Pre-mortem for the internet

SUBHEAD: Unlike the death of the telegraph, the death of the internet won't be a harbinger for something bigger and better.

By John Michael Greer on 29 April 2015 for Archdruid Report -

Image above: Rendering of a PanAm version of the Boeing 2707 SST circa 1968. From (

The mythic role assigned to progress in today’s popular culture has any number of odd effects, but one of the strangest is the blindness to the downside that clamps down on the collective imagination of our time once people become convinced that something or other is the wave of the future.

It doesn’t matter in the least how many or obvious the warning signs are, or how many times the same tawdry drama has been enacted.

Once some shiny new gimmick gets accepted as the next glorious step in the invincible march of progress, most people lose the ability to imagine that the wave of the future might just do what waves generally do: that is to say, crest, break, and flow back out to sea, leaving debris scattered on the beach in its wake.

It so happens that I grew up in the middle of just such a temporary wave of the future, in the south Seattle suburbs in the 1960s, where every third breadwinner worked for Boeing. The wave in question was the supersonic transport, SST for short: a jetliner that would fly faster than sound, cutting hours off long flights.

The inevitability of the SST was an article of faith locally, and not just because Boeing was building one; an Anglo-French consortium was in the lead with the Concorde, and the Soviets were working on the Tu-144, but the Boeing 2707 was expected to be the biggest and baddest of them all, a 300-seat swing-wing plane that was going to make commercial supersonic flight an everyday reality.

Long before the 2707 had even the most ghostly sort of reality, you could buy model kits of the plane, complete with Pan Am decals, at every hobby store in the greater Seattle area.

For that matter, take Interstate 5 south from downtown Seattle past the sprawling Boeing plant just outside of town, and you’d see the image of the 2707 on the wall of one of the huge assembly buildings, a big delta-winged shape in white and gold winging its way through the imagined air toward the gleaming future in which so many people believed back then.

There was, as it happened, a small problem with the 2707, a problem it shared with all the other SST projects; it made no economic sense at all.

It was, to be precise, what an earlier post here called a subsidy dumpster: that is, a project that was technically feasible but economically impractical, and existed mostly as a way to pump government subsidies into Boeing’s coffers.

Come 1971, the well ran dry: faced with gloomy numbers from the economists, worried calculations from environmental scientists, and a public not exactly enthusiastic about dozens of sonic booms a day rattling plates and cracking windows around major airports, Congress cut the project’s funding.

That happened right when the US economy generally, and the notoriously cyclical airplane industry in particular, were hitting downturns.

>Boeing was Seattle’s biggest employer in those days, and when it laid off employees en masse, the result was a local depression of legendary severity. You heard a lot of people in those days insisting that the US had missed out on the next aviation boom, and Congress would have to hang its head in shame once Concordes and Tu-144s were hauling passengers all over the globe.

Of course that’s not what happened. The Tu-144 flew a handful of commercial flights and then was grounded for safety reasons, and the Concorde lingered on, a technical triumph but an economic white elephant, until the last plane retired from service in 2003.

All this has been on my mind of late as I’ve considered the future of the internet. The comparison may seem far-fetched, but then that’s what supporters of the SST would have said if anyone had compared the Boeing 2707 to, say, the zeppelin, another wave of the future that turned out to make too little economic sense to matter.

Granted, the internet isn’t a subsidy dumpster, and it’s also much more complex than the SST; if anything, it might be compared to the entire system of commercial air travel, which we still have with us or the moment.

Nonetheless, a strong case can be made that the internet, like the SST, doesn’t actually make economic sense; it’s being propped up by a set of financial gimmickry with a distinct resemblance to smoke and mirrors; and when those go away—and they will—much of what makes the internet so central a part of pop culture will go away as well.

It’s probably necessary to repeat here that the reasons for this are economic, not technical. Every time I’ve discussed the hard economic realities that make the internet’s lifespan in the deindustrial age roughly that of a snowball in Beelzebub’s back yard, I’ve gotten a flurry of responses fixating on purely technical issues.

Those issues are beside the point.

No doubt it would be possible to make something like the internet technically feasible in a society on the far side of the Long Descent, but that doesn’t matter; what matters is that the internet has to cover its operating costs, and it also has to compete with other ways of doing the things that the internet currently does.

It’s a source of wry amusement to me that so many people seem to have forgotten that the internet doesn’t actually do very much that’s new.

Long before the internet, people were reading the news, publishing essays and stories, navigating through unfamiliar neighborhoods, sharing photos of kittens with their friends, ordering products from faraway stores for home delivery, looking at pictures of people with their clothes off, sending anonymous hate-filled messages to unsuspecting recipients, and doing pretty much everything else that they do on the internet today.

For the moment, doing these things on the internet is cheaper and more convenient than the alternatives, and that’s what makes the internet so popular. If that changes—if the internet becomes more costly and less convenient than other options—its current popularity is unlikely to last.

Let’s start by looking at the costs. Every time I’ve mentioned the future of the internet on this blog, I’ve gotten comments and emails from readers who think that the price of their monthly internet service is a reasonable measure of the cost of the internet as a whole.

For a useful corrective to this delusion, talk to people who work in data centers. You’ll hear about trucks pulling up to the loading dock every single day to offload pallet after pallet of brand new hard drives and other components, to replace those that will burn out that same day. You’ll hear about power bills that would easily cover the electricity costs of a small city. You’ll hear about many other costs as well.

Data centers are not cheap to run, there are many thousands of them, and they’re only one part of the vast infrastructure we call the internet: by many measures, the most gargantuan technological project in the history of our species.

Your monthly fee for internet service covers only a small portion of what the internet costs. Where does the rest come from? That depends on which part of the net we’re discussing.

The basic structure is paid for by internet service providers (ISPs), who recoup part of the costs from your monthly fee, part from the much larger fees paid by big users, and part by advertising.

Content providers use some mix of advertising, pay-to-play service fees, sales of goods and services, packaging and selling your personal data to advertisers and government agencies, and new money from investors and loans to meet their costs.

The ISPs routinely make a modest profit on the deal, but many of the content providers do not.

Amazon may be the biggest retailer on the planet, for example, and its cash flow has soared in recent years, but its expenses have risen just as fast, and it rarely makes a profit. Many other content provider firms, including fish as big as Twitter, rack up big losses year after year.

How do they stay in business?

A combination of vast amounts of investment money and ultracheap debt. That’s very common in the early decades of a new industry, though it’s been made a good deal easier by the Fed’s policy of next-to-zero interest rates.

Investors who dream of buying stock in the next Microsoft provide venture capital for internet startups, banks provide lines of credit for existing firms, the stock and bond markets snap up paper of various kinds churned out by internet businesses, and all that money goes to pay the bills.

any of the firms they’re funding will go belly up within a few years, but the few that don’t will either be bought up at inflated prices by one of the big dogs of the online world, or will figure out how to make money and then become big dogs themselves.

Notice, though, that this process has an unexpected benefit for ordinary internet users: a great many services are available for free, because venture-capital investors and lines of credit are footing the bill for the time being.

Boosting the number of page views and clickthroughs is far more important for the future of an internet company these days than making a profit, and so the usual business plan is to provide plenty of free goodies to the public without worrying about the financial end of things.

That’s very convenient just now for internet users, but it fosters the illusion that the internet costs nothing.

As mentioned earlier, this sort of thing is very common in the early decades of a new industry. As the industry matures, markets become saturated, startups become considerably riskier, and venture capital heads for greener pastures.

Once this happens, the companies that dominate the industry have to stay in business the old-fashioned way, by earning a profit, and that means charging as much as the market will bear, monetizing services that are currently free, and cutting service to the lowest level that customers will tolerate.

That’s business as usual, and it means the end of most of the noncommercial content that gives the internet so much of its current role in popular culture.

Image above: A Tupelev TU-144 SST in 2010, as it has sats since 1985, in a yard outside of the Kazan Institute of Aviation in the former Soviet Union. From (

All other things being equal, in other words, the internet can be expected to follow the usual trajectory of a maturing industry, becoming more expensive, less convenient, and more tightly focused on making a quick buck with each passing year.

Governments have already begun to tax internet sales, removing one of the core “stealth subsidies” that boosted the internet at the expense of other retail sectors, and taxation of the internet will only increase as cash-starved officials contemplate the tidal waves of money sloshing back and forth online.

None of these changes will kill the internet, but they’ll slap limits on the more utopian fantasies currently burbling about the web, and provide major incentives for individuals and businesses to back away from the internet and do things in the real world instead.

Then there’s the increasingly murky world of online crime, espionage, and warfare, which promises to push very hard in the same direction in the years ahead.

I think most people are starting to realize that on the internet, there’s no such thing as secure data, and the costs of conducting business online these days include a growing risk of having your credit cards stolen, your bank accounts looted, your identity borrowed for any number of dubious purposes, and the files on your computer encrypted without your knowledge, so that you can be forced to pay a ransom for their release—this latter, or so I’ve read, is the latest hot new trend in internet crime.

