Category Archives: Globalization

Response to Kaʻiulani Milham’s “A Game Changer for Kanaka Maoli”

Kaʻiulani Milham, a writer and participant in the Naʻi Aupuni constitutional convention, published a thoughtful editorial in Civil Beat about a topic very relevant to the readers of this blog, so I thought Iʻd give my line-by-line two cents. She often hits the mark, but sometimes, in my view, misses it.

With the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, Kānaka Maoli face a vastly altered landscape in our pathway to self-determination and the question of whether or not to accept the Department of Interior’s final rule, for federal recognition.

Probably the main point that Milham misses for Fed-Rec, which is that itʻs dead. It was to be done by executive order, so even if Obama signs on Jan. 19th, Trump will unsign on the 20th.

The country we contemplated a nation-to-nation relationship with, is not the same nation we imagined last week.

But it is.The ill-will toward Hawaiians was always visible in Congress, which refused to consider the Akaka Bill for a dozen years (1999-2012). Anti-affirmative action sentiment (73%) was always going to be against us (if the Akaka Bill and Fed-Rec were something you wanted).

The aloha we uphold — kindness, welcoming and inclusion — are the polar opposite of Trump’s xenophobic essence and the underlying national spirit of exclusion his election revealed.

Yes and no. America is an incredibly divided country – thatʻs been clear for a while now.

His race-driven hatred for people of color, from Muslims to Mexicans, will be felt by Kānaka Maoli, too. Guaranteed.

I basically said this in my post “Hawaiians in Trump’s America.”

What’s worse is that the hatred he represents reflects the values of his share of U.S. voters who voted in this election.

Those who think as Trump does — as well as those willing to look the other way when he repeatedly showed himself to be a rampant racist and misogynist — have been empowered by his fascist rhetoric. They won’t be backing down from their bully pulpit any time soon.

The economic, health and social conditions of Hawaiians will not improve under a Trump presidency.

Probably true.

Nor can we afford to delude ourselves that federal recognition will protect our cultural and natural resources.

When I was on John Kane’s radio show, Letʻs Talk Native (WBAI, New York City), I read the litany of Hawaiian socio-economic ills, and he said “We have all those things with Federal Recognition!” Heʻs one Native American who gets it.

The shocking images from the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, flooding our social media pages for weeks now, has shown just how far America’s corporatocracy will go to rape the natural resources, culture and sacred places of native people.

If Barack Obama has not had the moral courage to stop the atrocities being committed there in the name of Big Oil and Energy Transfer Partner’s Dakota Access Pipeline, we would be insane to believe Trump will do better.

And you were about to celebrate “Thanksgiving,” created to thank Native Americans who helped pilgrims survive their first winter, while Standing Rock was going on? Thereʻs another holiday on Monday, Nov. 28 – Lā Kuʻokoʻa, Hawaiian Independence Day – no guilt required in its celebration.

But the “status quo” also looms like a bogey man — with impossibly high-priced housing, a failing state education system, high incarceration rates and low graduation rates and countless other chronic social and health issues for Hawaiians.

Under the specter of Rice v. Cayetano and other anti-Hawaiian U.S. Supreme Court rulings, federal recognition advocates fret over the anticipated loss of federal funds Hawaiians have become dependent on to revive our still threatened ʻŌlelo Hawaii and other foundational pillars of our culture.

See above comments on affirmative action.

Fear of losing these programs and funds drove our trustees at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to invest an estimated $43 million, on various attempts at federal recognition, that we now see has been spent for naught.

Gambling on a tag-team effort by back-to-back Obama and Hillary Clinton administrations to carry their federal recognition dream into reality, our trustees have been caught with their pants down.

How foolish to think tying our futures to the vagary of American politics was the safest course.

Yet Milham participated in Naʻi Aupuni. Is this an admission?

We are not safe.

Not on any level.

More importantly, as Haunani K. Trask famously declared on the 100th anniversary observance of the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1993, “We are not Americans!”

In a larger, pragmatic sense, none of us here are “Americans.”

