Friday, May 25, 2012

Outsourcing Police Oversight

UCIPD officers begin arresting Irvine 17 protesters outside UCI Chancellor's Office in February 2010. Photograph copyright 2010 Daniel C. Tsang
At least two University of California police departments – UCLA and UC Irvine -- have outsourced their police policy manuals to a private company and one of them, UCIPD, astonishingly, considers the private company that handles police policy manual revisions, as its law firm.

UCI assistant police chief Jeff Hutchison, in an hour-long meeting with UCI history prof. Mark Levine and myself November 21, 2011, kept referring to the private firm, Lexipol, as "our counsel". When I asked did he mean the University Counsel, he said no, the campus counsel is out of the loop. He implied that LLC after its name meant law firm - when in fact it means limited liability company

How about the UCI Chancellor then? Is Michael Drake also out of the chain of command? Oh, he's too busy to look at every police policy, after all there are 434 pages of them was the response. Three hours after our meeting, Drake released online the same use of force, tasering and pepper spraying policies that Hutchison had shown us, and that Drake apparently also just got to see. Note the copyright on the UCI police policies is attributed to Lexipol, LLC.

Why are campus police departments at UC Irvine and UCLA relying on an outside firm – and a private business at that -- for legal advice? Is not the well-paid campus counsel sufficient? Incidentally six chief campus counsels got hefty raises at a recent Regents Meeting. UCI’s University Counsel got a 14.3 percent pay raise, while Davis’ Chief Counsel got a 21.9% raise, They can surely afford to give their police chiefs some legal advice and review their local police procedures. But Hutchison, of course, had an answer: Lexipol knows actual law enforcement practices and implied that the UC Counsel's Office does not.

Lexipol may well do, but constitutional law is what matters, and that is definitely not the domain of a cop or a business formed by former cops. In fact, a Lexipol policy recently got criticized in a federal case that was not at the time resolved. The policy was adopted by the Guadalupe, California, police department with provisions that actually apparently suppressed the police officers' own free speech rights.

In addition, the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), which certifies police practices, in 2009 denied certification to Lexipol's Daily Training Bulletins as self-paced training, in part because Lexipol was a private business with the bulletins only accessible by paid subscribers. Lexipol appealed the decision, but there is no public record if it was reversed so I do not know if it was reversed.

Lexipol is founded by Bruce Praet, a former Laguna Beach cop turned lawyer who now has made a career defending cops accused of violating the civil rights of citizens. I'm all for giving defendants the best defense, but why should the UC chain of command be ignored and a private business be treated as as the University’s legal counsel?

There is in fact a "Universitywide Police Polices and Administrative Procedures" manual, last reviewed in 2010, with an effective date of January 7, 2011. That manual states that the Office of the UC President is responsible for coordinating certain police services functions, including "police services policies and standards."

But that system-wide policy manual was never mentioned when we met with the UCIPD officials. So the policies outlined there on pepper spray apparently have no impact on actual police work at the campus level.

It has taken some pepper-sprayed students and injured faculty for the UC administrators to realize that they risk losing control over the campus police forces. I hope a review of the state of campus policing will lead not only to more oversight but also to more public accountability. A civilian review board or some such mechanism needs to be established on each campus. An August 18, 2011 "Police Department Oversight Report" from the University of Oregon, which reviewed various models of outside oversight, can serve as a useful starting point. But no doubt the University is not interested in outside or student/faculty review of its police.

A different version of this blog entry has been submitted as a response to a call for comments from the Robinson-Edley Report on the UC police crackdown on student protesters. Deadline for comments is June 8, 2012. -- Daniel C. Tsang.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Remembering Julie

To listen to the KUCI Subversity Online podcast of the Julius Margolis Memorial Reception, click on: .
My lasting remembrance of Julie Margolis (pictured) relates to his genuine warmth and friendliness, especially when I, as an economics bibliographer, would show up at his home and review materials from his personal library that he was kindly donating to UCI Libraries. My last meeting stands out - this was more recently, when he was fully into his post-retirement career as Jules Margolis - the artist. That time, he was more interested in showing me his paintings than talking about his book collection. At his side as usual was his wonderful wife, Doris.

