A sample of photos by Matika Wilbur, via Project 562.

A sample of photos by Matika Wilbur, via Project 562.

If you’re fortunate enough to have today off for Indigenous People’s Day, I’ve got a suggestion for the best place to spend it: The Heard Museum in Phoenix, which has a series of events to commemorate the day.

Here is a list of the events, which begin at 12:30 p.m.

You may have heard that the Phoenix City Council voted that the city would celebrate Indigenous People’s Day. That makes it the largest U.S. city to celebrate the annual event.

As the news story reported:

The proposal to create Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Phoenix emerged in May, when residents Jeff Malkoon and Carlos Bravo submitted to the city an application for a historical commemoration.

“The city of Phoenix is built on what was the Hohokam civilization,” Malkoon told council members. “We just think this is a significant statement for a city like Phoenix, being such a center point in the Southwest.”

And this is part of a growing national trend, as CNN reports.

In what was a great preview of Monday’s Heard events, audience members at the Heard Sunday afternoon heard from two artists and two lawyers on the intersection of art, Indian identity and law. (I wrote about the event here.)

That gathering included insights from artists Matika Wilbur and Gregg Deal.

Deal’s film “The Last American Indian on Earth” was screened. It shows, in surprising and occasionally humorous ways, the complicated relationship mainstream American society has with Native culture.

Wearing a faux historic Indian costume (manufactured in China, for good measure), Deal strode about Washington DC. The reactions he got were troubling and laden with meaning.

As Deal says in the voiceover, “When you let the cameras roll, Americans, they don’t disappoint.”

As one hand-written sign he holds tells passersby, “My spirit animal is white guilt.”

L to R at the Heard Museum panel on Indian identity, art, and law, Oct. 9, 2016: Matika Wilbur, Kevin Gover, Gregg Deal, Brett Shelton.

L to R at the Heard Museum panel on Indian identity, art, and law, Oct. 9, 2016: Matika Wilbur, Kevin Gover, Gregg Deal, Brett Shelton.

Matika Wilbur then spoke, presenting her itinerant photo experience with Project 562, which aims to photograph citizens of each federally recognized tribe in the United States (there are now 566).

As she describes on her site:

“Most of the time, I’ve been invited to geographically remote reservations to take portraits and hear stories from a myriad of tribes, while at other times I’ve photographed members of the 70 percent of Native Americans living in urban settings. My hope is that when the project is complete, it will serve to educate the nation and shift the collective consciousness toward recognizing our own indigenous communities.”

A longtime educator from Seattle, Wilbur asked, “When are we going to stop asking our children to choose between cultural education and Western education?”

Wilbur also spoke about how Indian identity is “inextricably connected to the land.” Discussing the sensation known as solastalgia—separation from home—she wondered how the Cocopah, for instance, known as the people of the blue-green water, could be Cocopah if access to that water is denied or destroyed.

In the subsequent panel discussion, attorney Kevin Gover addressed that issue and the way violations have been visited on Native peoples by the American legal system. For example, in Fletcher v. Peck (1810), the U.S. Supreme Court determined that Indian title to land was not true title, as Indians were itinerant hunters and had never been farmers—an absolute misstatement of the facts. But it was decisions like that which provided the veneer of law to unjust decisions.

In fact, Gover pointed out, the most famous Native-land-title cases were collusive ones, manufactured conflicts presented by land speculators to prod a desired outcome from a compliant Court. To America’s enduring shame, the Court proved a willing co-conspirator in the effort.

The American legal system, Gover said, “played a huge role in the removal and dispossession of Native peoples.”

Through their art, Matika Wilbur and Gregg Deal explore America’s complicated relationship with Native peoples. As a teacher, Wilbur reminded the audience that these mainstream viewpoints are learned ones, and that the dominant Western view of Indians helps shield society from honest appraisals.

To illustrate that, she showed search results in Google images from searches for the simple terms “African American,” “Asian American,” “Hispanic American,” and, finally, “Native American.”