Possibly true, but it misses the point that some really arenʻt Americans – oneʻs citizenship is not a matter of opinion. Some Hawaiians have no American ancestry and thus retain only Hawaiian citizenship.

Now, because of this election, and what it portends for American politics in the foreseeable future, we all must honestly consider how maintaining ties to America impacts all of us in Hawaii.

These islands are 2,471 miles away from the nearest American soil, a world a way culturally from Washington, D.C.

With a climate change denier entering the Oval Office, and scientists concluding that climate change-induced sea level rise will hit Hawaii harder than anywhere on Earth, we have to ask ourselves:

When did the deciders in Washington, D.C. ever prioritize the well being of Pacific Islanders?

I asked myself a similar question when I was looking for graduate programs – in university departments itʻs as if the Pacific does not exist.

Not in post WWII Hawaii when America used Kahoʻolawe for a half-century-long bombing campaign that broke the island’s water table and left it uninhabitable, littered with unexploded ordinance that largely remain below the surface after $400 million spent on clean up.

And only got 70% of the surface and 10% of the subsurface.

Not in 1946 when America began its 56-year bombing run on Bikini Atoll, or when it dropped a hydrogen bomb there in 1954, leaving the Marshall Islands toxic to this day.

Not for the last 45 years as America invited half the world’s armed forces to use Hawaiian waters for RIMPAC’s biennial exercises with their devastation of our marine resources.

Not in 1997 when America rejected the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, turning its back on sea-level rise impacts to Pacific peoples.

Not when Tuvalu began its evacuations, as sea-level rise inundated their islands, or when Kiribati bought land in Fiji in preparation for evacuations to come.

Not in 2014 when Obama announced the Pacific Pivot, further militarizing the Pacific and putting Pacific peoples firmly in the scatter-gun pattern of collateral damage from America’s future wars.

Not today when America’s reluctant signature to the Paris Climate Accord is threatened with abrogation by Trump.

If America puts this little value on protecting the Pacific, our Hawaiians Islands and Pacific Islanders in general, how can any of us here in Hawaii feel safe?

Does Trump think of Hawaii when he says he’s going to “Make America Great Again?”

More likely he’ll put Hawaii in the crosshairs of America’s enemies.

The reality for Hawaii is, this unbalanced, undisciplined, inexperienced American president will have unprecedented potential to fatally bungle foreign relations with North Korea, China or some other American enemy.

Hawaii, being the nearest target, will be attacked just like it was on Dec. 7, 1941.

Hawaiians, unquestionably, have suffered most from the imposition of American rule over our islands, but we’re NOT the only ones who will suffer if it continues.

Brown or white, we in Hawaii are all Pacific islanders.

Not exactly. Some people here think weʻre an annex of Southern California.

Whether Hawaii will survive for our future generations will depend on our resolve to form a unified independent Hawaiian government.

We can confront the challenges of restoring Hawaiian Independence together, wait to see what American politics will bring, or slowly sink beneath the waves of sea-level rise, climate change induced mass extinctions and the myriad other environmental threats that stand before us.

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Filed under Education, ʻĀina, Globalization, Hawaiian history, intellect

On Ownership

This post is part of the continuing “On” series: others include On Capitalism, On Freedom, On Constitutionalism and On Privilege.

In Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Gordon Gecko – famous for the line that defined the 80s, “greed is good” – relates the secret of his success: “I own stuff.”

By acquiring ownership of appreciating assets, investors buy low and sell high, and real estate is a prime example of this. But as Iʻve come to own property, it has begun to dawn on me that one never really owns anything. There are many ways that a property can be foreclosed on, beyond simply failing to pay the “mortgage” (you actually pay the loan, the mortgage is the contract allowing foreclosure): failure to pay taxes (a tax lien), failure to pay maintenance fees, failure to pay any “mechanic” who does work on your house (a mechanic’s lien). Taxes in some high-value areas can be in the thousands per month, so even if you own your property free and clear, the cost of living there can be prohibitive, as much as a “mortgage.” Further, you donʻt really own property at the most fundamental level. The legal concept of “dominium” means that the sovereign owns all property at a level “beneath” your “ownership” – what you have is actually a bundle of protected rights to the property: the right to use and enjoy, exclude others, etc. (though this last right is abridged in Hawaiʻi due to Native Tenant Rights).

