Monday, November 26, 2012
CLICK YOU'RE IT: Photography Is Not a Crime, as the web site dedicated to that tenet iterates.
Courts across the country have pretty much closed that case by stating that police can't arrest you just for taking pictures of them. But locally it's been a fight to get some- especially and specifically a few officers in the Maui and Hawai`i Island police departments- to recognize those rulings, despite memos to that effect from department leadership.
We highlighted the case of Big Island "reporting-blogger" Damon Tucker in August of 2011 when he tried to take some pics of a police action outside a Pahoa bar where a fight had broken out. Apparently, when Tucker refused to stop taking pictures he was allegedly beaten and arrested and his camera was confiscated.
And last week it seems it happened again. Last Tuesday Maui Police arrested Maui Time (not The Maui Times) publisher Thomas A. Russo for, he says, taking video of a police operation to enforce laws regarding "over-sized vehicles and vehicles with windows having illegal tints" with his cell phone, according to a report on Maui Now, a Maui news web site.
Although Maui Time itself seems to be lacking any mention of the incident, Maui Now reports that:
Maui police arrested the publisher of Maui Time today for three alleged offenses including obstruction of government operations, resisting arrest, and harassment.
The incident stems from an attempt by Russo to allegedly video tape a traffic stop that took place this morning (November 20, 2012) along the Haleakala Highway.
Thomas A. Russo, 39, was released after posting $3,000 bail...
Maui police were conducting a traffic stop at around 9:20 a.m. along the Haleakala Highway near the Hana Highway intersection when the encounter with Russo was reported. According to police reports, two police vehicles followed a vehicle that was being pulled over for illegal tints.
Shortly thereafter, police say another vehicle pulled up behind the police vehicles and the lone operator exited and approached the traffic stop. The operator, later identified by police as Thomas A. Russo, publisher of Maui Time, started to video tape the traffic stop with his cell phone, according to police reports.
Police say Russo allegedly proceeded past the police vehicles and continued walking toward the vehicle that had been stopped while still videotaping the incident with a cell phone.
Police say that as a matter of routine police traffic stop procedures designed for officer safety, the officers advised Russo to stay behind the police vehicles while they conducted a controlled traffic stop investigation. According to police reports, Russo allegedly refused to comply and continued approaching and videotaping the officers and the two occupants.
Police said the two occupants of the vehicle then informed the officers that they had been alarmed by Russo videotaping them...
This is Russo’s second incident over the filming of police. On April 12, 2011, Russo claims he was assaulted by an MPD officer while attempting to film the crew of reality television show “Dog the Bounty Hunter” (since cancelled), and later, the same officer attending the scene.
But according to an article at "Maui Feed," an apparent offshoot of Maui Time
Citing substantial inaccuracies in both a official Maui Police Department statement and various news accounts, Maui Time Publisher Thomas Russo has posted the video footage of his Nov. 20 arrest while trying to film various Maui Police Officers engaged in “Operation Recon” on Haleakala Highway, a massive effort to ticket citizens for driving vehicles with over-sized tires and illegally tinted windows. The video clearly shows that he was complying with the Maui Police Officers’ orders that he get back from their traffic stop at the time he was arrested.
Contrary to the Maui Police Department’s assertion that Russo “compromised the officers’ safety, after failing to comply with numerous requests from the officers to move back behind the police vehicles and was then placed under arrest,” the video clearly shows Russo was arrested for filming the Maui Police Officers and not for”obstructing a government operation,” as he’s been charged with (along with resisting arrest and harassment).
Indeed, the video shows Russo complying with officer Rusty Lawson’s request that Russo stand back. Indeed, the video shows Russo walking backwards, away from the officers as Lawson repeatedly says, “Stand back.” The video also shows that after Russo identified himself by name and as a member of the media–all the while walking back, away from the officers–Lawson arrested him anyway.
“I stopped to find out why it was so important to back up traffic for miles,” Russo said after being released. “Social media was blowing up my phone, asking what was going on there. I wanted a report from the scene. I was arrested for filming and all other charges from the MPD are ridiculous. The police chose to arrest me in a direct attempt to stop the documenting of their activities.”