Among all of those searches, the Native American search was the only one that yielded an almost uniform view of Indians as historic beings—and actually as faux historic beings. Nearly every image reconfirms the popular image of Indians as conceptualized 150 years ago.

Google image search results for "Native American," Oct. 9, 2016.

Google image search results for “Native American,” Oct. 9, 2016.

Where are the modern Indians who live among us, Wilbur asked.

They are all about us, Wilbur and Deal said. If people are willing to see.

Again, here are today’s Heard Museum events.

Google image search results for "Asian American," Oct. 9, 2016.

Google image search results for “Asian American,” Oct. 9, 2016.

Google image search results for "African American," Oct. 9, 2016.

Google image search results for “African American,” Oct. 9, 2016.

Google image search results for "Hispanic American," Oct. 9, 2016.

Google image search results for “Hispanic American,” Oct. 9, 2016.

 

Should robots be granted a limited legal personhood? It might be good for all of us, says one lawyer-commentator. (photo: Wikimedia Commons).

Should robots be granted a limited legal personhood? It might be good for all of us, says one lawyer-commentator. (photo: Wikimedia Commons).

This Wednesday, the Phoenix City Council takes up suggested changes to the City code that would regulate the use of unmanned aerial systems—drones—in city parks. Based on some public debate I’ve heard about the issue, anything adopted is likely to be based little on science and much on stalling technology we don’t yet understand. But whatever. Somewhere, the FAA chuckles.

(I also have to wonder about the role drone restrictions will play in the STEM gap that already affects urban neighborhoods more than suburban ones. Commentary I’ve heard suggested that urban areas are simply “too congested” for recreational or other drone use, and they should be allowed only in the suburbs. So here would be another cutting-edge technology kept far away from urban schoolkids. I’m guessing future college freshmen will be less than competitive touting their kite-flying skills.)

This morning I read an interesting essay that explores humans’ convoluted relationship with machines. It may go some way toward explaining our often knee-jerk reaction against these strange contraptions that can do so much that we cannot.

Written by a Boston lawyer, the essay is part of a nationwide project called Future Tense that includes Arizona State University—it’s worth keeping track of. (As they describe it, “Future Tense [is] a collaboration among Arizona State University, New America, and Slate.”)

Attorney John Frank Weaver analogizes humans’ evolving view of animal protections and suggests a similar approach would benefit us in regard to machines. Like animals, machines and how we treat them say a lot about us, and those interactions have moral implications. And it’s not just the “cute” animals that need legal protections, he argues. We also need to safeguard the more ugly machines. As he writes:

“[I]n focusing on laws that protect how we socialize with anthropomorphized robots, we need to make sure not to ignore plainer robots. They need legal protections, too. In fact, I have gone so far as to recommend that we should grant them limited legal personhood. It’s not because we should empathize with them—it’s because laws governing interactions with ugly bots could improve their utility and benefit to humans.”

Did someone say drone?

Read the whole piece here.

Ugly robots deserve protection and maybe some love too

Ugly robots (even drones) deserve protection and maybe some love too.

A Flxible tour bus in front of Boston's Verb Hotel tells you something different is going on with this parcel's transformation.

A Flxible tour bus in front of Boston’s Verb Hotel tells you something different is going on with this parcel’s transformation.

“What does a big red bus have to do with adaptive reuse?”

That is how I open my Arizona Attorney column for the October issue (I’ll share the whole thing when it’s online). The bus comment relates to a recently refurbished Boston, Mass., hotel. The larger issue poked at the question of how laws and lawyers can work to make urban spaces more vibrant and dynamic.

One way to achieve adaptive reuse is to alter your laws and your code to encourage (or at least not disincentivize) it. That is something Phoenix has been at work on. You can see a brochure about the city’s own plan here.