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At a conference on occupation at Cornell last May (my attendance was due to this article I wrote for The Nation), we looked at the term from various perspectives, including the simple occupation of land

As I write this, Hawaiʻi is in crisis. The basic necessity of a roof over oneʻs head is one of the most difficult “commodities” to afford, and hereʻs the thing: many of us are responsible for this state of affairs. Homeowners benefit from raises in housing prices, and have a vested interest in the continuation of this state of constant increase – that is, as individuals. Even this benefit is, in a sense, short term. When you sell your high priced property, you have to buy back in to an inflated market. Also, housing becomes much more expensive for your children, who youʻre trying to help get along in the world. It becomes a form of generational warfare. The situation is so extreme, that even renting is becoming a difficult proposition for many – credit checks, first and last monthʻs rent and/or deposits can make renting something only for the very well-off. (If you had great credit wouldn’t you be buying instead of renting?). According to an article in Civil Beat, thirty percent of renters are spending half of their income or more on rent, making them very vulnerable to shocks, like divorce, death in the family or medical problems.  Add this to the fact that most Americans donʻt have $1000 for emergency expenses, and the situation is dire indeed.

Ironically, some long-term studies show that property, when adjusted for inflation, has not had real increases in a century. Any exceptions to this are bubbles. So are we in the midst of a very protracted bubble? If so, we may want to change our long-term approach to wealth management. I wrote earlier that the wealthy are beginning to thinking about access rather than ownership, an this has begun to trickle toward the middle class and working poor. We need to begin to question the very fundamental assumption that the market is the best mechanism for allocating scarce resources, like real estate. There are some small moves in this direction: Kamehameha Schools (normally a very aggressive developer) is developing its Oʻahu North Shore lands in a way that takes some other factors into account. Priority for a new development in Haleʻiwa will be given to local (that is, North Shore, and often Hawaiian) families who fall into the “gap group” – imagine a teacher married to a fireman. They arenʻt in lucrative positions, but are a stable bet to pay their loan and stay in their house for decades, rather than sell at the first uptick in prices.

Perhaps we should try to return to traditional Hawaiian ways of thinking about ownership. According to a source I cite in my dissertation, Hawaiians had very few possessions. A man, for instance would own only a handful of items related to his trade. So the idea that one could own land was certainly foreign – even chiefs didnʻt own land – they controlled it for a period of time, until the next kālaiʻāina (land division).

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The Prison of Thought

This is an expanded version of a post I wrote on medium.com, a shared platform for bloggers.

I came to realize, as I began to understand capitalism, that money is a kind of prison. You’re only free when you can afford to break the rules. But as you build wealth, it is imperative that one follow the rules; be a miser, a Scrooge, sometimes in the extreme. Then it dawned on me that thought can be its own kind of prison. I used to think that even prison would not be such a bad fate as long as I had my thoughts. I realized as I spent more and more time at work, and less at school, that one of the insidious things about mental work (even of a menial variety), as opposed to physical work, is that it monopolizes one’s ability to mull things over, in short, to think.But then even “free” thought might not be so free. We become trapped in the frameworks that others create, over time.

The social theorist Theodor Adorno described modern culture as an open prison, in which seemingly free people censor themselves partly due to the “culture industry” of mass media, which established norms and constraints on behavior.