Online crime is one of the few fields of criminal endeavor in which raw cleverness is all you need to make out, as the saying goes, like a bandit.

In the years ahead, as a result, the internet may look less like an information superhighway and more like one of those grim inner city streets where not even the muggers go alone. Trends in online espionage and warfare are harder to track, but either or both could become a serious burden on the internet as well.

Online crime, espionage, and warfare aren’t going to kill the internet, any more than the ordinary maturing of the industry will. Rather, they’ll lead to a future in which costs of being online are very often greater than the benefits, and the internet is by and large endured rather than enjoyed. They’ll also help drive the inevitable rebound away from the net.

That’s one of those things that always happens and always blindsides the cheerleaders of the latest technology: a few decades into its lifespan, people start to realize that they liked the old technology better, thank you very much, and go back to it.

The rebound away from the internet has already begun, and will only become more visible as time goes on, making a great many claims about the future of the internet look as absurd as those 1950s articles insisting that in the future, every restaurant would inevitably be a drive-in.

To be sure, the resurgence of live theater in the wake of the golden age of movie theaters didn’t end cinema, and the revival of bicycling in the aftermath of the automobile didn’t make cars go away.

In the same way, the renewal of interest in offline practices and technologies isn’t going to make the internet go away. It’s simply going to accelerate the shift of avant-garde culture away from an increasingly bleak, bland, unsafe, and corporate- and government-controlled internet and into alternative venues.

That won’t kill the internet, though once again it will put a stone marked R.I.P. atop the grave of a lot of the utopian fantasies that have clustered around today’s net culture.

All other things being equal, in fact, there’s no reason why the internet couldn’t keep on its present course for years to come.

Under those circumstances, it would shed most of the features that make it popular with today’s avant-garde, and become one more centralized, regulated, vacuous mass medium, packed to the bursting point with corporate advertising and lowest-common-denominator content, with dissenting voices and alternative culture shut out or shoved into corners where nobody ever looks.

That’s the normal trajectory of an information technology in today’s industrial civilization, after all; it’s what happened with radio and television in their day, as the gaudy and grandiose claims of the early years gave way to the crass commercial realities of the mature forms of each medium.

But all other things aren’t equal.

Radio and television, like most of the other familiar technologies that define life in a modern industrial society, were born and grew to maturity in an expanding economy.

The internet, by contrast, was born during the last great blowoff of the petroleum age—the last decades of the twentieth century, during which the world’s industrial nations took the oil reserves that might have cushioned the transition to sustainability, and blew them instead on one last orgy of over-the-top conspicuous consumption—and it’s coming to maturity in the early years of an age of economic contraction and ecological blowback.

The rising prices, falling service quality, and relentless monetization of a maturing industry, together with the increasing burden of online crime and the inevitable rebound away from internet culture, will thus be hitting the internet in a time when the global economy no longer has the slack it once did, and the immense costs of running the internet in anything like its present form will have to be drawn from a pool of real wealth that has many other demands on it.

What’s more, quite a few of those other demands will be far more urgent than the need to provide consumers with a convenient way to send pictures of kittens to their friends. That stark reality will add to the pressure to monetize internet services, and provide incentives to those who choose to send their kitten pictures by other means.

It’s crucial to remember here, as noted above, that the internet is simply a cheaper and more convenient way of doing things that people were doing long before the first website went live, and a big part of the reason why it’s cheaper and more convenient right now is that internet users are being subsidized by the investors and venture capitalists who are funding the internet industry. That’s not the only subsidy on which the internet depends, though.

Along with the rest of industrial society, it’s also subsidized by half a billion years of concentrated solar energy in the form of fossil fuels.

As those deplete, the vast inputs of energy, labor, raw materials, industrial products, and other forms of wealth that sustain the internet will become increasingly expensive to provide, and ways of distributing kitten pictures that don’t require the same inputs will prosper in the resulting competition.

There are also crucial issues of scale. Most pre-internet communications and information technologies scale down extremely well.

A community of relatively modest size can have its own public library, its own small press, its own newspaper, and its own radio station running local programming, and could conceivably keep all of these functioning and useful even if the rest of humanity suddenly vanished from the map. Internet technology doesn’t have that advantage.

It’s orders of magnitude more complex and expensive than a radio transmitter, not to mention the 14th-century technology of printing presses and card catalogs; what’s more, on the scale of a small community, the benefits of using internet technology instead of simpler equivalents wouldn’t come close to justifying the vast additional cost.

Now of course the world of the future isn’t going to consist of a single community surrounded by desolate wasteland. That’s one of the reasons why the demise of the internet won’t happen all at once.

Telecommunications companies serving some of the more impoverished parts of rural America are already letting their networks in those areas degrade, since income from customers doesn’t cover the costs of maintenance.

To my mind, that’s a harbinger of the internet’s future—a future of uneven decline punctuated by local and regional breakdowns, some of which will be fixed for a while.

That said, it’s quite possible that there will still be an internet of some sort fifty years from now. It will connect government agencies, military units, defense contractors, and the handful of universities that survive the approaching implosion of the academic industry here in the US, and it may provide email and a few other services to the very rich, but it will otherwise have a lot more in common with the original DARPAnet than with the 24/7 virtual cosmos imagined by today’s more gullible netheads.

Unless you’re one of the very rich or an employee of one of the institutions just named, furthermore, you won’t have access to the internet of 2065.

You might be able to hack into it, if you have the necessary skills and are willing to risk a long stint in a labor camp, but unless you’re a criminal or a spy working for the insurgencies flaring in the South or the mountain West, there’s not much point to the stunt.

If you’re like most Americans in 2065, you live in Third World conditions without regular access to electricity or running water, and you’ve got other ways to buy things, find out what’s going on in the world, find out how to get to the next town and, yes, look at pictures of people with their clothes off.

What’s more, in a deindustrializing world, those other ways of doing things will be cheaper, more resilient, and more useful than reliance on the baroque intricacies of a vast computer net.

Exactly when the last vestiges of the internet will sputter to silence is a harder question to answer.

Long before that happens, though, it will have lost its current role as one of the poster children of the myth of perpetual progress, and turned back into what it really was all the time: a preposterously complex way to do things most people have always done by much simpler means, which only seemed to make sense during that very brief interval of human history when fossil fuels were abundant and cheap.


TMT Star Wars - Hawaii Style

SUBHEAD: Indigenous Hawaiian activists take on Northern Hemisphere’s biggest telescope planned for Mauna Kea.

By Ed Rampell on 26 April 2015 for Earth Island Journal -

Image above: Demonstrators protest the building of the TMT on Mauna Kea. From original article.

The Big Island of Hawaii is often in the news because of the active Kilauea volcano. However, an eruption of another sort at the dormant 13,796 foot-high Mauna Kea is thrusting Hawaii back into the headlines. This explosion of activism has been triggered not by TNT, but by “TMT,” the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope, the Northern Hemisphere’s largest, most advanced optical telescope, which is slated to be built on the summit of the Aloha State’s highest peak.

This 184 foot-tall, 18 story-high, eight acre, $1.4 billion construction project has sparked a wave of occupations and protests by Native Hawaiians, environmentalists, and their allies, stretching from Hawaii to California.

Opponents have flocked to Mauna Kea to stop construction of the telescope and adjacent conservatory, staging acts of civil disobedience and causing a PR nightmare that has taken the TMT International Observatory LLC, a multinational conglomerate, by surprise. Last October, protesters disrupted the star-crossed project’s groundbreaking ceremony atop Mauna Kea.

Across the Pacific, demonstrators gathered in Palo Alto, CA, outside the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which has pledged $200 million to fund the controversial project.

Later, protesters setup roadblocks to prevent equipment and machinery from reaching Mauna Kea’s summit to continue construction. On April 2, 31 protesters, known as the Mauna Kea 31, were reportedly arrested for trespassing, blocking work vehicles, and disobeying an officer. Those arrested included longtime campaigners Moanikeala Akaka, 70, a former trustee with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (a State agency overseeing indigenous matters), and James Albertini, 68.

So far, the protests have been successful. “[As of] April 21, we are in ‘stand down,’” Sandra Dawson, TMT Manager of Hawaii Community Affairs, said via a conference call to Hilo, Hawaii (with a Honolulu-based Becker Communications publicist on the line).

“TMT has agreed to halt construction temporarily while stakeholders are talking about different ideas for moving forward…. Governor [David] Ige asked if we would halt construction for a period and we agreed. Then we met with him again and we said we’d continue the construction halt for a period of time while people pursued conversations.” According to Dawson, only one-and-a-half days of construction have been done since the project started in April.

It is unclear how long these tête-à-têtes between various concerned parties will continue — the postponement is for an unspecified amount of time. On April 17, Governor Ige, a Democrat, issued a statement asserting, “The TMT team is legally entitled to use its discretion to proceed with construction.”