Meantime, in Boston, its namesake university has a fascinating piece of journalism on its site that describes the transformation of a main street into what it is today. Once the site of scores of auto dealers and auto-accessories shops, it has become a boulevard welcoming to cars but also to cyclists, pedestrians, and the City’s iconic T subway.

On the site, writer Patrick L. Kennedy explores that street’s transformation. (The site itself is a marvel; click through, at least, to view the brief videos and the sliding-bar effect that lets you view the old and new streetscapes right next to each other.)

One of the fascinating old structures that might have met the wrecking ball in another city is seen below. The building once held an automobile showroom. Now, the BU School of Theatre makes its home there, and it left intact much of the impressive artifacts—one of which are gargoyle-like figures high on the walls that honor mechanics rather than supernatural beings.

Boston University School of Theatre building, once an auto-dealership.

Boston University School of Theatre building, once an auto-dealership.

Yes, that is a mechanic gargoyle in the Stone Gallery. It and many others line the high ceiling in a space now used for education.

Yes, that is a mechanic gargoyle in the Stone Gallery. It and many others line the high ceiling in a space now used for education.

In that magazine column, I was able to share only one image (that very cool decades-old Flxible tour bus, also pictured above). So I thought it would be terrific to share more images here from the Boston adventure. Here are a few more.

Currently, Phoenix seeks to emulate the success of places like Boston that have installed “parklets”—repurposed parking spaces that now accommodate non-car uses. Dozens of cities have already discovered that altering their laws to permit these spaces creates a more vibrant streetscape, which benefits the businesses nearby and adds to residents’ value.

This is just one example of many that businesses have taken when they install public parklets in Boston.

This is just one example of many that businesses have taken when they install public parklets in Boston.

Boston parklets, branded

Boston parklets, branded

A parklet reminder that the space has no predefined use.

A parklet reminder that the space has no predefined use.

The somewhat odd debate is occurring in Phoenix right now as to whether the city should have both public and private parklets. As seen in the images below, Boston’s are public—as are the parklets of 99 percent of the cities out there that have adopted this unique tool. (Is it an Arizona thing to imagine that higher benefits flow from passing public amenities on to the private sector? Hmm.)

In case there was any doubt, signage makes clear that all parklets are public (and not just for a business's customers).

In case there was any doubt, signage makes clear that all parklets are public (and not just for a business’s customers).

Also occupying former car space are wildly successful bike-share stations. They can be found at dozens of places around the city, which makes hopping on—and then off—an easy task.

Boston bike-share occupies space formerly used for cars.

Boston bike-share occupies space formerly used for cars.

Of course, adaptive reuse means businesses often live alongside—or above—residential spaces. This image shows multiple floors of retail and commercial (including below-grade) with residences above.

Business and residential together (and yes, that is Insomnia Cookies in the foreground). Boston streetscape

Business and residential together (and yes, that is Insomnia Cookies in the foreground).

And here is another former auto dealer that now markets bagels and other food through its massive plate-glass windows.

Boston adaptive use streetscape

Boston adaptive use streetscape

Finally, I couldn’t help but notice a former incinerator chute—not removed but left to evoke the past—in a university dorm.

Boston: The impulse to retain the past burns bright. An incinerator chute in a Boston University dorm.

Boston: The impulse to retain the past burns bright. An incinerator chute in a Boston University dorm.

 

Boston incinerator 2_opt closeup

Incinerator label closeup

Do you agree there is value in keeping and adapting the past? If you’re a lawyer involved in that effort, write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Tomorrow, I’ll share another great adaptive reuse—here in Arizona, and with another legal angle.

"I'm just a bill" is a pretty humble thing for a powerful opinion-shaper to say. gif

“I’m just a bill” is a pretty humble thing for a powerful opinion-shaper to say.

A few days ago, I mentioned an association leader’s written response to breaking legal events. Today, I share my own takeaways to the same events, as I wrote in my April editor’s column.

Like Whitney Cunningham, I did not directly address the Arizona bill titled SB1062. Instead, I marveled at the community engagement—on both sides of the issue—that the proposed law brought to life.