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Linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky

Linguist Noam Chomsky describes the way that the media engages in self-censorship as one in which the range of debate is narrowed, but within that narrow range very lively debate occurs. Chomsky explained how media control worked in a book of the same name:

… liberal democratic theorists and leading media figures, like, for example, Walter Lippmann, who was the dean of American journalists, a major foreign and domestic policy critic and also a major theorist of liberal democracy. If you take a look at his collected essays, you’ll see that they’re subtitled something like “A Progressive Theory of Liberal Democratic Thought. ” Lippmann was involved in these propaganda commissions and recognized their achievements. He argued that what he called a “revolution in the art of democracy,” could be used to “manufacture consent, ” that is, to bring about agreement on the part of the public for things that they didn’t want by the new techniques of propaganda. (Chomsky, Media Control, p.14)

Most Americans have no idea of the full range of political options available due to the two-party system. For Europeans, larger extremes are at least considered in their multi-party systems  – parties like the Green Party, Communists, Scottish Nationalists, Royalists and others have seats in Europeans parliaments (even though the results are often similar, with centrist parties usually forming the ruling coalitions).

Economically, the situation is similar. Finland’s plan to give all citizens a basic income, for example, is a kind of test of the freedom of thought. The idea that increasing productivity would free people from work was a prediction that was long in coming. Alaska, Brunei, some Indian nations have had basic income, but those are special cases, based on oil or some special status — Finland is the first country to do it that’s not some special case. We have been hamstrung by a capitalist logic of scarcity for so long that a trend that even Marx could see in mid-nineteenth century Britain is only now beginning to come to fruition. And if a basic income can free people from work, what does it free them to do? Among other things, to think more. And from that thought will come more ideas; a singularity of thought. This may be overstating the case, but as Slavoj Zizek put it, “don’t act, just think.”

 I also posted my piece “On Consciousness” on medium.com.

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The Rule Change

The effort for Federal recognition of Native Hawaiians for the purposes of creating a governing entity went through three stages, or attempts: The Akaka Bill, direct recognition by the Department of Interior and the rule change.

Dept. of Interior (DOI) Hearings:

https://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/interior-considers-procedures-to-reestablish-a-government-to-government-relationship-with-the-native-hawaiian-community

In this latest (and what seems to be the most successful) attempt DOI looked to reestablish government-to-government relationship between Federal government and Native Hawaiian community. On June 18, 2014, the DOI stated,

The Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) is considering whether to propose an administrative rule that would facilitate the reestablishment of a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community, to more effectively implement the special political and trust relationship that Congress has established between that community and the United States. The purpose of this advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) is tosolicit public comments on whether and how the Department of the Interior should facilitate the reestablishment of a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community. In this ANPRM, the Secretary also announces several public meetings in Hawaii and several consultations with federally recognized tribes in the continental United States to consider these issues.

Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell stated “The Department is responding to requests from not only the Native Hawaiian community but also state and local leaders and interested parties who recognize that we need to begin a conversation of diverse voices to help determine the best path forward for honoring the trust relationship that Congress has created specifically to benefit Native Hawaiians.” Public hearings throughout Hawaii, from June 23 to August 8, 2014, which I wrote about in the Nation magazine, asked 5 “Questions to be Answered:”

  1. Should the Secretary propose an administrative rule to recreate a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community?
  2. Should the Secretary assist the Native Hawaiian community in reorganizing its government?
  3. What process should be established for drafting and ratifying a reorganized Native Hawaiian government’s constitution or other governing document?
  4. Should the Secretary instead rely on reorganization through a process established by the Native Hawaiian community and facilitated by the State of Hawaii, to the extent such a process is consistent with Federal law?
  5. If so, what conditions should the Secretary establish as prerequisites to Federal acknowledgment of a government-to-government relationship with the reorganized Native Hawaiian government?
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Prof. Williamson Chang

On September 29th, 2015, the DOI released the rule change. UH Law Professor Williamson Chang released the following statement in response:

