of getting away with it, I wonder if Bush will pardon Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who was convicted of corruption, but re-elected, anyway. A pardon would allow him to avoid expulsion from the Senate.

And while we’re on the subject of getting away with it, I’m still wondering just how it is that field archaeologists were able to make a unilateral decision to cap the Naue burials. In a comment on Thursday’s post, the project’s lead archeologist, Mike Dega, defended the action, saying:

They made the correct call, methodologically, in terms of protecting the burials within their natural context without being fully encased, enclosed, incarcerated, etc.

The only "screw up" was in not immediately informing the SHPD [State Historic Preservtion Division] that we had put in one side, and not four sides, as outlined in the BTP. We made the field call to further protect the burials. The field crew did an exceptional job in protecting those remains within their natural context.


That may be. But what is the point of having the Burial Council and the state archaeologist approve a Burial Treatment Plan (BTP) if archeologists can make their own call out in the field?

They’re obviously not supposed to do that, because they got scolded. So that leaves me still wondering why they didn’t immediately inform the SHPD of their action, or ask first. These guys are all professionals, and they had to be aware of the controversy surrounding this particular project.

Did they not check with Nancy McMahon because to do so would have delayed the foundation and prevented Joe Brescia from starting work on his house before a court hearing on an injunction to stop him?

It seems that grave desecration isn't an issue only in Hawaii. Disappeared News' Larry Geller sent me a link to this story, which reports on the outcry over a decision by Israel's Supreme Court to allow the destruction of part of an ancient Muslim cemetery in West Jerusalem.

But they aren't going to disturb the bones merely for a fancy beach front vacation rental. No, it seems they have something much more meaningful planned: a new Jewish "Museum of Tolerance."

Do you 'spose they'll get away with it?

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Prediction - Joe. B. vs Kauai Co.: Sub $1M settlement/judgment in favor of J.B. Sweet!! Not the "All Time Greatest Hits"...but an Honorable Mention for sure (and a good example of what happens when GEDs do not listen to the JDs).

Anonymous said...

After eight years of the Bush administration's climate of "money talks, cultural heritage walks" in State Historic Preservation Offices across the country, one can hope that the improvement in I.Q. of the incoming administration, combined with the nation's growing disgust at the greed mongering of the moneyed elite, will lead to less politicized, more enlightened cultural resource management on the local level.

Anonymous said...

And speaking of priorities beyond making one's rich buddies richer...

"Barack Obama’s election is a milestone in more than his pigmentation. The second most remarkable thing about his election is that American voters have just picked a president who is an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual.

...Maybe, just maybe, the result will be a step away from the anti-intellectualism that has long been a strain in American life. Smart and educated leadership is no panacea, but we’ve seen recently that the converse — a White House that scorns expertise and shrugs at nuance — doesn’t get very far either.

...as Mr. Obama goes to Washington, I’m hopeful that his fertile mind will set a new tone for our country. Maybe someday soon our leaders no longer will have to shuffle in shame when they’re caught with brains in their heads."

-- Nicholas Kristof
New York Times
November 9, 2008

Full text at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/opinion/09kristof.html?_r=1&ref=opinion&oref=slogin

Anonymous said...

Oh boy, intellectuals! You must mean like "the Best and the Brightest," that cadre of impressively published intellectual academics who reasoned us into the Vietnam War! Yeah, intellectuals. They're really smart so their policy opinions must be like lots smarter than normal, non-intellectual peoples'. (Chortle).

Anonymous said...

Boy howdy, great point there! What this country needs are more leaders who think Africa is a country, elected by voters who think dinosaurs and cave men lived at the same time.

Yup!

Anonymous said...

Wull that's fer sure just the 2 choices aint it then Fred? Either the intullekshooul or the mouth breether. gooooooodam! They aint no makin thuh point with yoo that inullektchooals aint nessesserrilly all thays krakd up ta be und dont has no korner on smarts. duuuuuh.

Anonymous said...

stoopid is as stoopid does.

Joan said...