SB 1062 open for business sign_opt

Always open for dialogue and discussion

I titled my column “The Civics Brain Stirs,” which opened:

“The notion that we are a nation(state) of laws may never have been more apparent than in February, as Arizona was held in the grip of a controversial bill sent from the Legislature to the Governor. As she wrestled with her decision of what to do with SB 1062 (which she ultimately vetoed), we in the state got a front-row seat to civics and remarkable political drama.”

“In an age dominated by sound bites and Xbox, it is amazing how often people will set down the joystick to engage with each other on difficult elements of law and public policy. Here are four things that occurred to me as events unfolded.”

To read those four things—and the entire column—go here.

And for a more pointed commentary on events, read Grant Woods’ column on our back-page “Last Word.”

I'm just a bill veto

No, Vladimir Putin did not pick his own tie. Why do you ask? rainbow tie

No, Vladimir Putin did not pick his own tie. Why do you ask?

Yesterday was the start of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. By all accounts, the 22nd Olympiad of the cold variety is off to a rocky start, with facilities and venues far from prepared to serve the arriving throngs.

Of course, this is a legal industry blog, not a hospitality industry one, so let’s recall that the biggest controversy of these Olympics is not about hotels but about discrimination, namely the treatment of gay people. Despite some tepid assurances, Russian authorities including Vladimir Putin seem bent on ensuring that only straight people are made to feel welcome at the Games.

And it’s not just about a welcoming sentiment, of course. There is actually an anti-gay law that many are protesting.

Meanwhile, over at Google on Thursday, we spotted an intriguing bit of political speech. The speech was evident in the “Google Doodle,” which changes daily to reflect items of historic or newsworthy importance.

Yesterday, the Google name was superimposed over a variety of athlete illustrations, each residing in a bar of color, all totaling the rainbow hues typically associated with gay rights. (As I post this, the Doodle is still there; go take a look.)

Google home page, Feb. 6, 2014 (and yes, the search commentary is mine).

Google home page, Feb. 6, 2014 (and yes, the search commentary is mine).

In case you were still missing the point, clicking the Doodle took you to the Olympic Charter, specifically the portion opposing discrimination of any kind.

Google is famous for wanting a clean white canvas of a home page, largely uncluttered by any extra words or images. But on Thursday, they also pasted in the Charter’s words for all to see.

Oddly enough, that meant if you were searching for a clear statement about human rights, you wouldn’t find it from Sochi, or even from the occasionally vacillating International Olympic Committee. You would go, instead, to a search page. Makes sense.

Have a great—and discrimination-free—weekend.

thumbs down button dislikeLet’s get the bad news over early in the week, shall we?

A report issued last week reveals that lawyers are held in pretty profound distaste by many Americans (until they need a lawyer, I assume).

As the report from the Pew Research Center says:

“While there have been modest declines in public appreciation for several occupations, the order of the ratings is roughly the same as it was in 2009. Among the 10 occupations the survey asked respondents to rate, lawyers are at the bottom of the list. About one-in-five Americans (18%) say lawyers contribute a lot to society, while 43% say they make some contribution; fully a third (34%) say lawyers contribute not very much or nothing at all.”

“Nothing at all.” Sheesh.

Media reaction that I’ve seen has been muted (maybe because they felt no surprise). And the press being as self-involved as any other profession, the area they seemed to focus on was the sharp decline in Americans’ views of journalists.

Salon managed to do both: navel-gaze at its own profession while writing a headline that disemboweled attorneys: “Poll: Journalists only slightly less despised than lawyers”

Pew Research Center profession table 2013

Don’t see lawyers? Keep looking down.

Touché.