Jules Margolis, "Shaman I", 1993, oil on canvas.

When the Economics Department at UC Irvine publicly held a memorial reception 16 May 2012 to honor the emeritus Professor, Julie was definitely there in spirit. For the gathering, held in the Mathematical Behavioral Science's Luce conference room in Social Sciences Plaza Building A, was graced by his artistic work - Shaman I - painted oil on canvas in 1993 - and donated by Duncan and Carolyn Luce - that was hanging from a corner, unobtrusively.

While much of the memorial session was rightly devoted to his brilliance as an economist (he had headed the Fels Institute at Harvard before Irvine), and his intellectual impact on countless economists in the field today, including Anthony Downs - people who developed the field of public choice - the real fireworks, if one can call it that, came when Bill Parker, Physics chair at UCI, but once a top campus administrator, related Julie's experiences with university administrators - whom Jule, Bill related, called them "bastards." In fact Bill Parker said he and Julius Margolis had a good cop/bad cop type of relationship - as they worked together on faculty health and welfare issues system-wide as well as on campus. On campus, they both are credited with the establishment of University Hills, for UCI faculty and staff - the housing development in Irvine adjacent to the campus.

Margolis' daughter Jane Peterson, with Bill Parker in background, at her father's memorial gathering. Photo © 2012 Daniel C. Tsang

Julie Margolis was a founder of GPACS - the Global Peace and Conflict Studies program and center at UC Irvine. That commitment to peace studies reflected Julie's upbringing, raised in New York City and having attended City University of New York. Daughter Jane Peterson, who spoke at the memorial, recalls exclaiming "Orange County!" when his dad announced he planned to the post in economics at UC Irvine. Given her father's reputation as a curmudgeon, life in the Margolis household was never dull, with the dad always having the last word. Jane's husband, Mark Peterson, a UCLA political scientist, remembers Julie exhorting him to become active in faculty governance issues, and still encounters academics who owe an intellectual debt to his father-in-law.

It may signify the passage of an era, for the same day as the Margolis gathering, another memorial event was happening, the memorial reception for Larry Howard. Indeed Larry had faithfully visited Julie in the hospital every day for several weeks and both passed away within weeks of each other. Both had been active in GPACS and shared a kindred spirit in peace and justice and in peace research.

Julie Margolis' legacy continues, in the Margolis Lecture series set up by GPACS, in the faculty he nurtured, and on Google Scholar. Additional artwork by Jules Margolis is included in a UCI obit. - Daniel C. Tsang.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Remembering Larry Howard

To listen to the KUCI Subversity Online podcast of the Larry Howard Memorial Reception, click on: .
Updated: New University story: Online edition | pdf of print: scroll to page 6 with different photo
Larry Howard photographed 17 February 2012 at the UCI Law School. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2012
Larry Howard's commitment to peace and justice and to educating his students in the social sciences came through loud and clear as family members, colleagues on the UC Irvine campus, community peace activists and assorted friends gathered to celebrate his life 16 May 2012 on the patio next to Social Sciences Tower.

The long-time Social Sciences Lecturer who had an abiding faith in the human ability to improve world conditions was remembered as an Orange County native who spent his entire university education and later career at UC Irvine.

My retired colleague, philosophy bibliographer Eddie Yeghiayan recalls TA'ing for a philosophy professor - long gone from UCI - who was not nice to Larry, who took that class as an undergraduate at UC Irvine in the 1970s. Eddie remembers how the TAs felt empathy for Larry, sitting in a wheelchair, at the back of the classroom near the TAs, and disliked the attitude of that professor. This was long before attitudes towards the disabled began improving, and long before UCI established its Disability Services Center, at which Larry would work most recently.

In 1986, the year I arrived at UCI as a newly hired Social Sciences bibliographer, Larry Howard completed his Ph.D, also at UCI, writing a thesis on "Maturation and memory span: a study of the development of short-term memory in children using electrophysiological and behavioral measures." At Irvine, social sciences had pioneered in transgressing disciplinary boundaries, originally under leadership of social sciences dean James March, and Larry was a perfect fit - he would teach broadly in the social sciences, in classes spanning psychology, arms control, and nuclear conflict.