Interviewed by phone on the Big Island, Kealoha Pisciotta, a Native religious practitioner and spokeswoman for the Mauna Kea activists who was raised on the Big Island, told EIJ that over 100 TMT opponents from throughout the archipelago were still occupying the mountain, operating “the ‘Aloha Checkpoint,’ at the 9,000-foot level, where they’re primarily stationed.”

Since the length of this construction suspension is uncertain and up to TMT, “we cannot stand down,” maintained Pisciotta, who had just returned from meeting with Governor Ige at Oahu, presenting him with an anti-TMT petition containing 53,000 signatures and encouraging him to “drop the charges against the ‘Mauna Kea 31.’”

Pisciotta described herself as having worked in the astronomy industry for 12 years and having been involved in litigation against observatory interests for years. She indicated TMT includes entities she’s fought in the courts in the past.

On April 19, 75 demonstrators, many wearing tattoos, Aloha shirts, and flip flops, waving Hawaiian flags and signs, and reciting slogans and Polynesian chants, gathered on the four corners of the intersection outside TMT’s headquarters in Pasadena, CA, near the 110 Freeway exit.

Image above: Artist's rendering of the TMT (lower left) on Mauna Kea. From original article.

What is TMT?

This 30 meter-wide telescope project, which began in 2003, has become a joint effort by the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy, the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, as well as the governments of the US, China, India, Japan, and Canada. Dawson dubbed it “the first real pan-Pacific observatory.”

The TMT conglomerate subleases land from the University of Hawaii (UH), which leases 11,000 acres on Mauna Kea from the State of Hawaii, in exchange for “observing time on some of the best telescopes in the world, somewhere between 7.5 and 15 percent of observing time on all the telescopes,” explained Dawson. The Moore Foundation’s funding started circa 2006. The state’s Board of Land and Natural Resources, which oversees state land, approved the TMT undertaking.

TMT’s purpose is to study the “Milky Way and its neighboring galaxies,” according to its website. “[TMT] will see further back in space and thus in time … within 400,000 years of the Big Bang … and get a sense of what happened when galaxies and stars were first forming,” Dawson said. “That’s very, very exciting.” She added that the telescope will also find and observe new planets and solar systems, including, perhaps, other worlds showing signs of life, as well as a black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy and dark matter.

Sacred Sites?

Meanwhile, back on Earth, the proposed TMT project spurred opposition because of cultural and ecological concerns. According to Pasadena demonstration spokeswoman Mikilani Young, “First, we’re protecting our aina [land], Mauna Kea is the most sacred place on the Hawaiian Islands, where we believe [the pre-Christian deities] Papa and Wakea came together and made all our islands…. It’s not only about protecting Mauna Kea but sacred lands around the world.” Pisciotta shared similar concerns. “TMT is located right in a ring of cultural shrines,” she said. “Mauna Kea is a burial ground.”

Locals also assert that UH has poorly managed previous telescope projects. “UH was allowed essentially control of the Mauna Kea area. They have been allowing the building of these telescopes and there have been a number of court cases” said Rosa Rivera Furumato, a professor of Chicano Studies at California State University, Northridge, who identified herself as a US-born Chicana indigenous person of Yaqui and Cora ancestry, and part of Young’s Hula Halau (traditional Hawaiian dance school and troupe).

“UH has not done a good job with it. For example, there’s runoff there, waste from [the] construction site, so there’s destruction of … sacred family altars and sites…. Some of the most high-ranking ancients of Hawaii are buried up there. There’s been all this desecration and they have not consulted very well with Native Hawaiians to be able to share use of that place. Now, the idea of building this additional observatory is just the last straw…. You don’t have to be indigenous to understand this issue — we need to take care of our sacred sites.”

But Dawson disagrees. “On the TMT site, it was chosen, specifically, because there are no archaeological artifacts there … no heiaus [pre-Christian temples], no burials — it’s a basalt lava field,” she said. “It’s been looked at very closely and determined by the State Historic Preservation [Division] and others, no, there is nothing like that on our site.” However, Dawson demurred from saying whether or not there were culturally significant sites elsewhere at the summit, admitting, “I’m not the expert on Mauna Kea” outside the TMT site.


Local communities are also worried about potential impacts to the ecosystem on islands that have already been beset by overdevelopment. “Environmentally it will affect our islands. There are aquifers on the bottom — no one can 100 percent guarantee it won’t destroy the environment. What little we have we don’t want destroyed,” said Young, who is originally from Honolulu, but now lives in LA’s San Fernando Valley and is a kumu hula (Hawaiian dance school teacher/leader). “They’re saying they’re going to be building containers underneath to store chemicals. If anybody knows Hawaii, we have earthquakes and that’s where [volcano goddess] Madame Pele lives. If she decides to erupt, nobody can 100 percent guarantee those [containers] won’t be destroyed and affect the rest of the island”

Mikilani’s wife, Nanea Young, added, “It may seep into the ground and affect the whole island.” According to a leaflet by Kahea, the Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, disbursed at the rally these containers will be “5,000 gallon underground tanks for waste storage, including hazardous chemicals” and “construction will impact fragile habitats of native plants and animals,” As an example, Pasadena protesters cited the endangered silversword flower.

Waving a sign in front of TMT’s HQ, Moka Kaehuaea added Mauna Kea “is an essential part of the ecosystem because that’s where lots of the snow is gathered and it trickles down and is kind of feeding the rest of the mountain. Definitely, if you’re going to dig into the mountain, there’s potential of affecting the groundwater below.”

Dawson disputed these contentions, asserting that there are no silverswords or other endangered species on the TMT site, and that, “In TMT’s Environmental Impact Statement, hydrologists said there’s no way [any water] from the top of Mauna Kea gets into any aquifer.” She added that Mauna Kea was specially selected “for its clear skys and stable air,” and that activists haven’t proposed any other locations.

In addition to potential environmental impacts of the TMT telescope, activists say there are several other observatories on the mountain that have been decommissioned, but not yet removed, and which continue to impact the land.

Big Island Benefits?

Dawson stated that TMT is making major contributions to the state and Big Island economy, including paying $1 million a year lease rent; $1 million a year for education; plus $1 million a year to develop workers for high-tech jobs, including IT, engineers and astronomers, for TMT and other observatories. TMT also claims that during the 8-10 year building period, up to 300 construction jobs will be created, and that once opened the observatory will employ 140 people. Dawson added that while there is currently a standstill on construction, TMT will proceed with its contentious plans.

TMT opponents insist they are not “anti-science.” Since time immemorial, ancient Polynesians have been superb stargazers, charting their course across the Pacific by following the constellations. Contemporary Hawaiians, such as Hokule’a voyaging canoe navigator Nainoa Thompson, continue this scientific tradition. And although Hawaiians are world-renowned for their hospitable “aloha spirit,” indigenous activists remain steadfast in their opposition to TMT, demanding that it leave Mauna Kea. Demonstrations will continue, including a protest during an April 29 meeting at Cal Tech in LA. Kealoha Pisciotta declared, “The protests are going global.”

As Professor Furumoto put it, “Environmentalists should be concerned because they care about the Earth, and I hope they also care about humanity, about sacred sites. But even if all they cared about was that little insect and the silversword, then that would be a cool reason for them to want to protect Mauna Kea.”

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Mauna Kea Hui responds to OHA 4/24/15
While the Mauna Kea Hui will continue to litigate in the courts, and has been adjudicated to have standing.

Ea O Ka Aina: UH walkout over Mauna Kea TMT 4/13/15
University wide walkout planned over construction of TMT on Mauna Kea sacred ground.

Ea O Ka Aina: Ige listens to Hawaii 4//8/15
The recent DLNR Chair selection and current Muana Kea TMT resistance have shown Governor hears the people.

Ea O Ka Aina: Mauna Kea telescope protest 4/2/15Update on Mauna Kea protest by kanaka maoli warriors protecting sacred mountain from desecration.

Ea O Ka Aina: Education and the Mountain  4/15/15
There are 13 other telescopes at the top of the mountain but the 14th desecration of Mauna Kea.


Kokee & Kekaha Ditch Systems

SUBHEAD: The diversion of water from its normal course from the Alakai Swamp through the Waimea River.

By Juan Wilson on 29 April 2015 for Island Breath -

Image above: View from Waimea Canyon Lookout. In the distance and to the upper left is the Alakai Swamp. In the forefront is Wahane Valley in the Puu Ka Pele Forest reserve. Much of the stream water in the lower valleys is diverted from flowing through the Waimea Canyon. The water is used to power the Mauka Hydroelectric Station before traveling on through the Kekaha Ditch System. Photo by Juan Wilson.

Yesterday, the 28th of April 2015, the Commission on Water Resource Management (CWRM) of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) met on Kauai for the first time. It was a long day for its members who were committed to several events from morning and into the night. These included planned  site visits to several locations on the Kokee and Kekaha Ditch Irrigation Systems.

I attended three events between 9:30am until 4:30pm. There was a gathering of interested parties and an orientation at the Waimea Neighborhood Center. Then there were site visits to seven points long the ditch systems to get an understanding of the systems.