The Department of Interior issued its long awaited proposed rule as to a Native Hawaiian Governing body. It was not much. The Federal Government is giving very little. If this is the last word on the federal government and Hawaiians, from the point of view of the United States’ the history of Hawaii ends with a “whimper not a bang”
1. It starts by noting that only the written comments counted, not the vehement oral testimony.
2. It is premised on false history: At page 6 of the long document, it states the Republic of Hawaii ceded its lands to the United States and that Congress passed a joint resolution annexing the Hawaiian Islands. Accordingly, all that follows flows from a flawed premise: The United States acquired the Hawaiian Islands and has jurisdiction. Moreover, it claims that the United States has title to the crown and government lands.
3. Even so, it gives very little. It would make a consenting Native Hawaiian government “just like” a tribe, but not a tribe.
4. The law that applies to tribes would not apply to the Hawaiian entity. Congress would have to explicit[ly] write Hawaiians in to Indian programs—just as it is today. No gain.
5. It admits that the purpose of the proposed rule is to protect Hawaiians from constitutional attacks on Hawaiian-only entitlement programs. The Department of the Interior, however, does not control the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court would still be free to strike down Hawaiian only programs if it so desired.
6. The Hawaiian governing entity gets no lands by this proposal
7. The proposal does not affect Federal holdings or title to the Crown and Government lands.
8. There is to be no compensation for past wrongs.
9. The rule limits the Hawaiian government to Hawaiians only.
10. Only one Hawaiian government can establish a relationship with the Federal Government under this proposal.
11. It precludes federal recognition of a restored Kingdom of Hawaii, or Provisional Government that would become a State either as a Kingdom or any other.
12. The Hawaiian Government cannot be in violation of “federal laws” such as the prohibition on ‘titles” in the U.S. Constitution—thus no quasi-Kingdom either.
In summary—and this is from a very brief reading. I may be in error, I may have overlooked various important sections, but in the name of getting this to you as soon as possible. Here is the link to the proposal, its supporting documents and frequently asked questions.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking read:

The U.S. Department of the Interior is proposing to create an administrative procedure and criteria that the Secretary of the Interior would apply if the Native Hawaiian community forms a unified government that then seeks a formal government-to-government relationship with the United States.  Under the proposal, the Native Hawaiian community — not the Federal government — would decide whether to reorganize a Native Hawaiian government, what form that government would take, and whether it would seek a government-to-government relationship with the United States.

The proposal, which takes the form of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), builds on more than 150 Federal statutes that Congress has enacted over the last century to recognize and implement the special political and trust relationship between the United States and the Native Hawaiian community.  The NPRM comes on the heels of a robust and transparent public comment period as part of an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) process that began last year and included public meetings.  More than 5,000 members of the public submitted written comments to the ANPRM, and they overwhelmingly favored creating a pathway for re-establishing a formal government-to-government relationship.

Members of the Hawai’i Congressional delegation predictably responded in favor of the rule change, as did Governor Ige. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s statement was perhaps the most substantive:

Many indigenous groups in the U.S. have the right of self-determination, and today’s announcement acknowledges that that right also belongs to the Native Hawaiian people, one of the largest native communities in the country. These rules incorporate over 5,000 public comments submitted to the Department of Interior (DOI), and should they be adopted, the Native Hawaiian community will have the option to re-establish a unified government and self-determine their future relationship with the federal government. I encourage all interested parties to submit their comments to DOI during the 90-day public review period to ensure a collaborative final ruling.

The list of candidates for delegate to the constitutional convention was released by Na’i Aupuni the next day. It can be viewed here, but prominent candidates included John Aeto, Keoni and Louis Aagard, OHA trustee Rowena Akana, former Mayor Dante Carpenter, Prof. Williamson Chang, Jade Danner, Prof. Lilikala Kame’eleihiwa, Senator Brickwood Galleria, Adrian Kamali’i, Sovereignty leader Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, Colin Kippen, Prof. Daviana McGregor, former OHA administrator Clyde Namu’o, and Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. director Moses Haia, among many others.

There is a question of whether the rule change gives the kind of legal protection that was the point of Federal recognition, or if it is merely a Federal sanction of a process already happening. The Hawai’i Independent ran a story questioning the validity of the rule change:

“We have to remember that this process started with the State of Hawai‘i, not the Hawaiian people,” [Andre] Perez told The Independent over the phone. “Hawaiians did not initiate or pass Act 195, which created Kana‘iolowalu. The state legislature did, and gave the governor the power to appoint members to the commission. True self-determination does not come with a state-initiated, state-controlled process like this.”