Filming law enforcement officers on a public highway is protected under the First Amendment, states the American Civil Liberties Union.
He goes on the quote ACLU-Hawai`i senior staff attorney Dan Gluck about the first amendment right to "photograph anything that is in plain view... includ(ing) pictures of federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police. Such photography is a form of public oversight over the government and is important in a free society.”
So, chalk up another episode of Hawai`i cops harassing members of the media for taking pictures of them?
Well, not so fast there.
Russo has chosen to post the recording on YouTube so we took a look. And contrary to Russo's account the recording certainly does NOT show "Russo complying with officer Rusty Lawson’s request that Russo stand back" or most of the other contentions in the Maui Feed article.
As the recording plainly shows Russo was not arrested for taking video but, indeed, for failing to get the heck behind the parked cars as a safety measure after being informed of the safety issue and being asked four times by police to move behind the cars.
The recording shows Russo approached the officer and repeatedly barked questions at him regarding the traffic backup Russo claimed was being being created by the police action. Traffic was apparently moving at a regular pace in the clip. The officer can be seen standing about a foot or so away from the traffic speeding by and, after being told to stand "over there"- with the officer indicating he meant behind the stopped cars- Russo refused and was arrested .
When asked, the cop identified himself as Officer Fairchild.
Contrary to Russo's account, the recording plainly shows another officer- identified by Russo as Lawson- who then approaches him and repeatedly asks him to get behind the car for safety reasons or else, Lawson finally tells Russo, he would be arrested.
Russo ignored the officer and held his ground and finally the officer moved to arrest him at which point Russo started screaming "you touched me."
Then and only then, after the officer started to arrest him for failing to move to a safer location, did Russo start backing up, saying "I'm backing up" while apparently walking backwards very slowly as the officer was attempting to handcuff and arrest him.
The video shows Russo apparently resisting arrest, or at least he did not readily submit to arrest, as Lawson can be heard saying twice. And although there was no evidence the police cared a whit about Russo recording the operation as long as he did so from a safe place, he told the officer his name telling them he was a "member of the media," apparently intimating that he thought that conferred upon him some sort of special protection from arrest.
While simply recording something, including the police, is not a crime, members of the media have no special privileges as opposed to anyone else who is otherwise following the law and recording something. As long as they are doing the recording from a public right of way or a place where they have permission to be, all have the same right to record the police. While in some jurisdictions police will issue "press passes" that generally allow reporters behind "police lines," that did not seem to be the case here and Russo did not produce any press pass.
Why why do we care?
We've been defending the rights of people in Hawai`i to record the police without harassment or arrest for years now. Tucker's was not the first incident. And it seems like police departments around the state have finally starting issuing policy and procedure memos reminding officer that they can't arrest people simply for taking pictures of them as long as the person is otherwise complying with the law.
But when people like Russo claim the "right to photograph" cops on the job and then clearly create an unsafe condition by refusing to comply with repeated reasonable and legal requests to move to a safer location to record the police, he makes that right more tenuous for all of us by misrepresenting the whole event.
At no point did anyone ask Russo to stop taking pictures or even refer to the recording or his cell phone camera.
Taking photos is not a crime. But, the ACLU will tell you, one's right to take them doesn't confer the right to otherwise violate the law while doing so. Trying to toe that line is one thing but obliterating it as Russo did and then claiming his rights were violated puts everyone's right to photograph in jeopardy.
As the recording shows, Russo was rude and obnoxious and it appears has some kind of chip on his shoulder over the issue, thinking the cops knew or even cared who he was when all they apparently cared about was insuring safety on the roads by checking for illegally oversized vehicles and tinted windows. And of course, insuring their own safety in doing so.
It just takes one to ruin it for everyone. In this case it leaves us shaking our head and wondering what world Russo lives in... and what video he was watching.