In fact, he was there when Global Peace and Conflict Studies (GPACS) was started at UC Irvine and soon became involved with organizing a conference, in the 1989-1990 school year, on "Terrorism." After the conference, which brought on campus key contemporary thinkers and researchers on the topic, Larry asked me to index the resulting publication, which he edited. I was honored to help with this project by compiling a 15-page index, of this work, which became GPACS' first (and only) book, Terrorism: Roots, Impacts, Responses, which Larry edited and wrote the preface. Thanks to digitization, portions of the the book are now searchable online.

Sadly, the same day as the memorial gathering for Larry Howard also saw another memorial reception, that for GPACS co-founder Julie Margolis, the noted economist at UCI. His daughter, Jane, told the Howard gathering that Larry would visit Julie at the hospital every day for several weeks until the end. Sadly, two weeks later, Howard also departed.

A youthful Larry Howard - photo from among those displayed at the memorial gathering.

Despite having polio since his childhood, Larry never saw anything as an obstacle; indeed he mastered the use of his wheelchair so he could participate in peace causes throughout the region. Many times I would see him, in his wheelchair, at lectures given at Chapman University's peace program in Orange. The most recent lecture where we met was mid-February this year, at the new UC Irvine Law School, which brought in former CIA officer Valerie Plame, whom Larry, after the lecture, sought to interrogate about nuclear proliferation. See picture.

Valerie Plame talks with Larry Howard, 17 February 2012 at UCI Law School. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2012

Doves fly over the 16 May 2012 gathering. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2012.
Key speakers at the memorial reception included long-time social sciences Dean Willie Schonfeld, now retired, as well as political scientist Cesar Sereseres. Several spoke of Larry's love of movies. I remember a recent encounter at a Regal theater where Larry explained to Eddie and me what "The Artist" really was about and what certain scenes meant. After the reception, I learned that one of Larry's final public activist moments was tabling outside Peet's Coffee across from the UCI campus, seeking signatures on a petition for himself to run for the Orange County Democratic Party executive board. As I walk out daily from the nearby Trader Joe's I half-expect to see Larry getting out of his hatchback.

A beautiful ending to the memorial reception was the release of three doves - apparently to signify peace. Set free, they seemed to linger over the gathering, before flying away. What a perfect way to represent Larry's spirit! - Daniel C. Tsang.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Film Documents First Vietnamese American Congressman's Stint in D.C.

To listen to our Subversity Online interview with filmmaker S. Leo Chiang, click on: .
S. Leo Chiang's latest documentary, Mr. Cao Goes to Washington, follows the first Vietnamese American elected to Congress, Joseph Cao, as he faces a daunting re-election bid. But Joe Cao is no Jimmy Stewart character (as in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington). Instead, while as idealistic and reform oriented as the Stewart character, he faces a political reality that, in the end, blocks his re-election.

Congressman Cao with short-lived friend Obama

Chiang is an unobtrusive documentary filmmaker, staying out of sight and sound in his movies, preferring to let the subjects he films, or presents from TV or C-SPAN footage, speak for themselves. Thus we do not get investigative reporting out of this documentary of this Republican Congressman who was initially the only Republican to vote with the Democrats on a draft Obama-care health bill.

In our Subversity Online interview, Chiang is blunt that his politics differ from Mr. Cao's, who is strongly so-called "pro-life". Commissioned by the Center for Asian American Media to film his subject, Chiang had gained the future Congressman's trust with his earlier film, A Village Called Versailles. Hear and read about our earlier interview with the filmmaker.

If Cao, representing a poverty-stricken Black district in Louisiana, at time sounds more Democrat than Republican, this may be attributed to his Jesuit background. Cao is presented at times even name dropping, telling Black audiences that Obama is his friend. But the long-sought endorsement of Cao's re-election of course came to naught, after Obama endorsed the opponent, a Democrat. This was despite the National Journal calling him the "most liberal" House Republican in 2011. According to Wikipedia, Cao was also one of 15 Republicans voting to repeal - in December 2010 - the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" anti-gay policy in the U.S. military.