Keanu Sai happened to speak to my class the day after the rule change. As I pondered the question of whether this was a victory for the Fed Rec set, it seemed to have no effect on Sai’s view that it was simply more Federal legislation inapplicable in foreign (Hawaiian) territory.

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On Consciousness

This is number 5 in my “On” series. Others include On Capitalism, On Privilege, On Freedom and On Constitutionalism. Forthcoming: On Fear and On Democracy.

The philosopher Daniel Dennett tells a funny story: he says when he’s at a party and someone asks him what he does, and he says he’s a professor, their eyes glaze over. When he’s at a party of professors and one asks him what his field is and he says “philosophy,” their eyes glaze over. And when he’s at a party of philosophers, and one asks him what he studies and he says “consciousness,” their eyes glaze over. So the philosophy of consciousness is not something that inspires excitement in even the most scholarly among us, but I argue here that it is precisely where we’ve gone astray and is the solution to most of the problems we – the modern world – face.

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Daniel Dennett

I’ve written at some length about the idea of development, that is, that we change and grow over time. This is an idea about which most modern societies have some ambiguity; we both know and do not know that it is going on. We all know that children develop – that phases of development are natural and normal, and it is normal for your two year old to be self-centered in a way that would make an adult appear like a psychopath. But then we have the idea that development somehow stops at some magical age – between 18 and 21 – after which we are “all equal.” And yet we also know that this is not true, which is why you have to be 35 to be president of the United States, and no undergrads are tapped to be university presidents. What I’m saying is not new agery, but standard developmental psychology: development continues on throughout adulthood and most never come anywhere near the “end” point.

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Graham Hancock

But what I want to address here is not so much the level of consciousness, but the state of consciousness prevalent in the modern West (and increasingly, the East). I was prompted to this by a “banned” TED talk by Graham Hancock, who makes a strong case that there is something like a conspiracy against certain states of consciousness. Now Hancock holds that these preferable states are accessible through certain psychotropic plants – he is not the first I’ve heard say that it is highly likely that the substances used in the ancient mystery schools (of which Plato was probably a member) were psychotropic. I don’t condone the use of these substances, in fact I’m fairly neutral on them, but Hancock also argues persuasively that the societally approved drugs – particularly ones like caffeine and ritalin – promote a state that, while good for problem-solving, is not conducive to examining the moral questions we face. This may be why the “best and the brightest” of our societies have brought us the nuclear bomb, GMOs and a generally more dangerous world. They know “what” to do but not “why” it should be done – it shouldn’t.* This “rational” state that we are encouraged to remain in makes us good cogs in the gigantic machines we are all part of, thoughtlessly commuting to jobs that generally make the world worse.

It is my view that these preferred states are accessible without any substances; through introspection and perhaps meditation, though they probably do require the elimination of the “approved” substances and daily stresses. Hancock is quite compelling in his argument that the prevalent state of consciousness has created most of the problems we see around us and that they cannot be solved from that same state of consciousness, but require another.

  • For those who would accuse me of being anti-science: I’m not recommending going back to what was before science, but going beyond it – putting science into a larger framework which factors in moral considerations.

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Russia (and Hawai’i) in House of Cards

I haven’t binge-watched season three of House of Cards so while there are some episode spoilers here there are no season spoilers. I’m on episode 3, which is about where any reasonable person would be…

Brian Schatz and Maizie Hirono must have been thrilled to be featured in the Netflix hit show House of Cards’ third season. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia is probably less so. A character based on Schatz offers President Underwood’s (Kevin Spacey) right-hand man Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) a job at an “above the cap” salary. Stamper refuses though the new right hand says “Freshman Senator from Hawai’i?  he’s a nice guy.” “Who is the senior Senator from Hawai’i?” Stamper interrogates. He says he can’t remember, to which Stamper replies “It’s [a Japanese woman meant to be Hirono], so how would you know [Schatz] is a nice guy? The President is behind this.” Underwood may indeed be trying to keep Stamper at arm’s length because of a brewing scandal involving a prostitute paid to distract an errant Congressman who ends up dead.