The CWRM conducted a site visits to several locations on the Kokee and Kekaha Ditch Irrigation Systems in connection with the complaint against waste in the Waimea River and its tributaries filed by then Earthjustice law offices on behalf of Poai Wai Ola organization and the est Kauai Watershed Alliance.

The purpose of the site visits were to give interested parties a better understanding of the system. The Kokee and Kekaha Ditches are interlinked at a number of points that create a more complicated network than I knew.
Image above: Detail of handout map of Kekaha and Kokee Ditch System. Click to see it all larger.


SITE # 1

Waimea Neighborhood Center 9:45 am
A short briefing by Kekaha Agriculture Association (KAA) on the Kokee and Kekaha Ditch Systems.

SITE # 2
Waimea Canyon Lookout 10:30 am
Heading north on Kokee Road (Hwy 550), Turn right ~0.3 miles after mile marker 10
Waimea Watershed with view of Waipoo Falls (Kokee Stream). Flow in Kokee Stream is augmented by water returned from Kokee Ditch downstream of Kawaikoi, Waiakoali, and Kauaikinana Stream Diversions.

SITE # 3
Puu Lua Reservoir 11:00 am
Heading north on Kokee Road (Hwy 550), turn left at mile marker 12
Water from Kokee Ditch flows into Puu Lua Reservoir, which is located downstream of the sluice gate to Kauhao Gulch. The reservoir is maintained below 60 feet due to dam safety regulations and is used by the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) for sport fishing (trout are raised and released). Outflow from the reservoir continues towards the Puu Moe Divide.

SITE # 4
Puu Moe Ditch Divide 12:30 pm
Heading south on Kokee Road (Hwy 550), ~0.4 miles after mile marker 10
Kokee Ditch downstream of Puu Lua Reservoir. Water is divided between the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) lessees and the Kokee Ditch towards Kitano Reservoir.

SITE # 5
Black Pipe Siphon Viewpoint 1:15 pm
Heading south on Waimea Canyon Drive (Hwy 550), (See map) ~0.6 miles after mile marker 4
The Kekaha Ditch siphon conveys water from the eastern side of the valley to the western side. The siphon is located below the Mauka Hydropower Plant. Water continues in the Kekaha Ditch to the diversion point for the Menehune Ditch and on to the Mana Plain.

SITE # 6
End of Kokee Ditch 1:45 pm
Heading south on Waimea Canyon Drive (Hwy 550), ~0.1 miles after mile marker 3
Water exiting Kokee Ditch flows downslope into Kekaha Ditch.

SITE # 7
Kekaha Ditch Crossing at Hwy 550 2:15 pm
Heading south on Waimea Canyon Drive (Hwy 550), ~0.7 miles after mile marker 2
Kekaha Ditch downstream of Menehune Ditch withdrawal and before inflow from Kokee Ditch.

SITE # 8
Waimea Neighborhood Center 3:00 pm
Commission on Water Resource Management of the DLNR hears testimony from public on subjects from the Kokee and Kekaha Ditch Systems to need for water and homesteading on DHHL managed land to reach Kauai food self reliance.

One thing was clear from the presentation of Kekaha Agriculture Association representatives and the hydrologist hired by the Commission on Water Resource Management to survey the existing system - They saw the system with a mechanistic view. They read ditch flow in Millions of Gallons per Day (MGD) and siphon pipes as 48" diameter. They did not see the valleys, streams, and the plants, birds, fish and insects in them as a continuous living entity. Continuity in the living biosphere is a necessary condition for health and stability.

Many local westside people spoke eloquently on these issues. There were many influential people from Kauai and from the state as well as "stakeholders". The people were clear. Let them live on the land. Let the water be used by local people to farm, and feed people.  

My impression was that the members of the public that spoke were surprised by the warmth and sympathetic responses by the members that were present from the Commission on Water Resource Management: Chair Suzanne Case, Denise Antolini, Kamana Beamer, Jonathan Starr, and Michael Buck.

The questions the Earthjustice case has raised are related to the diversion of water from its normal course from the Alakai Swamp that on its own followed the natural terrain and into the Waimea River. These diversions were created in the early 20th century by plantation companies to grow sugar on the Mana Plain and the hilltops above it. These diversions have took tens of millions of gallons per day for almost a hundred years.

In my opinion, by taking the water out of a stream (along with fish, insects, plants) putting them through a ditch and a steel tubed syphon and running them through a hydroelectric generator creates a discontinuity in the fabic of life. There are many spots in many streams where the water does not run when it is "needed" by the KAA and its "customers". Those spots are where the biosphere breaks down.

Where Do We Go
By the early 21st century the sugarcane operations that demanded that water no longer existed. But the diversions continued. The biggest users are associated with Kekaha Agriculture Association (KAA) the Hawaii Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC). Those users include the GMO chemical corporations BASF and Syngenta as well as Sunrise Capital that operates the Kauai Shrimp Farm. These corporations want a continued flow of the diverted water in the existing systems.

Other major players are looking for access to diverted water as well. KIUC wants access to Puu Opae Reservoir (now inactive). The plan would be to use the diverted water to drive a hydroelectric generator at night to provide electricity.

It is ironic that the users of water on the Mana plain feel they need the ditch systems. Before the Mana Plain was filled in by the sugarcane interests it was an extensive wetlands with swamps and ponds fed from the valleys above that extended to the top of the islands. Ditches were cut into the wetlands to carry the water away. To this day pumps are used to carry water to the ocean so as to control the level of water on the GMO fields. That pumping is done now "for free" by the US military to keep the Pacific Missile Range Facility dry and secure.

I believe in engineering the flow of water to slow its course through the island. It's a primary principle of permaculture. Never more than a small percentage of a stream should be taken from its natural course. The engineering of the sugarcane companies was to take all the water they could use (and more) and only let the overflow of their dams reach the the stream again.

I'd rather see the Mana Plain wetlands restored to their state before the 20th century. I'd rather see the current ditch system greatly reduced in scope and not allowed to create complete discontinuity in stream flows.

Global warming will bring water problems to Kauai. Even a few degrees of temperature rise will raise the altitude of rain forming clouds. Scientists at the University of Hawaii havce calculated that only a few hundred feet increase in cloud elevation will have a significant impact on Waialeale's ability to catch the rain. As it is, rain gauge measures their have been diminishing for decades. Global Waring are also making the Trade Winds less reliable and increasingly making El Nino and La Nina events more chaotic.

Bottom line: We have to prioritize how we use water on Kauai. Growing local food and providing for our people comes first. Fuck the corporations. And that is how the law is written that the Commission on Water Resource Management must follow.
Priority 1) Appurtenant rights of land that were cultivated in kalo(taro).
Priority 2) Hawaiian rights of traditional and customary practices.
Priority 3) Riparian rights protect people who live along the banks of rivers or streams. Priority 4) Correlative rights of those who own land overlying a ground water source.

See inset below for details.

From (
Today, Hawaii’s Constitution and Water Code recognize specific rights to ground and surface water, including appurtenant, riparian, Native Hawaiian, and correlative rights. To better understand how the Constitution and Code were designed to operate,it is important to have a basic understanding of these rights.

1. Appurtenant Rights
Appurtenant rights appertain or attach to parcels of land that were cultivated, usually in the traditional staple kalo, at the time of the Mähele of 1848. Hawaii law recognizes that such land retained rights to the amount of water necessary to continue to cultivate crops. Although some kuleana land has appurtenant rights, land need not have been awarded as a kuleana to retain such rights. See, e.g., Haw. Rev. Stat. § 174C-101(d) (recognizing the “appurtenant water rights of kuleana and taro lands”). Because appurtenant rights attach to the land and not to any individual, they can be exercised by property owners irrespective of race or ethnic background.

Appurtenant rights have the highest level of protection under Hawaii law and, as mentioned earlier, are a public trust purpose. For example, Hawaii’s Constitution recognizes that the Water Commission “shall set overall water conservation, quality and use policies”; but clarifies that any such priorities shall “assur[e] appurtenant rights[.]” Haw. Const. art. XI, § 7. The Water Code also recognizes the primacy of appurtenant rights: “Appurtenant rights are preserved. Nothing in this part shall be construed to deny the exercise of an appurtenant right by the holder thereof at any time.

A permit for water use based on an existing appurtenant right shall be issued upon application.” Haw. Rev. Stat. § 174C-63. Despite these strong protections, the Water Commission has never inventoried or forecasted the amount of water necessary to supply existing or future appurtenant rights. See Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 174C-31(c), (d). Although the Water Commission’s jurisdiction to make determinations of appurtenant rights was made explicit in 2002, at the time of this primer’s publication, the Commission has yet to issue a formal declaration of any appurtenant rights, even though individuals have applied for such determinations.

Given the lack of action on the Water Commission’s part, appurtenant right holders have had difficulty protecting their interests. This has been complicated by the Hawai‘i Supreme Court’s ruling that appurtenant rights may be severed if attempts are made to transfer or reserve these rights. See Reppun v. Board of Water Supply, 65 Haw. 531, 552, 656 P.2d 57, 71 (1982). Such reservations or transfers were and remain commonplace in deeds conveying property; thus, some appurtenant rights have been extinguished.