OK, let's raise the level of discussion here to something approaching intelligence.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why Bush didn't undo Clinton's locking away the US's mother load of clean burning coal with the abortive Escalante National Monument declaration.

Mike said...

Hi Joan: You stated:

"So that leaves me still wondering why they didn’t immediately inform the SHPD of their action, or ask first. These guys are all professionals, and they had to be aware of the controversy surrounding this particular project. Did they not check with Nancy McMahon because to do so would have delayed the foundation and prevented Joe Brescia from starting work on his house before a court hearing on an injunction to stop him?"

The implication of especially the last statement is that the archaeologists were somehow swayed by the development/developer to start and/or finish the work prior to the legal proceedings. That is not the case and never is...we work independent of developers, contractors, etc. but under the accepted plans. This work was done on our timeline, per initiation of construction, as outlined in the accepted BTP.

Again, we left the vertical sides off the concrete CMU's to not disturb the burials in any way. We just did not make the call to the SHPD during that work. The call was made to the SHPD the day of the final "cap", the day I returned.

Can "caps" be considered part of a "vested interest" anyway? That legal defintion and logic never entered our thought process as we went along protecting the burials.

Larry said...

I wonder what would happen one day if archeolgists "just said no" and refused to cooperate in acts of desecration?

This is not some ancient civilization we are striving to understand, those bones belong to people currently on the planet, indeed, on the same island, and who are protesting what is happening to their culture and their ancestral remains. It's current, in the here-and-now.

If there is a professional society of archeologists, I wonder if they would add to an ethics code that archeologists are not to participate in acts of desecration, even if state-authorized. It took a while, but psychologists just recently voted to ban participation in US-sponsored acts of torture. There's no comparison, of course, but I mention this because it is appropriate for professional societies to set standards, and I am disturbed at the thought that this "capping" can be professionally sanctioned.

The people involved are clearly asking that this not take place.

Instead of capping the graves, why could archeologists not take a stand against participating in the process, or go further and advise the state that the preservation had nothing whatever to do with archeology?

Larry said...

Actually, I took a moment to look up the codes of conduct of some professional organizations of archeologists. I still know very little about the profession. I went to the code of conduct for the Register of Professional Archeologists, the first Google hit.

The third entry is:

An archeologist shall:
Be sensitive to, and respect the legitimate concerns of, groups whose culture histories are the subjects of archaeological investigations;

Ok, this is not strictly an "investigation", but clearly, capping these graves is counter to the legitimate concerns of the people who are speaking out.

There seem to be a small number of other professional associations, each, no doubt, with their own standards of practice. I haven't done much research yet. Still, I feel secure in my position in the last comment.

It would not hurt to demand from archeologists working on these and other commercial developments how their work fits with their own codes of conduct, considering that the people whose bones they are handling object to the entire process, including, I'm sure, their participation on behalf of either the state or the developers rather than the people themselves.

Mike said...

Larry: Good insight. The Society for Hawaiian Archaeology is in the process (still) of drafting a Code of Ethics for those working in Hawaii..and it heavily leans on consultation with Native Hawaiian groups and organizations.

As for "capping", it has been sanctioned (and often recommended) by various island burial councils through the years..it is often seen as the "best" way to protect burials, esp those in sandy contexts. Perhaps by continued exchanges of ideas, we can come up with better solutions to preservation, if indeed a burial is to remain in place near proposed infrastructure (e.g., Kuhio Highway, public comfort stations, private developments).

Larry said...

Aha. I didn't know about a local society. Of course, there would be one.

And guess what--they are about to hold a Board of Directors meeting -- on November 19.

Maybe I am the only one who is concerned about this, having just moments ago posted two comments. If others are interested in perhaps getting some attention to the matter of participation in grave desecration, the web page is here:

http://www.sha.hawaii.edu/AboutSHA/board.htm

Naturally, this meeting is on Oahu.

Anonymous said...

The good will of many individual archaeologists and anthropologists notwithstanding, NAGPRA didn't happen because Native Americans were happy with how archaeology and anthropology -- and the laws governing their practice -- have treated native cultural remains. When it comes to SHPO-contracted or supervised CRM, professional societies' standards of conduct are often constrained -- if not de facto pushed aside -- by the politics of money and influence.