Reviews of the new season have been luke warm – the thrill of chasing the Presidency has been replaced by the banality of the daily task of governing. But the depiction of Putin, by Lars Mikkelsen, is spot on: charming, deadly, and a “thug,” as First Lady (and now UN Ambassdor) Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) describes him. A pure political animal. His attitude is best summed up by a story he tells Underwood at the end of episode 3, which is his way of refusing a Middle East deal: “You what the best part of the fall of the Soviet Union was? The cars. Have you ever ridden in a Lada?” Underwood, taken in, says he hasn’t. “Putin” – the names have been changed to protect the guilty – describes the “worst car in the world.” “After the fall, we got the Lexus. Lots of room, AC… the first time I [expletive]d my ex-wife, it was in a Lexus – you could never do that in a Lada.” Underwood is now really taken in. “I want the Lexus. You’re offering me a Lada.”

The really chilling part for me was that I had just watched a Frontline episode on “Putin’s Way” – the “Russian way” – depicting the unprecedented corruption and illegality which had helped secure Putin’s power as the successor to Boris Yeltsin in the late 1990s. The most enigmatic of countries, Russia under Putin has gone from the symbol of Communist [forced] equality to the most unequal country in the world. The average Russian now earns only $871 per year and 110 Russian “oligarchs” control 35% of the countries wealth. Putin, for his trouble, is estimated to be worth $40 billion, making him about the fourth or fifth richest men in the world (these are CIA estimates).

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/putins-way/

 My unrequested political analysis: Underwood’s “America Works” program is ludicrous – full employment? Even Obamacare recognizes that a few will always choose not to have healthcare at any price. Likewise, a few (probably very many) will always be unmatched for jobs no matter how unskilled. The star of episode one? Steven Colbert: “AmWorks? Is that what you’re calling this? Is it like Amway, some kind of pyramid scheme?”

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My article in The Nation – the original

There were several versions, but you may be able to see the difference between the final version and this one below: The Nation edited it to be more colloquial (I wasnʻt too happy about that) but also had one of the most rigorous fact checking regimens of any US publication (that was good). I didnʻt have many “wrong” points, but had to “tone down” some of the language from this original. Also, some had to be cut for their (restrictive for this topic) 1000-word limit. But The Nation is the oldest weekly newsmagazine in the US. Founded in 1865, it is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year (2015). It is also the most important media outlet of the left, and I was quite proud to write for them. You should see some significant differences in turns of phrase and the way data is presented.

On June 24th, in the conference room of the Hawaiʻi State Capitol in Honolulu, Native Hawaiians gathered for the first of several hearings held by the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) throughout the Hawaiian Islands as well as on the U.S. continent. The hearings were held to ask Native Hawaiians for input on the formation of a Federally recognized nation. Surprisingly, after decades of endeavoring to achieve such a status, the overwhelming response to the panel of DOI officials was “aʻole” – no. At the Honolulu hearing, Political Science Professor Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua questioned the “reestablishing of a relationship” between the Federal government and the Native Hawaiian community, when no relationship existed other than the treaty relationships with the Hawaiian Kingdom. She asked DOI to recognize that “you are on our land,” proposed “free, prior and informed consent” and neutral international monitoring. Several speakers also reminded DOI that Hawaiʻi was previously a neutral, multi-ethnic country, and stated that the descendants of its non-native citizens were now being disenfranchised. Between two and five percent at all the hearings spoke in favor, including Hawaiian Roll Commissioner Naʻalehu Anthony, who said he did not want to pass the struggle on to his son after watching three generations fight for Hawaiian rights.

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Mainstream media coverage focused on tone, rather than content and missed the real story, which was that a shift in Hawaiian political will and a consensus had emerged over the proper route to sovereignty. In a community known for its divisiveness, this shift was quite stunning. Under the radar, a new view of Hawaiian history had taken hold, one in which debates over the history of the Hawaiian Kingdom, overthrown in 1893, were at the center.