The American Cities Business Journals examined the survey mainly in regard to its take on—you guessed it—business executives (who deserve more respect, one writer claims). But even as Washington Bureau Chief Kent Hoover decries the poor ranking of business leaders (valued by 24 percent of respondents), he still takes a moment to mention lawyers:

“Only 18 percent of Americans think lawyers contribute a lot to society, which comes as no surprise. Lots of people have detested lawyers since at least the days of William Shakespeare, who put these immortal words in the mouth of Dick the Butcher: ‘The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.’”

Hardy-har-har.

Lost amidst the numbers is the fact that business executives have risen in respondents’ eyes since 2009. Sure, their numbers aren’t great, but the impression they leave with people has increased over the past four years. (In fact, business execs are the only profession of the 10 studied whose perception was improved!)

Shall I list the business scandals and economic disasters wreaked by business mismanagement and worse in that time period? Wow.

But I don’t write today to fault the business community for its success in the public-perception game. But given recent criminal Wall Street activities that have rocked our nation to its core, and the valuable role lawyers have played throughout U.S. history, I have to wonder about how U.S. history is taught. And do Americans ever read a newspaper, or watch a news report?

Well, now I just sound like a curmudgeon. Why don’t you get a big cup of coffee and read the entire Pew study here?

Let’s hope the week improves.

Energy and water story ideas wantedWhen you tell Arizona folks you want to talk about water resources, they listen. In fact, they may well want to chime in themselves.

That’s what I discovered recently when I drafted my April 2013 Editor’s Letter for Arizona Attorney Magazine. Like every editor, I am always seeking content that advances the conversation, and we’re always on the prowl for stories that are pertinent and timely.

Based on numerous dialogues I’ve had in the past six months, it occurred to me that a few of the areas we should be covering are water resources and energy generation. So I asked.

Happily, I heard from a good number of people with their ideas. But I’d like to hear from even more. And that’s why I’m including that April column below (you can read it and the complete issue here). If you want to be part of the conversation—either as a published author or as someone we should quote in a story—write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Dept. of Power, Water, More Power

In a desert climate, more effort may be expended on energy issues than in other places. And the horse-trading among powerful interests will only increase in 2013.

Back in 2010, we heard from University of Arizona Law Professor Robert Glennon. The water expert said, “What we do to water is what we did to the buffalo: Harvest it to the brink of extinction.”

Even with H2O, what we value is connected to how much we pay: “Water lubricates the American economy just as much as oil does, but Americans pay less for water than we do for cellphone service or cable television.”

The Navajo Generating Station near Page is at the center of a legal dispute that involves the Salt River Project and the Navajo Nation.

The Navajo Generating Station near Page is at the center of a legal dispute that involves the Salt River Project and the Navajo Nation.

An intriguing panel last month on water in a desert climate addressed that and other issues. It opened with the question, “Do we really have enough water? Really?” (I also wrote about the panel online at http://wp.me/pEOwt-2rX).

The interrelatedness of energy issues was clear as speakers addressed the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station, for which the EPA has advised requires huge and expensive changes. Assuming improvements cost $1 billion (with a b) or more, we may have to reassess water pricing.

Historian Paul Hirt relayed a humorous story demonstrating that water in Arizona is even cheaper than dirt. He got estimates on having a ton of clean topsoil delivered to his house. A ton of clean water (according to WikiAnswers, about 240 gallons) delivered from SRP would cost about 20 times that.

“20 times cheaper,” Hirt marveled, “to get this precious, life-giving resource.”

Heather Macre, a lawyer and Central Arizona Conservation Water Board member, reexamined relations we thought we understood. For instance, she says, “When you turn on a lightbulb, you’re using water. When you turn on your faucet, you’re using electricity.”

Are we trapped in a “relentless cycle of overuse,” as Glennon says? What next steps make sustainable sense, legally or otherwise?

This year, we’d like to cover more energy topics in the magazine. To do that, we need your help.

What issues related to water or other resource should be our focus? What are the legal developments we should follow? And who are the lawyers who should be on our list of sources and authors? Write to us at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

“Do we have enough water?” panelists were asked? One responded, “Yes, but ….”

What’s your answer?