Anonymous said...

I am curious:

1) Where the State laws on this bad?
2) Where the County rules on this bad?
3) And/or did the State not administer well the rules?
4) And/or did one (1) or more County-level entities poorly interpret and/or apply the rules?
5) Or did the developer not follow the rules?

I suspect # 5) might not generate a objective, well informed answer, but it obviously has to be asked (even though I have it on good information that the guy slaved for ages to get all of the permits, etc that he needed; in other words - he made misrepresentations and the like).

I hope not all of 1-5 are to blame. If they are, no wonder the ethnic Hawaiians are angry - that means they are getting the shaft at almost every conceivable level as to unmarked graves (of which I bet 99% hold Polynesian remains).

And I see another sovereignty parallel: As time goes on, there seem to be less and less ethnic Hawaiians of a certain "blood quantum" (ie, clock is ticking as to an important dynamic; you can't have a ethnic Hawaiian sovereignty movement without any ethnic Hawaiians)....similarly, as time goes on, more and more of such sites risk permanent alteration (ie, coastline space, where such unmarked graves often are, is getting eaten up by development).

Anyways, thanks in advance for a really good answer to 1-5 above.

Anonymous said...

"And I see another sovereignty parallel: As time goes on, there seem to be less and less ethnic Hawaiians of a certain "blood quantum" (ie, clock is ticking as to an important dynamic; you can't have a ethnic Hawaiian sovereignty movement without any ethnic Hawaiians)....similarly, as time goes on, more and more of such sites risk permanent alteration (ie, coastline space, where such unmarked graves often are, is getting eaten up by development)."

Trick Diversion #1 in the Colonial Top 100:

Time is on our side.

Anonymous said...

"Time is on our side."

Thanks.

So you agree with the "parallel" offered? It is correct? Incorrect?

(and "my bad" on the grammatical mishaps on my other post)

And I would still love a 1-5 review please.

Anonymous said...

The only reason "capping" is a problem in this case is because capping occurred. Had capping not occurred then the claim would be that not capping is a cultural affront. Mostly this is about non-native anti-development politics.

Joan said...

1) Where the State laws on this bad?
I think most everyone agrees the law could use some revision, as it’s vague in a number of areas, including the definition of preservation.
2) Where the County rules on this bad?
State law has jurisdiction here. However, some of these problems could have been avoided had there been a hearing on Brescia’s plan to build a house in the Special Management Area. But for some reason, Kauai does not require a public hearing on the first house built on a lot in the SMA.
3) And/or did the State not administer well the rules?
Read this post.
4) And/or did one (1) or more County-level entities poorly interpret and/or apply the rules?
I think a number of people, including the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., would argue that the county has made some missteps, including approving Brescia’s project before the Burial Council had made its decision, but the commission went ahead with the approval. And now that the condition for an approved burial plan still has not been met, they are arguing the county should revoke his permit.
5) Or did the developer not follow the rules?
Well, he says he did. But that doesn’t mean he’s the victim in this. There’s a lot more to it. Try read this for more details.

So yes, it does seem to be 1-5.

As for your sovereignty parallel, independence is not linked to blood quantum. That’s used for determining awards for Hawaiian Homesteads.

Still, Anon. 3:32 PM is correct.

As for Anon. 4:28 PM, capping is a problem in this case because it wasn't approved by the Burial Council OR the state.

Anonymous said...

After reading the plan a few times, i think the capping was approved...but how the capping was done (not spelled out exaclty in the plan) was the issue. the state and bur council approved that plan with capping and yeah, the laws could use some revision I think

Anonymous said...

"Mostly this is about non-native anti-development politics."

Trick Diversion #42 in the Colonial Top 100:

The more we link Native concerns to liberal causes, the more we win.

Joan said...

Anon said: "After reading the plan a few times, i think the capping was approved...but how the capping was done (not spelled out exaclty in the plan) was the issue. the state and bur council approved that plan with capping"

That's not correct. In his comment on the 11-9 post, archaeologist Mike Dega stated:

"The accepted BTP called for installing a CMU around each of the 7 burials under/near the proposed residence. A CMU is typically a four-sided structure used to keep burials in place."