Cao seems upset that Obama is sticking by his party (after all, Obama is titular head of the Democrats), and that the sitting President discusses class. This revelation, coming at the end of Chiang's close up of this extraordinarily lucky politician (he was elected from a heavily Democratic district against all odds) shows why Cao failed to win re-election, because race, class and party remain at the center of American politics.

Unlike his earlier film, on the devastation after Hurricane Katrina faced by the Vietnamese American enclave in Versailles, Louisiana, this film focuses not on Mr. Cao's ties to his Vietnamese American constituents, but on Mr. Cao trying to develop ties to the larger Black community. Left out of this film was footage Chiang tells us he did shoot, of a fundraising event in San Jose among the city's Vietnamese American citizens. The director, he tells us, consciously decided to focus not on Cao's roots as a refugee leaving Vietnam nor on the Asian American or Vietnamese American financial support of his re-election. That's a pity: It might have made a more fleshed out profile of this Jesuit turned politician.

The 72-minute film screens tomorrow, May 15, 2012, at 7 p.m. at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, at CGV Cinemas, 621 S. Western (between 6th and Wilshire), Los Angeles (parking via Manhattan Street entrance). - Daniel C. Tsang, KUCI Subversity Online Show host.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

From Love to Tumultuous Breakup: Mye Hoang's Wrenching Memoir in Viette (2012)

To listen to the online Subversity Show interview with Director Mye Hoang, click on:
Vietnamese American filmmaker Mye Hoang has made a wrenching, personal film based on her own disastrous relationship, beginning at 17, with a seemingly wonderful Caucasian man of 20.

Mye Hoang as Viette in bed with her lover Matt (played by Sean MacBride)
Hoang's first feature, which will be shown tomorrow, as the magnificant 2012 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival continues its run in Southern California, is utterly honest and blunt, difficult to watch but with the strongest performances from Mye herself, as the vulnerable but utterly captivating Viette, and from Sean McBride, as her attractive lover, that you would ever see in a first-time feature film director.

Hailing from Dallas, where she was born, Mye Hoang was the bad sheep in the family, her parents (from Vietnam) not giving her any of the freedoms expected by an adolescent growing up in America. Her film painfully depicts the uncomprehending gulf between parents and teenaged daughter; in one scene, the mother, portrayed convincingly by Yen Ly, warns her daughter about having "boys" give her rides home. When Viette eventually manages to escape, she encounters not a blissful life with her lover Matt but a disturbing unraveling of her relationship as the true character of her beloved Matt is revealed.

The film offers a stark look at teen love dissolving into despair, with an eventually hopeful ending, as I see it, amidst the calm settings of Hainan Island, the locale to which Viette has chosen, in the film to escape. There is hope, Hoang seems to say, amidst all the victimization and agony she endured.

In her interview with this online edition of Subversity, conducted by show host Daniel C. Tsang, Hoang reveals that her family may not even know about her film. She tells why she made this feature, to present a woman's perspective that is often ignored, glossed over, or kept out of the silver screen.

In 2011, she founded the Asian Film Festival of Dallas, and more recently, until last year, she served as the Artistic Director of the San Diego Asian Foundation. This talented director currently resides in Southern California and is "looking for a job".

Her earlier co-directed short, Press or Say "2" (2005), which wonderfully and hilariously captures the perils of intercultural communication with a call center based in Shanghai (with the attendant surveillance potential), is available for viewing on YouTube.

Viette screens at the Asian Pacific Film Festival Friday evening, May 11, 2012, at 9:30 p.m. at CGV Cinemas, 621 S. Western (between 6th and Wilshire), Los Angeles. Parking at CGV parking structure via the Manhattan Street entrance.

- Daniel C. Tsang, Subversity show host.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cantonese New Zealander Director's Film Sparks Ethnic Putdown in Q&A

Cantonese-speaking New Zealander Roseanne Liang's first major feature film, My Wedding and Other Secrets, takes a dramatic look back at her own courtship of Stephen (called James in the film), a tall and nerdy, white New Zealander, played by Matt Whelan. Her parents, originally from Hong Kong, would rather she marry another Chinese person, but a solution is at hand. If the prospective son-in-law would learn "basic Mandarin", Dr. Chu, the family patriarch played by Kenneth Tsang (no relation to the blog author), would agree to the marriage proposal. Dr. Chu eventually tells James that being from Hong Kong, the family speaks Cantonese, but he learned Mandarin as well.