2. Native Hawaiian Rights
Given Hawaii’s unique history and background principles of property law, our laws recognize and protect traditional and customary Native Hawaiian rights and practices. “The State reaffirms and shall protect all rights, customarily and traditionally exercised for subsistence, cultural and religious purposes and possessed by ahupua‘a tenants who are descendants of native Hawaiians who inhabited the Hawaiian Islands prior to 1778, subject to the right of the State to regulate such rights.” Haw. Const. art. XII, § 7.

In addition to that constitutional mandate, the Water Code includes specific provisions respecting and upholding the rights of Känaka Maoli, which recognize that the “traditional and customary rights of ahupua‘a tenants who are descendants of native Hawaiians who inhabited the Hawaiian Islands prior to 1778 shall not be abridged or denied by this chapter.” Haw. Rev. Stat. § 174C-101(c). The Code makes clear that such rights include, but are not limited to, the cultivation of kalo on one’s own kuleana, as well as the right to gather various resources for subsistence, cultural, and religious purposes, including: hïhïwai (or wï); ‘opae; ‘oopu; limu; thatch; ti leaf; aho cord; and medicinal plants. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 174C-101(c). Similar to the treatment of appurtenant rights, the Code specifically provides that the “traditional and customary rights assured in this section, shall not be diminished or extinguished by a failure to apply for or to receive a permit under this chapter.” Haw. Rev. Stat. § 174C-101(d).

The Code also recognizes and upholds rights conferred by “the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, 1920, as amended, and by chapters 167 and 168, relating to the Molokai Irrigation System.” Haw. Rev. Stat. § 174C-101(a). Moreover, the Code directs the Commission to “incorporate and protect adequate reserves of water for current and foreseeable development and use of Hawaiian home lands as set forth in section 221 of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act.” Haw. Rev. Stat. § 174C-101(a).

Comparable to the treatment of appurtenant rights, both traditional and customary Native Hawaiian rights and reservations for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands are public trust purposes. Despite that status, the Water Commission has yet to forecast the amount of water needed to supply existing and future traditional and customary rights as well as the existing and future needs of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, frustrating the ability of those with such rights to effectively exercise them.

See Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 174C-31(c), (d); -101(a). As a result, the strong protections intended for these rights remain largely on paper and unenforced on the ground in the community.

3. Riparian Rights
In Latin, ripa means river bank. Riparian rights protect the interests of people who live along the banks of rivers or streams to the reasonable use of water from that stream or river on the riparian land. Those rights are subject to other rights of equal or greater value, such as appurtenant, traditional and customary Native Hawaiian, other riparian rights, or reservations for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

Hawaii’s Constitution protects existing riparian uses. Haw. Const. art. XI, § 7. Due to the Water Code’s establishment of Water Management Areas as described in Part II(F), below, Hawaii has a bifurcated system of rights. In non-designated areas, the common law controls and anyone with riparian land retains riparian rights. Once an area has been “designated,” however, only existing riparian uses, as opposed to unexercised riparian rights, continue to retain preferential status. See Haw. Const. art. XI, § 7.

Although riparian landowners who are not currently using water from the adjacent stream may apply for a permit, they will not receive any special preference if they seek to use that water on riparian land. Existing riparian uses, on the other hand, retain such a preference.

In Reppun v. Board of Water Supply, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that riparian rights cannot be severed from riparian land. 65 Haw. 531, 550, 656 P.2d 57, 70 (1982). Efforts to sever or transfer such rights, which usually occur as part of a deed of sale, are ineffective. Reppun, 65 Haw. at 550, 656 P.2d at 70. This means that even if you have riparian land and the deed conveying the property reserves or transfers ripari rights or water rights in general, your land will still retain those rights unless the geographic region is designated a Water Management Area.

4. Correlative Rights

Similar to the riparian right to surface water, correlative rights protect the interests of individuals who own land overlying a ground water source or aquifer. This land has rights that correlate to the water below it. Like riparian rights, Hawaii’s Constitution protects existing correlative uses, as opposed to inchoate correlative rights. This means that correlative rights are protected in non-designated areas, but only existing correlative uses receive priority in designated Ground Water Management Areas.

Moreover, correlative rights are subject to the reasonable-use doctrine, which means that in times of a water shortage each use with correlative rights has a share to a reasonable amount of water as long as the correlative use does not injure the rights or interests of other correlative right holders. Hawaii courts first recognized correlative rights in City Mill Co. v. Honolulu Sewer & Water Comm’n, 30 Haw. 912 (1929). The Hawaii Supreme Court later clarified the current correlative rights rule in the context of the State Water Code in Waiahole I, 94 Hawaii 97, 9 P.3d 409.

5. Other Water Rights

During the Hawaiian Kingdom and Territorial period, various court decisions created a range of rights, such as konohiki (or surplus) and prescriptive water rights. Those rights no longer exist under the current regulatory regime, and the range of rights now available are outlined and defined in the Water Code.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: The Mana Mirage 8/3013
Mana means supernatural and dry in Hawaiian and these visitors to Kauai in 1847 found magic there.

Ea O Ka Aina: The Golden Plain 8/27/13
Your guide uses his paddle to pole you into the marshy water of the Mana Plain as the canoe rocks.

Ea O Ka Aina: Eroding Kauai 3/16/13
These two areas were the largest Hawaiian wetland systems - Mana Plain and Pearl Harbor

Radioactive drone for PM Abe

SUBHEAD: Pilot of drone protests against nuclear policy of PM Abe by landing on roof of his office.

By Staff on 24 April 2015 for Russia Today -

Image above: Guards stand around a tarp draped frame that hides  radioactive drone on roof of office of Japan's Prime Minister Abe. From original article.

A 40-year-old Japanese man has taken responsibility for launching a drone with radioactive material that landed on the roof of the office of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He said he took the course of action to protest the government’s nuclear policy.

The man turned himself in at a police station in Fukui Prefecture - nicknamed Japan’s ‘nuclear corridor’ because it contains 14 reactors lined up along its coast - sources close to the investigation told Kyodo news agency on Friday.

The self-confessed drone owner said his actions were provoked by the gradual restart of the country’s 48 nuclear reactors, which is scheduled by the government to commence this summer, despite surveys showing significant public opposition.

A Chinese-made Phantom drone was found near the helicopter-landing pad above Abe’s office on Wednesday. However, it could have been there for several days before it was eventually discovered. The 50 cm diameter remote controlled device was clutching a water bottle containing liquid with trace amounts of cesium - a radioactive compound.

The suspect said the cesium came from sand he picked from a beach near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which suffered multiple reactor meltdowns following the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The cesium levels were too low to cause any danger to humans, and it was below the exposure experienced by those flying inside commercial planes. The drone may have remained on the rooftop for an extensive period of time, if it had not been spotted by an employee giving a tour of the building to potential recruits.

The ease with which a drone that could have been carrying a far more deadly cargo breached the security of the country’s most powerful elected official has resulted in a shake-up of Japan’s loose laws on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga described the situation as a potential “grave crisis,” saying drones "could have a substantial impact on public safety and privacy protection, depending on how they are used."

Among the suggestions touted by politicians are the introduction of a licensing system and compulsory insurance on drones, as well as a ban on flying them over sensitive locations.

Suga said that the new legislation would come in to effect by the end of the current Diet session in June.

The US went through a similar spurt of chaotic introspection after a drone landed on the White House lawn in January this year. A drunk official located in a nearby building was operating it.

The US Federal Aviation Administration has been predicting an explosion in UAV use, but has struggled over the past several years to develop legislation that would take advantage of the low cost and convenience of drones, without creating innumerable public hazards.  

According to Kyodo, the police are now reviewing the validity of the drone operator’s claims.


It's time to do the the math again

SUBHEAD: Regarding climate change, only a whole-of-society rescue plan can provide hope of retaining a livable planet.

By Staff on 22 April 2015 for Climate Code Red -

Image above: "SHELL" turns into "HELL". Article "The Real Weapons of Mass Destruction: Methane, Propaganda & the Architects of Genocide". From (

Have we gone mad? A new report released today explains why contemporary climate change policy-making should be characterized as increasingly delusional.

As the deadline approaches for submissions to the Australian government's climate targets process, there is a flurry of submissions and reports from advocacy groups and the Climate Change Authority.

Most of these reports are based on the twin propositions that two degrees Celsius (2°C) of global warming is an appropriate policy target, and that there is a significant carbon budget and an amount of "burnable carbon" for this target, and hence a scientifically-based escalating ladder of emission-reduction targets stretching to mid-century and beyond.

A survey of the relevant scientific literature by David Spratt, "Recount: It's time to 'Do the math' again", published today by Breakthrough concludes that the evidence does not support either of these propositions.
The catastrophic and irreversible consequences of 2°C of warming demand a strong risk-management approach, with a low rate of failure. We should not take risks with the climate that we would not take with civil infrastructure.