Friday, November 23, 2012
WHAT YOU WANT, BABY I GOT IT: Apparently opposition to the Public Lands Development Corporation (PDLC) has snowballed to the point where Governor Neil Abercrombie has, in a face saving operation, abandoned his paternalist patter of telling opponents they're too dumb to understand it all.
In a statement Friday, Abercrombie announced he would ask the PDLC board to abandon their rule-making for a spell until he can send his Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) chief Bill Aila out into the community to give it the one last try before the legislature- now under new management in the house- starts the process to repeal Act 55.
The "dissidents" that have taken over the house are, for the most part, those who have said they would at least consider repeal, while the "out" faction is comprised, for the most part, of those who created the PLDC in the first place and have opposed repeal.
And in the senate even Sen. Donovan Del Cruz, who played a major role in sneaking the bill through in the first place, is- homana, homana, homana- making like Ralph Kramden as it becomes clear his latest get-rich-quick scheme has blown up in his face.
That has led some opponents to warn others to treat Aila with "respect" if we expect to see him take home a "no can" message. As former Senate Majority Leader and current Kaua`i Councilmember- elect Gary Hooser- a PLDC repeal proponent- advised in a post on Facebook today:
Normally we might agree. But the utter "don't worry your pretty little head" disrespect exhibited by both Abercrombie and Aila so far hasn't exactly inspired opponents to try to make nice.
The problem with "respect" is that the very concept of the PDLC is disrespectful of the protections placed in the law over the course of decades to protect "public" lands from development. Whether in terms of environmental protections, transparency of process or the development of public lands without any deference to constitutionally-mandated "home rule," the very concept of the PLDC- essentially a handful of developers cut loose from following any of the rules- is a slap in the face to many... not to mention the fact that there are many who think most so-called "public" land was stolen from native Hawaiians to begin with.
Any attempts to circumvent current protections is a non-starter. As a matter of fact, there is nothing those who "support the concept of the PLDC" want to do that can't be done using the due processes currently in place.
If Aila comes to the community with that basic paternalistic disrespect of "oh- you just don't understand"- as he and Abercrombie have done over the past few months- they can't expect the very respect they won't show us.
The are many who have compared the PLDC to the Superferry in the fact that it is another state scheme being pushed down the throats of the neighbor islands- where much of the land in question is situated. If Aila and Abercrombie are wiser that a certain recently-defeated senate candidate they will be showing a lot more respect long before they ask for any from us.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
TASTE LIKE IT- SURE GLAD WE DIDN'T STEP IN IT: We couldn't have been older than five when we read this "Nancy and Sluggo" cartoon where they were running against each other for class president. The battle was heated and the rhetoric down and dirty. Nancy seemed a shoo-in.
But when the teacher counted the ballots she threw them all up in the air declaring, "It's a tie- everybody voted for themselves."
The final frame shows Nancy at the soda fountain buying ice cream for everyone in the class. The "captions" say:
Sluggo: " Nancy, how come you’re buying everyone ice cream?...you lost!"
Nancy: "Sluggo, you'll just never understand politics."
We thought "well, we don't get it either but, then, we're only five years old." Yet truth to tell, we think about Nancy and Sluggo and the soda fountain every election day and realize that we're just like Sluggo and don't understand politics either.
But we have learned one thing- the best food is always at the "victory" party, whether the candidate wins or loses.
So we're off to one such gathering tonight and hoping that even though out favorite candidate is not exactly a seasoned campaigner he does have lots of local political veterans on his team and, as always, they'll make sure there's "plenty local grinds" available.
After literally hundreds of political campaigns, as long as we live and we apparently remain a Sluggo- we'll never "get" politics, but that doesn't mean we won't enjoy the ice cream when it's served.
Monday, November 5, 2012
TO BUST OR NOT TO BUST- IS THAT REALLY A QUESTION?: Joan Conrow reported today what happened with Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho's attempted arrest of Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. upon whch we conjecured Friday. She says:
And in what can best be described as an act of political desperation —some might say suicide — Shay was reportedly attempting to bust Mayor Bernard Carvalho last Friday for allegedly stealing gas, an issue that surfaced this past July.