It is strange for a Cantonese speaking family to want a son-in-law to speak Mandarin, given that the entire family speaks Cantonese (and English) in the film, including the daughter portraying the director, called in the film Emily Chu (played by Michelle Ang), who had refused to learn Mandarin.

The film is funny to watch and it was refreshing to hear Cantonese spoken in a Chinese-New Zealander-directed film. Liang was born in Auckland, NZ. The main characters are welll supported by a strong supporting cast of Emily's sisters and Matt's housemates, as well as, especially, Eric, played by Simon Londn, as the queer acting fellow film student of Emily's.

Photo, right: Matt fixates his gaze on to Emily.

The film starts off with Emily trying to do a film project at school about the relationship, which she tries to hide from her parents, to the distress of her boyfriend. She also declines to sleep overnight at James' place, while they are dating. This feature film (88 mins) takes off from Liang's original 2005 documentary of the same relationship (called Banana in a Nuthell).

In the Q and A after the recent showing at the Newport Beach Film Festival, featuring two ethnic Chinese actors from the film (one from Los Angeles, the other from Australia), in response to my query as to why the father would want the future relative to learn Mandarin, there was the suggestion that Mandarin is the future since China is taking over the world.

That may well be, but the NBFF volunteer who led the discussion committed a grievous and insulting faux pas, trying to explain why the man did not learn Cantonese, but in the process, she revealed her own ignorance, leaving one to wonder why she was picked to lead that Q and A.

What she said was amazingly rude and ignorant. She said it's because "Cantonese is a gutter language"! Elaborating, she argued that unlike Mandarin, which is a written language, Cantonese is a language of the streets, full of slang.

Her ignorance of Cantonese is no doubt attributable to her four years of language training in Mandarin, where the instructor undoubtedly misled her into believing that Cantonese is not a written language. In fact, as the many books published in Hong Kong and the overseas Chinese diaspora indicate, Cantonese can be and is written, as I daily encounter in chatting with my Cantonese friends online.

In addition, one of the actors claimed that Cantonese is only spoken in southern China and Hong Kong, ignoring the fact that it is one of the languages spoken by most Chinese immigrants to the U.S. in over a century, in Vancouver, and also in Southeast Asia.

I am glad director Rosseanne Liang was not present to hear the NBFF representative's insulting comments. It was a disappointing prelude to the Asian films shown that evening at the Pacific Rim Showcase, and the Fashion Island party afterwards, both of which I skipped as a result. - Daniel C. Tsang.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Honoring Elephants

An inspiring documentary currently showing at the 2012 Newport Beach Film Festival focuses the lens on Soraida Salwala, a tireless Thai animal rights activist, or more specifically, an elephant rights activist, who formed, with a vet, arguably the world's first elephant hospital.

In rescuing Motala, the first of a series of elephants from the fate of being put down out of their misery, after the huge animal stepped on a land mine in neighboring Burma, Salwala found her life's mission, the care and recovery of injured elephants, including providing customized artificial limbs for the elephants.

Relying not on the government but on charitable donations, Salwala has managed to survive as this documentary well depicts. The film is directed by Windy Borman, who told us she stayed in hostels in Chiangmai and headed to Lampang - the site of the elephant hospital - three times to film the documentary.

As one who loves elephants, it was painful to see the bleeding and pain suffered by these animals. Moreover, Borman does not spare us images of humans - including the young - whose legs are blown off by hidden landmines, such as in Vietnam, which has apparently tens of thousands more land mines than Burma. Given the long border with Burma, Asian elephants from Thailand often have to cross the border to work as logging animals - and thus get injured as a consequence of the civil war that until recently wreaked havoc in Myanmar.

Those who missed the first showing can still catch The Eyes of Thailand, at Triangle Square at 6:30 pm today (Tuesday May 1). Click here for more information.