There is no carbon budget available if 2°C is considered a cap or upper boundary as per the Copenhagen Accord, rather than a hit-or-miss target which can be significantly exceeded; or if a low risk of exceeding 2°C is required; or if positive feedbacks such as permafrost and other carbon store losses are taken into account.

Effective policy making can only be based on recognizing that climate change is already dangerous, and we have no carbon budget left to divide up. Big tipping-point events irreversible on human time scales such as in West Antarctica and large-scale positive feedbacks are already occurring at less than 1°C of warming. It is clear that 2°C of climate warming is not a safe cap.

In reality, 2°C is the boundary between dangerous and very dangerous climate change and 1°C warmer than human civilisation has ever experienced.

In the lead up to the forthcoming Paris talks, policy makers through their willful neglect of the evidence are in effect normalizing a 2.5–3°C global warming target.

This evidence in "Recount: It's time to 'Do the math' again" demonstrates that action is necessary at a faster pace than most policy makers conceive is possible. Decades of procrastination mean there is no longer sufficient time for an incremental and non-disruptive reduction in emissions. 

Only a whole-of-society rescue plan, understood as action at emergency speed outside of the business-as-usual political mode, can provide hope of retaining a livable planet for ourselves and future generations.

In a foreword to the report, Ian Dunlop, the former Chair, Australian Coal Association & CEO, Australian Institute of Company Directors, says that:

For the last two decades global leaders have been guilty of willful denial regarding human-induced climate change, none more so than in Australia. Despite much rhetoric and endless negotiations, human carbon emissions continue in line with a worst-case scenario...

Unfortunately the years of procrastination have cut off options to solve the climate challenge with a graduated response – emergency action is now inevitable if potentially catastrophic and irreversible impacts are to be avoided.

Such views are dismissed as extremist by political and corporate incumbencies, and by most activist NGOs and investors. However, there has never been an honest official acknowledgment of the real climate challenge; as a result realistic solutions have not been forthcoming.

Climate change is happening faster and more extensively than officially acknowledged and sensible risk management requires far more stringent action. This paper explains why.
Download "Recount: It's time to 'Do the math' again"

Rising police aggression

SUBHEAD:  It is a telling indicator of our societal decline - a historically common marker of failing civilizations.

By Chris Martenson on 24 April 2015 for Peak Prosperity -

Image above: A SWAT robot, a remote-controlled small tank-like vehicle with a shield for officers, is demonstrated for the media in Sanford, Maine, on, April 18, 2013. Howe & Howe Technologies, a Waterboro, Maine company, says their device keeps SWAT teams and other first responders safe in standoffs and while confronting armed suspects. Photo by Robert F. Bukaty/AP Photo. From (

My first Uber lift was in South Carolina.  My driver was from Sudan originally, but had emigrated to the US 20 years ago.  Being the curious sort, I asked him about his life in Sudan and why he moved.  He said that he left when his country had crumbled too far, past the point where a reasonable person could have a reasonable expectation of personal safety, when all institutions had become corrupted making business increasingly difficult.  So he left.

Detecting a hitch in his delivery when he spoke of coming to the US, I asked him how he felt about the US now, 20 years later.  "To be honest," he said, "the same things I saw in Sudan that led me to leave are happening here now. That saddens me greatly, because where else is there to go?"
It’s time to face some uncomfortable ideas about the state of civilization in the United States. This country is no longer the beacon of freedom illuminating a better way for the world. Why not? Because it has ceased to be civilized.

The recent spate of police brutality videos and the complete lack of a useful or even sane response by the police unions is shaping my writing here. But it goes well beyond those incidents and extends into all corners of the lives of US citizens now, as police abuse is only one symptom of a much deeper problem.

What do we mean by "civilized?"  Well, take a look at its official definition and see if you note any descriptors that are lacking in present day US culture:

Civilized adjective

1. Culturededucatedsophisticatedenlightenedhumane All truly civilized countries must deplore torture.
2. Politemannerlytolerantgraciouscourteousaffablewell-behavedwell-mannered
A civilized society, then, is one that is humane at its core, that knows right from wrong, and which does not need to conduct lengthy ‘internal reviews’ to discover if videotaped brutality is indeed showing illegal abuse.

Let’s begin by examining a few recent cases of brutality, so many of which now exist that I have to narrow the field substantially in the interest of brevity.  I'm going to skip over the one where an unarmed black man was shot five times in the back and coldly murdered by the officer in South Carolina, because that has already (and rightly) received a lot of media attention.

So, the first case I'd like to discuss comes to us from San Bernardino CA where a man being served with a warrant for suspicion of identity theft started to flee.  Much to the dismay of the police, the last leg of his otherwise humorous escape plan involved a horse, forcing the cops to huff across the hot, dry desert on foot.

The video eventually shows the fugitive falling off his horse, throwing himself flat on the ground in total submission, and then putting his own hands behind his back. Two officers then approach and, in full view of the news chopper camera circling overhead, proceed to violently kick him in the face and groin, pistol whip him with a taser, pile-drive him with their elbows, and then move aside to make room for the other nine officers that also join in the violent 2 minute long beating:
Aerial footage showed the man falling off the horse he was suspected of stealing during the pursuit in San Bernardino County Thursday afternoon.
He then appeared to be stunned with a Taser by a sheriff's deputy and fall to the ground with his arms outstretched. Two deputies immediately descended on him and appeared to punch him in the head and knee him in the groin, according to the footage, reviewed several times by NBC4.
The group surrounding the man grew to 11 sheriff's deputies.
In the two minutes after the man was stunned with a Taser, it appeared deputies kicked him 17 times, punched him 37 times and struck him with batons four times. Thirteen blows appeared to be to the head. The horse stood idly nearby.
The man did not appear to move from his position lying on the ground for more than 45 minutes. He did not appear to receive medical attention while deputies stood around him during that time.
San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon told NBC4 he was launching an internal investigation into the actions of the deputies.
"I'm not sure if there was a struggle with the suspect," McMahon said. "It appears there was in the early parts of the video. What happens afterwards, I'm not sure of, but we will investigate it thoroughly."
Note the lack of civilized responses there from beginning to the end.  A yielding, non-resisting suspect was repeatedly pounded by 11 officers using means that would land you or me in hot water (justifiably) on “assault with a dangerous weapon” charges if we did the same.

Then the beaten man was left on the ground afterwards without any medical attention for 45 minutes. The physical abuse nor the later disdain for the suspect's condition aren't behaviors you find in a civilized society. Successfully apprehending a 'suspected criminal' does not give you free license to mete out a brutal beat-down, at least not if your humanity is intact. But with these officers, that appears to be precisely what happened. The fact that it did is indicative of a culture in distress.

In the next part of this sad drama, the county sheriff had the audacity to say (in an obvious attempt at damage control) that he was ‘not sure’ if a struggle had happened with the suspect, but that it appeared that there had been one.  Apparently, the sheriff needs some training in evidence review (or a new pair of glasses) because there’s no struggle there at all, which is plainly obvious in the video:
Then the sheriff concludes with “what happens afterward, I’m not sure of,…” Again, anybody who viewed the video is very certain of what happened afterwards because it’s completely obvious: the deputies kicked the crap out of a non-resisting suspect.

So obvious that less than 2 weeks after the beating, San Bernadino county hastily agreed to a $650,000 settlement in attempt to very rapidly put the whole thing behind them.

The only legitimate response from the sheriff, to show that the rule of law applies and that he and his deputies have morals and are part of a civilized society, would have been to say something along the lines of, “Assaulting a compliant and non-resisting suspect is never OK, and it is against our internal policies and training as well as the law.  In the interest of complete transparency and fairness, both real and perceived, we’ve asked for an external review which will include citizen participation.  

Whether laws are broken by citizens of the police, our department believes 100% in equal application of the law because anything else erodes the basic perception of fairness upon which a civilized society rests.”

Of course, nothing of the sort was said here. Nor is it ever said in other brutality cases, where instead we see the ranks close around the accused cop(s), which unfortunately communicates the impression that one of the perks of being a law enforcement officer is being able to dodge the consequences of the same laws they administer daily.

Here are a few more cases, all demonstrating the same unequal application of the laws:

In this next case, an unarmed, fleeing black male suspect was tackled and pinned on the ground by at least two officers. He then was shot in the back by a 73 year-old reserve deputy who apparently couldn't tell the difference between a revolver and a taser. A 73 year-old whose main qualification for being on the scene seems to have been his prior generous donations to the police department.
Tulsa Police Chase And Shoot Eric Courtney Harris

The above video is disturbing for many reasons, but especially because while Eric Harris is dying he says “Oh man, I can’t breathe” to which one of the officer who happens to have his knee firmly on Eris’s head says “Fuck your breath!”

Recall that one of the words used to describe civilized is "humane". Think about how far out of touch with your own humanity you have to be to say that to a dying person. Even if the officer didn't know Harris was dying at the time, he at least knew that he had been shot.