As I first heard it, Shay and Police Chief Darryl Perry had arrested the mayor. Whoa! Big drama! So I immediately contacted county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka, who replied, “No, they haven't.” But my sources were adamant that something was going down. So I contacted Beth again and asked, did the mayor turn himself in, or is this totally off base?
“No, he wasn't arrested and he didn't turn himself in,” Beth emailed back Friday afternoon. “He's been in meetings or in his office for most of the day and is still there now.”
Meanwhile, I had contacted Chief Perry. On Saturday morning, he emailed this response:
With respect to your question, no, the Mayor was not arrested as you probably know by now. While there has been a tremendous amount of speculation, I cannot comment on any on-going investigation, but what I can do is to assure you and the community that KPD will conduct investigations based on the facts and will not be subject to outside influences or threats that may deter us from seeking the truth. The facts are the facts and are not subject to subjective interpretations. And so we do what we can and treat everyone equitably irrespective of their stature in the community. However, we do not make the final decision on whether or not justice will prevail because we are only one segment of the Criminal Justice System.
Today, I was told that Shay reportedly had sought an arrest warrant, but no judge would sign.
Pray tell what level of political depravity and what kind of criminally insane mind would try to bust the mayor- whether he did anything illegal or not and whether there was any evidence of it or not (which, presumably, judging from the judges' action, or lack of it, he didn't and there isn't- a few days before an election in which she, presumably, trails badly (as evidenced by this and other recent demented attempts to abuse her measly hundred-some-odd-thousand-dollar-a-year office)?
Just askin' ya know...
While we're glad she was unable to pull her little November Surprise scam we've got to wonder why she even needed an arrest warrant but, more importantly, even though she is off her rocker, what exactly is the reason that no judge would sign off on the arrest warrant? Could we get that kind of deference if, say, someone robbed a bank and an insane prosecutor wanted to go after a certain rabid reporter- or say an Eclectic one- without a shred of valid evidence?
Just askin', ya know...
Sunday, November 4, 2012
RIGHT ON SCHEDULE: Despite the fact that many across the country are worried about intentional voter suppression in places like Ohio and Florida, the practice is apparently alive and well on little Kaua`i- although we suspect it may be due to Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr's well known penchant for the use of cronyism over skill in distributing the many appointed jobs in his administration.
Although today's press release fails to list a specific department or division responsible, an announcement of "General Election Day closures" includes the fact that, in addition to closing "all refuse transfer stations, the Kekaha Landfill, the Kaua`i Resource Center, and the Kapa`a and Waimea swimming pools... (t)he Kaua`i Bus will be operating on a modified schedule on General Election Day."
Good work Yeronnah. While everyone else trying to figure out why no one in Hawai`i votes anymore you're providing yet another reason to blow it off. We couldn't be prouder.
Saturday, November 3, 2012
GRANDMA INCORPORATED: As election day 2012 approaches there can't be many people who don't know what a "SuperPAC" is or what "Citizens United" means.
But fewer know what an IRS 501(c)4 is or what it means when it comes to the huge piles of cash being infused into federal, state and local campaigns and, more to the point, who that money is coming from.
Because one of the quirks of combining the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Citizens United (CU) decision with existing IRS non-profit-organization laws is that it allows those 501(c)4s to collect unlimited amounts of money from unknown secret donors and then give that money to the SuperPACs, resulting in hundreds of millions- if not billions- of dollars being spent without even a clue given as to where it came from.
Many objected- and still object- to CU on the basis of it's "corporate personhood" presumption- that, as Mitt Romney said, "corporations are people my friend," making it hard to know which word is more farcical, "corporations" or "friend."
But one of the contentions in support of the 5-4 decision allowing unlimited expenditures is that the money is not a problem as long as you know where it is coming from and who is doing the giving. Even individuals and some groups that support getting cash out of politics entirely often make this claim.
This is not new ground. Anyone who listens to the blathering TV heads has heard this kind of discussion. But we've been all but flabbergasted that many have completely ignored the now barely remembered or mentioned dust-up at President Obama's state of the union speech following the CU ruling.
