Thursday, March 12, 2009

Musings: Odds and Ends

It’s a nippy 62 degrees in my house this morning, which is why I’m bundled up and my fingers are semi-stiff and even a brisk walk under gray skies with Koko failed to warm me. Koko did the sensible thing and immediately went back to bed, having wisely never succumbed to the temptations of the keyboard, inbox and Google.

It feels like an odds and ends kind of a day, so let’s see what comes together.

For starters, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at Bush got a three-year prison sentence for assaulting a foreign leader. Well, I guess you could call Bush that. Anyway, Muntadhar al-Zeidi has received a tremendous outpouring of public support — we’re talking massive street rallies, an art exhibit and even a sofa-sized sculpture of a shoe in Iraq, and numerous throw-a-shoe at Bush websites in the U.S. — and he seemed entirely unrepentant, reportedly shouting, "long live Iraq" when the sentence was read.

The U.S., meanwhile, is repentant for illegally overthrowing the Hawaiian Kingdom, if Public Law 103-150 is any indication, but that’s not supposed to mean anything. A Wall Street Journal article on the pending U.S. Supreme Court decision noted:

In recent years, government apologies for official wrongs have proliferated. In 1988, Congress apologized to Japanese-Americans for their internment during World War II, and in 1990 approved an expression of "deep regret to the Sioux people" for the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre. Seven states have apologized for forced sterilization of disabled, poor and minority residents in the early 20th century. Five states have apologized for slavery.

But the Hawaii case might be the first where an apology resolution received legal weight, says Eric Miller, a law professor at Saint Louis University who has worked on campaigns seeking redress for African-Americans. Governments on rare occasion have paid restitution, but only through separate legislation.

Prof. Miller worries that if the Hawaii opinion stands, future apologies might be rarer still. The "process doesn't necessarily get off the ground if people are going to be punished for it," he says.

Yes, we wouldn’t want the government to actually have to make amends for any of its wrongdoings when simple lip service can suffice. I guess Miller never heard of the saying: sorry don’t feed the bulldog.

Or since we’re talking about Hawaii, the pitbulls and Chihuahuas.

And since we’re talking about pitbulls, blogger Andy Parx, “the rabid reporter,” has gone to great lengths to log all the bills that have survived the first round in the Lege that are of interest to Kauai.

It’s a very thorough compendium, and a good example of how blogs can be useful.

Bills dealing with GMO research on taro are still alive, along with — inexplicably — what is known as the GMO pre-emption bill, which has the biotech industry’s fingerprints all over it.

Now why the Lege would want to go along with a proposal that “prohibits state administrative regulatory actions and county regulatory actions from banning or otherwise regulating activities related to genetically modified plant organisms” is beyond me.

As Dr. Lorrin Pang, the Maui health official who has been a strong proponent of using the “precautionary principle" in our approach to GMOs, noted in an email:

If you actually think about the Bill it is rather odd. It would be one thing to say that the Feds are always smarter so let them have the only say on GMO’s in Hawaii. That would be a true preemption bill. But what it says is that when the Feds say yes to GMO’s we will allow it. And when the Feds say “no” (supposing Obama actually forces labeling) ? Then what? The local pro-GMO guys can try to override this? Whoever wrote this Bill does think in this case that he is smarter than the Feds. So this “one way” preemption Bill is not really supporting the Fed position but rather the position of always saying yes to GMO’s.

To end the day on a light note, Tom Tomorrow has a great cartoon on what we can expect in a future without real reporters, although The Garden Island, with its front page reports on overgrown lots in Kapaa and book sales, seems to be already there. And if you haven’t seen the Saturday Night Live spoof on Kauai’s visitor industry, here it is.


Anonymous said...

yes the SNL item was needed

oh and pls dont apply the "precautionary principle" to all science / r-n-d, relating to human health or otherwise

Anonymous said...

I took Prof. Miller's point to be that apology resolutions can potentially serve as useful building blocks for future restitution through separate legislation; but if local courts start assigning them unintended legal consequences, then congress will simply stop issuing them.

It's not that Prof. Miller doesn't understand that "sorry don't feed the bulldog." Rather, he understands that you might be able to bootstrap an apology into something more substantial, but if you insist that an apology is more than it is, then you'll lose even that toe-hold.

I see it as a rejection of the Parxian all-or-nothing approach to political activism that too often leads to nothing.

Anonymous said...

thats good you promote Parxʻs website cause donʻt think heʻs got too many readers.

Anonymous said...

What Muntadhar al-Zeidi did, throwing the shoes at bush (too bad he hadnʻt stepped in something before he threw them) is so powerful and significant that if, hopefully not, he has to serve the 3 years, it will sustain his thoughts knowing what a fantastically great statement he made.

Anonymous said...

Rather, he understands that you might be able to bootstrap an apology into something more substantial, but if you insist that an apology is more than it is, then you'll lose even that toe-hold.

Oh, in other words, the don't get too uppity, boy, we might give you something if and when we get good and ready approach.

Anonymous said...

> ...if you insist that an apology is more than it is, then you'll lose even that toe-hold. <

And just why are the people having to cling to toe-holds in the first place...?

> Oh, in other words, the don't get too uppity, boy, we might give you something if and when we get good and ready approach. <

..."but only if you don't piss us off." It's just another way of saying, "Don't forget we're still calling the shots."

And people believe that America's imperialistic attitude is a thing of the past!

Anonymous said...

I can't speak for Prof. Miller, but the uppity comment seems to me to entirely miss the point. The difference in tactics has nothing to do with being 'uppity' vs. waiting for the gov to be good and ready. The difference is between being tactically effective vs being self-defeating.

For instance, OHA did not have to rely so heavily as it did on the Apology Resolution in its arguments before the state court. The state supreme court was sympathetic to OHA's position and likely would have arrived at the same outcome if it were presented with another theory on which to base it. OHA made a tactical blunder in its use of the Apology Resolution. The resolution was useful evidence for OHA's case, but OHA over played it. It had nothing to do with 'uppitiness' but everything to do with tactics.

Anonymous said...

was a good job andy did. can't believe that hb1226 is still alive