In another case, a man approaches a car blocking the street and asks for it to be moved.  The violent manner of the officer's response would be a case of road rage if it involved another civilian and be prosecuted as a serious crime with multiple charges.
Man Asks Cop Nicely to Stop Blocking Traffic, So the Cop Beat Him and Stomped his Head
Sept 11, 2014 Sacramento, CA — A Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputy is on paid vacation after a video surfaced showing him stomping on a man’s face and hitting him with his flashlight after tasering him.
Undersheriff Jaime Lewis says that they are investigating themselves after viewing the video.
“There are portions of that video that clearly have caused me concern,” Lewis said. “And that is exactly what has caused the department to initiate an investigation, so we can get to the bottom of it.”
The man being beaten in the video is 51-year-old John Madison Reyes, who said the incident started when he asked the deputy, whose car was blocking the road, to move.
“I asked him kindly to move the car,” Reyes said. “He glared at me and stared at me. And then, I said an expletive, ‘You need to move the car because I can’t get through.’”
"Let's face it, had the subject complied with the officer's directives from the initial contact and beyond, we wouldn't be sitting here talking about this today," Lewis said.
What seems to have happened in the above story is simply that the cop didn't like his authority being challenged, even in a very minor way, and he over-reacted.

The recipient of the beating, Mr. Reyes, was charged with resisting arrest.  How is that even possible?  It seems like there needs to be something you are being arrested for to resist in the first place.  Something for which the officer has probable cause in the first place which you then resist?  How can the only charge be ‘resisting arrest’?

Sadly, many times after a confrontation has become physically violent the one and only charge applied is ‘resisting arrest.’

Of course, that’s a mighty convenient charge for some police who escalate a situation first, and then resort to using the charge of resisting arrest because, in the end, that’s the only charge they have. And while it’s not wise to resist arrest, there are hundreds of cases where people claim they weren’t resisting at all, merely trying to protect their heads and faces from heavy blows, while the police were beating them yelling “Stop resisting arrest!” like it was a magic incantation.
As in this case:
Brutal LAPD arrest caught on video; Department investigating cops seen bodyslamming nurse twice during cell phone traffic stop

The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating two officers who were allegedly caught on surveillance camera slamming a nurse on the ground twice — and then fist bumping afterward — during a recent traffic stop.

The two officers pulled over Michelle Jordan, 34, of Sunland, Aug. 21, for allegedly talking on her cell phone while driving in Tujunga, in northeast Los Angeles, the department said.

Jordan pulled into the parking lot of a Del Taco restaurant and got out of her car to confront the officers, cops said.

The taco joint's surveillance video appears to show the officers, both men, yanking the 5-foot-4 inch registered nurse from the open driver's seat and then slamming her on the ground to cuff her.

The duo then yank Jordan to her feet and bring her to the patrol car, where they pat her down.

Moments later, one of the cops slams the married mom to the ground a second time.
After placing her in the cruiser's backseat, the two appear to share a celebratory fist-pound.

Jordan was booked for resisting arrest and later released.
The pictures of the damage to this woman's face are disturbing.  Think about what it would be like to be pulled over for a minor infraction, be yanked from your car, thrown to the ground, handcuffed, stood up, and then violently body slammed a second time.  While she may have been using words that these officers found to be less than respectful of their authority, in a civilized society grown men do not violently assault the unarmed -- especially handcuffed women.  That's just sadistic and has no place in a decent society.

In another case from Baltimore police broke the leg of a man they were arresting, Freddie Gray, cuffed him, and instead of getting him medical help dragged him to a van obviously alive and screaming in pain from the broken leg. By the time that van ride was over, the man was delivered to a local hospital with a broken neck, his spine 80% severed, and he died a short while later. His “crime?”

He allegedly “fled unprovoked upon noticing police presence," which, by the way, is not actually a crime, something the Baltimore police were forced to acknowledge in the aftermath of the incident.  The police spokesman, Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez initially stated that there was “no evidence” of any use of excessive force.  I would counter that any time you shatter a person’s neck after they are cuffed during a van ride, that’s "excessive", by definition.

Again, the initial response by the police, which began as silence followed by the filing of an initial report that said Mr. Gray was "arrested without incident or force" reveals just how broken our enforcement system and culture really are.

In another recent case a mentally ill woman in Idaho was shot dead by police within 15 seconds of their arrival.  She had a knife, the police got out of their vehicle, walked straight towards her and when she did not immediately comply with their commands, they opened fire.

Something Is Very Wrong

[note: an incomplete statistic was used here and has been removed and replaced with the following]
In the past ten years police in the UK have been involved in 23 total police shooting fatalities.  In the US in 2013 alone there were a minimum of 458 'justifiable homicides' by firearm committed by US police.  I say 'a minimum' because the FBI statistics are woefully incomplete because there is no mandate that police forces report their killings to the FBI so the database is certainly inaccurate on the low side.  But taking that at face value, there is a vast gap between the number of people shot in the UK as compared to the US.  Adjusting for population, US police officers are killing citizens at roughly 40 times the rate of UK police.  40 times!

How can this be? In the UK they’ve got hooligans and yobs, immigrants and poor people. They’ve got drunks and mentally unbalanced people too. And yet they somehow don’t kill people in the fulfillment of their duties as public safety officers.

In this video you’ll see a mentally deranged man outside of Buckingham palace threatening people while wielding knives. He was successfully apprehended alive by a patient and methodical UK police force that did not aggravate, but instead waited for an opening to make their move, which they did quite successfully using a taser instead of guns.

The problem, it seems, is that the US police have been trained to be highly confrontational and to escalate, rather than defuse, any situation.

Police in the US have shot an individual’s highly trained service dog after showing up at the wrong address, and even a family’s pet pot-bellied pig simply because they ‘felt threatened.’

So the one-two punch here is that cops are trained to be highly confrontational and then to react with force -- oftentimes deadly force -- when they ‘feel threatened.’  See the problem here? It’s pretty easy to end up feeling threatened when you are creating threatening situations.

That’s a recipe for exactly the sort of over-reactive uses of force that are giving us the problems we see today.

An Occupying Force

If you saw the images coming out of Ferguson recently, you may have noticed that the law-enforcement presence did not so much look like police, but an occupying military.  Snipers perched on roofs viewing the crowds through their scopes, tear gas and rubber bullets constantly in use, Humvees, the latest acoustic anti-personnel devices, and officers outfitted with ‘battle rattle’ that even made one Afghanistan vet jealous for its magnificent excess compared to what soldiers were issued in one of the most dangerous regions of the world.

How is it that a small mid-western city arrayed more hardware against its own citizens than you might find in an active Middle East war zone?  Who really thought that necessary and why?

Exactly how and when did policing and crowd control in the US slip into a set of methods that match those used by occupying forces -- like those of Isreal -- who subjugate whole populations?
It turns out, by going to Israel and learning Israeli methods of crowd 'control.'
Israel-trained police “occupy” Missouri after killing of black youth
Feb 8, 2015
Since the killing of eighteen-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police in Missouri last weekend, the people of Ferguson have been subjected to a military-style crackdown by a squadron of local police departments dressed like combat soldiers. This has prompted residents to liken the conditions on the ground in Ferguson to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. 
And who can blame them?
The dystopian scenes of paramilitary units in camouflage rampaging through the streets of Ferguson, pointing assault rifles at unarmed residents and launching tear gas into people’s front yards from behind armored personnel carriers (APCs), could easily be mistaken for a Tuesday afternoon in the occupied West Bank. 
And it’s no coincidence. 
At least two of the four law enforcement agencies that were deployed in Ferguson up until Thursday evening — the St. Louis County Police Department and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department — received training from Israeli security forces in recent years. 
If the tactics and gear of the police in Ferguson looked military that’s because they were. The purpose of APC’s and m4 assault rifles is to go into dangerous battles and kill the other side first so you can survive.

I believe that one’s training and mindset are critical determinants of what happens next.  It should really not surprise anyone that a militarized mindset accompanied by specialized training and hardware has led to scenes like the one we saw in Ferguson, among many other places over the past several years.

I wanted to find out if the assertion of the above article was true. Had US police agencies really trained with the Israelis?