Unified in 1810 by King Kamehameha I, Hawaiʻi was recognized internationally as a sovereign, independent country beginning in 1843. Fifty years later, the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi had treaties with nearly all the sovereign states in existence, including five with the US. In 1893, Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown by sugar businessmen backed a company of US Marines. President Cleveland called this unauthorized intervention an “act of war,” withdrew the proposed annexation treaty and agreed to reinstate Liliʻuokalani. On Feb February 9th, 1893, The Nation wrote, “We could not by annexation at the moment gain anything which we do not now possess.” A standoff between the President and Congress over the question of annexation prevented any action for five years.

When William McKinley took office in 1897, he attempted a second treaty, but this failed in the Senate, in part because of petitions opposing annexation. When the Spanish-American war broke out the following year, McKinley and annexationists in Congress led by Alabama Senator (and Ku Klux Klan “Dragon”) John Tyler Morgan decided, in the words of Congressman Thomas Ball of Texas, “to do unlawfully that which can not be done lawfully.” In 1898 they purported to annex Hawaiʻi via Joint Resolution. While the Congress issued a formal apology to the Hawaiian people in 1993 “for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 17, 1893 with the participation of agents and citizens of the United States,” it is the subsequent annexation by resolution that lies at the heart of the current drama.

Those who accept that Hawaiʻi was annexed, legally or not, have pursued a course of Federal recognition leading to a limited form of “sovereignty.” This view is epitomized by former Governor John Waiheʻe, who said at the University of Hawaiʻi that one “would have to be illiterate” not to recognize the illegality of annexation, but questions how such a position would benefit Hawaiians. Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Trustee Oswald Stender said more bluntly, on film, that Hawaiʻi was illegally annexed, but “so what?” The “domestic” approach to sovereignty first took form in the proposed Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act – the so-called “Akaka Bill” – named after its sponsor, the Native Hawaiian Senator Daniel Akaka. The bill circulated through Congress for twelve years before expiring with its sponsor’s retirement and the death of senior Senator Daniel Inouye in 2012. A new approach was devised in which the Department of Interior would propose “rule-making” changes that would allow Hawaiians to join the more than five hundred native nations already in existence. Fitting Hawaiians’ unique history into the template for Federal recognition has been a persistent challenge for advocates of this approach.

Others, taking the law at face value, find that if annexation was illegal, it is tantamount to saying that it did not occur at all. As a mere domestic instrument, a resolution, it is argued, cannot have effect in foreign territory. This means Hawaiʻi is under a prolonged military occupation, albeit one that the United States has not yet admitted to. The independence view was buoyed by a case in the International Court of Arbitration involving Hawaiʻi as an independent country. Hawaiʻi will also be listed in the 2013 War Report, a catalog of contemporary international conflicts published in Geneva, Switzerland, as an occupied state. The independence camp was given a further lift when in May, OHA CEO Kamanaʻopono Crabbe sent a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry asking for “advisement” on possible breaches of international law stemming from OHA support of Federal Recognition. Unsurprisingly, the letter caused uproar on one side and prompted petitions of support on the other.

At its root, the conflict between supporters of independence and Federal recognition stems from divergent beliefs about law and power. Independence advocates view the international law and specifically the law of occupation as safeguards against the continuation of an illegally constituted, and essentially occupying, government – the State of Hawaiʻi. They call not for decolonization, but deoccupation, as was done in the Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) upon the breakup of the Soviet Union. Federal recognition supporters are sometimes beneficiaries of Hawaiian “entitlements” such as the Federal Hawaiian Home Lands homesteading program or are U.S. military veterans, and argue that the United States would never allow a withdrawal regardless of Hawaiʻi’s legal status internationally. These views and the paths they imply appear to be mutually exclusive, making reconciliation difficult. Some suggest that a further reexamination of Hawaiʻi’s widely misunderstood history is implicated as the only route to any kind of reconciliation.

ʻUmi Perkins teaches Hawaiian history at the Kamehameha Schools and Political Science in the University of Hawaiʻi system.

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