Many will remember that, with most members of the SCOTUS sitting a few feet away, Obama criticized the ruling, not just for it's potential to flood the country with cash from unknown donors but for the fact that those secret donors could well be foreign entities- whether actual people or overseas corporations- who can now funnel money though those 501(c)4s- in violation of US law forbidding foreign money in US politics.
That led to ultra-conservative Justice Sam Alito's now infamous indignant head shaking and his mouthing of the words "not true" at Obama's suggestion regarding the potential for illegal foreign money influencing US election- indicating that such a thing could not be a result of the ruling.
So where is the discussion of this amongst the corporate punditry? Are their memories that short? Moreover, where are the demands that Alito and the rest of the five CU decision supporters- Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy- acknowledge that their position has been demonstrably shown to be a pile of hogshit and indeed the floodgates allowing foreign cash are wide open.
The fact is that foreign cash may well be a big part of the "SuperPAC" influx that has made this year's election a minefield of back-to-back-to-back 30 second clips of spooky music and lying, sarcastic voices. That's because the source of the money is, well, secret. While no one has found actual foreign cash going through 501(c)4s to SuperPACs no one has identified any of the secret donors.
Since no one can prove anything either way, the odds that a foreign person, company or even government has spent millions to influence US elections without anyone knowing it are astronomically in favor of it.
And unless one of the unholy five drops dead soon it seems a good bet it will only get worse for the foreseeable future.
Friday, November 2, 2012
CALL ME ADOLPH: The rumor mill in Lihu`e was churning out sausage at an alarming rate Friday and apparently you couldn't walk down the street without hearing about a certain prosecutor's plans to charge a certain chief executive with stealing certain large amounts of a certain combustible fluid.
The arrest appears to be part of a planned scorched-earth march through Atlanta- an important element of a certain SIC individual's upcoming "no blame-no shayme/Fuck You, Kaua`i" retirement tour that may indeed include a parade of certain other mucky-mucks on a certain prosecutor's enemies list winding up in a certain Wailua pokey... right after said certain prosecutor loses a certain election on a certain Tuesday next week.
It certainly doesn't seem like our nutzo-futzo drama queen is planning on practicing law after knifing a certain circuit court judge last week when said judgy-wudgy got quite wuzzy with our alcoholic fuzzy.
Is Paris- er Lihu`e Burning?
TWO PIGS TO FLAIL: In a recent interview with Rolling Stone President Obama directly criticized Matt Taibbi's article earlier this year on the Dodd-Frank Wall St. reform legislation over what Taibbi calls the "red herring" of Obama's claim that the collapse of Lehman Brothers had nothing to do with the 1990's repeal of Glass Steagall- the law that used to separate commercial and investment banks- because Lehman wasn't such an institution. Taibbi's blog post last week refutes Obama's claim and reminds us of what really happened.
ANCHORS AWEIGH With the names Linda Lingle and Mitt Romney on the ballot next week if you missed this recent "Wired" article about John Lehman- the former Secretary of the Navy, current adviser to Mitt Romney and the brains behind the Superferry- this would be a good time to peruse it. As the article says:
"Lehman invested in a government-backed “Superferry” in Hawaii — a business that ultimately failed, but not before boosting the standing of Austal USA, an Alabama shipbuilder that constructed the ferry service’s ships. Austal USA’s rising fortunes in turn benefited international defense giant BAE Systems, which then bought up shipyards owned by Lehman in order to work more closely with Austal USA. "
It's especially ingratiating to see that, historically, this is the final narrative on the Superferry- that it was never intended as a transportation system but was always a demonstration project for new a line of Navy vessels designed simply to line Lehman's pockets and, tangentially, allow Linda Lingle to suck up to the ultra-conservatives in the Republican Party.
Many chided us at the time for being critical of some some Superferry opponents, among them Kahoon Paik and Jerry Mander whose so-called "definitive" book, the Superferry Chronicles, failed to expose this connection (which we detailed at the time along with Joan Conrow in her USS Superferry series) and rather used corporate media article to paint a picture without the military connection.