The answer is yes, beginning over a decade ago. Note that US police have been training for a domestic terrorist threat that has been almost completely non-existent, well below the statistical threshold that would seem to justify such advanced training and tactics:
U.S.-Israel Strategic Cooperation: Joint Police & Law Enforcement Training
Sept 2013
In 2002, Los Angeles Police Department detective Ralph Morten visited Israel to receive training and advice on preparing security arrangements for large public gatherings.  From lessons learned on his trip, Det. Morten prepared a new Homicide Bomber Prevention Protocol and was better able to secure the Academy Awards presentation.
In January 2003, thirty-three senior U.S. law enforcement officials - from Washington, Chicago, Kansas City, Boston and Philadelphia - traveled to Israel to attend a meeting on "Law Enforcement in the Era of Global Terror."  The workshops helped build skills in identifying terrorist cells, enlisting public support for the fight against terrorism and coping with the aftermath of a terrorist attack.
“We went to the country that's been dealing with the issue for 30 years,” Boston Police Commissioner Paul F. Evans said. “The police are the front line in the battle against terrorism. We were there to learn from them - their response, their efforts to deter it. They touched all the bases.”
“I think it's invaluable,” said Washington, DC Police Chief Charles Ramsey about the instruction he received in Israel. “They have so much more experience in dealing with this than we do in the United States.”
Also, in 2003, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security established a special Office of International Affairs to institutionalize the relationship between Israeli and American security officials. “I think we can learn a lot from other countries, particularly Israel, which unfortunately has a long history of preparing for and responding to terrorist attacks,” said Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) about the special office. (Source)
Here’s the thing: your chances of dying of ‘terrorism’ on US soil are dwarfed by the chances of dying from practically every other cause of death in the US.  Terrorism simply is not a gigantic and imminent existential threat that requires special hardware and training relationships with nations that practice the tactics and strategies of occupation.

Terrorism is not such a common thing that we need to define our entire crowd control methods around it, but a rare thing, and is really what’s left over after a few individuals feel like every other option of redress has been stripped away.  Which is why it’s practically unheard of in the US, and most other civilized countries.

But domestic US law enforcement agencies have been training and outfitting themselves as if it’s a top threat.  Why is that?

There are not very many reassuring answers to that question.  One is that our law enforcement agencies lack the ability to discern actual threats from imaginary ones.  Another is that they envision a time when some portion of the civilian population feels as if it has lost all hope and options for a better future, and starts resorting to terrorist acts.

Either way, very poor answers.

A Dangerous Job?

One mitigating factor is to note that police have a stressful, dangerous and low paying job.  Erring on the side of personal safety makes sense when looked at this way.

In terms of dangerousness, however, law enforcement doesn't even crack the top-ten list of most dangerous professions:


The death rate for sworn officers is 11.1 per 100,000 (2013 data) for job-related injuries. Fishing is ten times more dangerous. And even the 11.1 rate includes some deaths which were not the result of violent actions committed during an arrest, but things that tend to happen among a force more than a million strong.

Even if we assumed that half of the reported job-related deaths were homicides, that would make policing about as dangerous as living in an average city (5.5 per 100,000) but seven-fold less dangerous than simply living in Baltimore (35 per 100,000).

So a stressful job yes. An important job, definitely. But not as dangerous as many other occupations, which is relevant context to this story.

Good Policing

I would be remiss to not also point out other examples of great police work.  We need to illuminate both what’s wrong and what’s right.

One of my favorite examples shows Norwegian police handling a belligerent drunk:

Be sure to watch at least the first full minute, and note that this drunk is yelling, cursing, kicking, and generally ‘resisting’ and yet the police involved never rise to the bait, handle him with good manners and like he’s a human being the entire time.  Well done!

This next clip shows a policeman in Ohio refusing to shoot a man wanted on a double murder charge even though he really probably should have and would have been completely justified in doing so:
The man wanted to be shot and killed by the officer who, despite being rushed, and having the man put his hands in his pockets after being warned not to, and even being knocked to the ground at one point, refused to shoot.

That restraint was quite remarkable and showed someone willing to place his own life in danger before committing to take another’s.  He said afterwards that he “wanted to be absolutely sure” before pulling the trigger that it was absolutely necessary.

I do wonder if the two tours the former marine took before becoming an officer had anything to do with his unwillingness to take another life?

How To Fix This

Well I think I’ve been in the top 5% of my age cohort all my life in understanding the power of incentives, and all my life I’ve underestimated it.
~ Charlie Munger
I think the solution to reducing episodes of police assaults on citizens is contained within the Charlie Munger quote above.  The incentives have to be aligned.

My solution is simply this: every time a police department loses an excessive force or wrongful death case and has to pay out money, that money should come from their local police union’s pension fund.  And by law, these losses cannot be refilled with taxpayer funds.

Every single time a judgment is made against that department and the union pension is reduced, the retired and currently-serving officers will have to decide for themselves if they should keep the indicted officer or officers on the force who lost the pension all that money. Or decide if training and policies need to be adjusted.

I guarantee you that with the incentive to train and behave properly and lawfully now resting with the police itself, rapid behavior and training modification would result.

Moreover, I see no reason why the citizens of any given municipality should be on the hook for repeated violations by any public servant or office.

For some of the most abusive departments, the amounts are far from trivial.
U.S. cities pay out millions to settle police lawsuits
Oct 1, 2014
The Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this year that the city has paid out nearly half a billion dollars in settlements over the past decade, and spent $84.6 million in fees, settlements, and awards last year.
Bloomberg News reported that in 2011, Los Angeles paid out $54 million, while New York paid out a whopping $735 million, although those figures include negligence and other claims unrelated to police abuse. 
Oakland Police Beat reported in April that the city had paid out $74 million to settle 417 lawsuits since 1990.
And last month, Minneapolis Public Radio put that city’s payout at $21 million since 2003.
Just align the incentives and watch what happens next.  The problem is, the incentives are just completely wrong right now, and taxpayers are footing the bill for repeated and expensive police behaviors.

That needs to stop if we want to see real change.


The police serve a very important role in society and I want them to be as effective as possible.  They are there to uphold the law and protect the peace, which are extremely important functions.
Unfortunately there are far too many cases where the police have acted as judge, jury and executioner to suggest that there are just a few bad apples.

Instead there’s a pervasive atmosphere of hostility and force escalation better suited to war zones than maintaining civilian order.  The lines have been drawn in many police departments: it’s us vs. them.

Trust in many departments has been utterly shattered within some communities because the police hold themselves to a different standard than they do the populace.  Police commit brazen acts of brutality and get away with it, largely because they self-investigate and/or because the local District Attorney office is unwilling to press charges.

But the recent cases of police brutality are simply a symptom of a much larger problem. Society in the US is breaking down, civility has been lost, and the country is rapidly becoming uncivilized.

This extends within and across all of the most important institutions. Congress is known to work for corporations first and foremost. Democracy itself is bought and sold by the highest bidders. The Federal Reserve protects big banks from the costs of their misdeeds and enriches the already stupidly rich as a side benefit.

DEA agents are caught in Columbia having sex parties with underage girls and drugs, and the worst punishment handed out is a 10 day suspension without pay.  Nobody is even fired, let alone jailed.
"Crime, once exposed, has no refuge but in audacity".
                 ~ Tacitus, Annals, Book XI Ch. 26
The FBI has just admitted that they had been consistently (and certainly knowingly) overstating forensic lab analysis in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95% of cases over a period of several decades.  The cases included 32 that resulted in death sentences.  Many people were wrongly convicted, but nobody from the FBI will face any charges and many of the states involved have (so far) decided they won’t be looking into any of the cases to right the wrongs.  The wrongful convictions will stand, an injustice that is incompatible with the concept of being civilized.

The Department of Justice has utterly failed to hold any banks or bankers criminally responsible for any acts despite levying a few billions in fines for crimes that probably netted the banks tens of billions in profits.  For some, crime does pay.

I could go on, but why bother? The pattern is easy enough to see.

The US has lost its way. Fairness, justice, and knowing right from wrong seem to all be lost concepts and the trend has only gotten worse over the past several years.  Without moral bearings, what’s left?
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Either the people of the US stand up and resist these accumulating injustices or they will get exactly the sort of government, and law enforcement, they deserve.
In the meantime, the challenge for each afflicted institution is to begin to recognize right from wrong, and in the case of law enforcement agencies, stop pretending like every single one of your million+ officers is a good egg.  We all know hiring is imperfect and mistakes get made.  Own up to them and let those who make serious mistakes experience the consequences.  Rebuild our trust in your necessary and important institution by clearly demonstrating that you know right from wrong wherever it occurs and whoever commits the deed.

If we don't do this, if we allow the current trajectory to build more momentum, the loss of civilized behavior will reach a tipping point from which it will be very hard to return without much hardship, and likely, bloodshed.

In Part 2: Preparing For The Coming Breakdown, we analyze how the boom in prosperity seen over the much of the 20th century is evaporating, and as the pie begins to shrink, the means by which the players compete for their slices becomes increasingly brutish and violent.

Ask yourself this: If tensions are this bad now, while relatively abundant resources exist, how bad do you think they’ll get during the next economic downturn or financial crisis?

[IB Editor's note: We are not aware of recent problems with the Kauai Police Department that we have seen in the last few years on the mainland. That's not to say it cannot happen here. For an example see ( in 2008 and ( in 2013. On the other hand in recent months I have witnessed respectful yet forceful handling of a young man, high very on meth, arrested on an outstanding warrant. Yet one must worry about the militarization of our nation's police department and individual officers isolation from the very ones they are sworn to protect and serve.]

See also:
Island Breath: KPD Policy - Patrolling 6/8/08
Island Breath: The Kauai Police Mission 5/15/08
Island Breath: Police need bikes not riot gear 4/5/08