They didn't do that. They did just a top capping, which was not approved by anyone. And while they were working off a plan that they thought had been accepted, the judge has since ruled that plan was not properly approved bec the burial council wasn't shown the final version that Nancy McMahon signed off on. So the Council did NOT approve that plan, and at its last meeting, in fact, rejected that plan.

irk said...

i know:
that when mainland archeological scholars come to do surveys they get away with many artifacts and bones, as did this honolulu archaeologist and son of missionaries.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081109/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/lt_peru_yale_machu_picchu
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/01/arts/design/01mach.html?pagewanted=2

Larry Bishop got away with selling artifacts from his house in Kilauea Farms, some taken from graves in Peru.

brescia's contractor will go away to build on these bones
http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/20081110/BREAKING01/81110068

Anonymous said...

Larry said: "This is not some ancient civilization we are striving to understand, those bones belong to people currently on the planet..."

Oh My Gosh! What happened to all the Egyptians? And the people of India! I thought we still had some of them left!

Mike said...

Hi again Joan:

April BTP states (page 56): "All CMU will occur below surface, with the top of the structure to be capped for permanent preservation." The April 24, 2008 letter from SHPD accepting the BTP states: "...will be encased in CMU or concrete jackets to prevent erosion in open trenches with the tops capped for permanent preservation." So, capping was approved by SHPD, as written in the April 2008 BTP. What happened was the capping was done but the CMU/jackets were NOT installed as it was thought they could potentially disturb iwi...so crew erred on the side of caution and only capped the top.

Larry said...

Anonymous recently wrote, "Larry said: "This is not some ancient civilization we are striving to understand, those bones belong to people currently on the planet..."

Oh My Gosh! What happened to all the Egyptians? And the people of India! I thought we still had some of them left!"

The worldwide movement to get artifacts repatriated is not new and is very well established. We have the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, for example, and Egyptians are certainly demanding that their artifacts be returned. Just google and you'll see how widespread the repatriation demands are, and have been for some time.

So yes, people still on the planet are making legitimate claims to get back what was looted from them in the name of "science". And yes, in the name of "archeology." Times have changed. See the articles cited by irk in an earlier comment.

Joan said...

Thanks, Mike, I appreciate your participation in this discussion and efforts to clarify. You wrote: "So, capping was approved by SHPD, as written in the April 2008 BTP. "

Why, then, did Nancy McMahon say at the last Burial Council meeting: "“I did not approve the capping. I reprimanded the archaeologist for what they did.”?

I trust you can understand why this is confusing to the layperson.

Anonymous said...

"capping was approved by SHPD, as written in the April 2008 BTP. What happened was the capping was done but the CMU/jackets were NOT installed as it was thought they could potentially disturb iwi"

That seems to blow Joan's argument out of the water.

Anonymous said...

"Why, then, did Nancy McMahon say at the last Burial Council meeting"

You answered that yourself when you said she was CYA. That's all she does in public is lie to save her ass. She casts blame everywhere to keep it off herself.

Anonymous said...

maybe mike can tell us how so many Iwi were busted up during the fieldwork.

Anonymous said...

maybe anonymous can tell us how many is "so many"

Anonymous said...

And maybe you can tell us why even one is too many.

Anonymous said...

Was even one busted up? If no then anonymous is full of it.

Anonymous said...

One had the head decapitated. That's pretty buss up, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Who says one was decapitated?

Anonymous said...

it was reported at the burial council meeting. why? what are you, the burial desecretion apologist?

Anonymous said...

> Who says one was decapitated? <

> Was even one busted up? If no then anonymous is full of it. <

The idea that physical destruction is the only form of desecration of native culture is a typically narrow Western view. It's right up there with the notions that Western laws are the only laws, archaeology is the only authority on prehistory, and money is the only thing that really matters.

Anonymous said...

"burial desecretion apologist"

that is a great loaded word/phrase (seriously)