Homeless in Paradise
November 19, 2013 5:57 PM   Subscribe

State Rep. Uses Sledgehammer To Destroy Homeless People’s Possessions

Some reactions

Background on homelessness in Hawaii. Earlier this year, state legislators approved a controversial program to offer homeless residents a one-way ticket out of the state.

A list of organizations providing resources and services for homeless Hawaiians.
posted by eviemath (119 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
"n an effort to address Hawaii's homeless problem, state representative Tom Brower has been taking a sledgehammer to destroy shopping carts used by the homeless in his district."

Well. that's one way to describe being a total arsehole. Maybe he can escalate it for the holidays by setting first to some of them.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 5:59 PM on November 19, 2013 [13 favorites]


So if you don't have a home, you don't have the right to own any property? How is it not illegal to destroy someone else's possessions?
posted by xingcat at 6:01 PM on November 19, 2013 [53 favorites]


I do believe this guy's sudden viral fame is going to turn out to be Not A Good Thing for him.
posted by localroger at 6:04 PM on November 19, 2013 [13 favorites]


I imagine the results of homeless people filing police reports or exploring other legal avenues of recompense wouldn't exactly be fruitful. But then, the law in its majestic equanimity etc. etc.

Crappy internet publicity, however...
posted by Bromius at 6:04 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


And what do the original owners of those shopping carts, presumably supermarkets, think of this? Around here, supermarkets pay you a reward for locating their missing carts for them... they're quite expensive. Just sayin'.
posted by Jimbob at 6:06 PM on November 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


If you're homeless in Hawaii, this guy is literally why you can't have nice things.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:08 PM on November 19, 2013 [27 favorites]


I am glad that other places have politicians who are stupider and more reprehensible than Rob Ford. And this one doesn't even appear to be in a drunken stupor.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:08 PM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


*hides plastic bags full of paint in shopping cart*
posted by pyramid termite at 6:09 PM on November 19, 2013 [25 favorites]


Does this mean that Hawaii's legislative body needs to have a debate about increasing public funding for mental health treatment (for Rep. Brower, of course)?
posted by coolxcool=rad at 6:10 PM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Why doesn't he just return them to the original owners instead of destroying them? Does this fucker seriously need a reminder that the ownership of the carts doesn't transfer with the theft of them from the original establishment?
posted by Talez at 6:11 PM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


This #^*%er is in a leadership position to actually help people and is too small minded to spend his free time doing anything but destruction.
posted by Skwirl at 6:11 PM on November 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Turns out that he destroys the carts that are already damaged, and returns the ones that work. He hasn't actually destroyed any carts with possessions in the carts, nor has he taken any carts away from anyone. Al-Jazeera says he's smashed about 20 carts.

Shoddy "reporting" in the linked piece.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:12 PM on November 19, 2013 [16 favorites]


Countdown to poorly worded nonapology
posted by MoxieProxy at 6:12 PM on November 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


I hope someone smashes the shit out of whatever douchebag conveyance this piece of garbage drives.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:13 PM on November 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


It's usually not a good idea to invite news crews to watch you commit crimes.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:13 PM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


In my limited understanding of the matter, homelessness is generally an expression of some sort of mental illness. So maybe smashing shopping carts might not be as effective as, say, strengthening the social safety net and offering these people some help...
posted by chasing at 6:16 PM on November 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


This fucking guy can't even use a sledgehammer properly omg
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:16 PM on November 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


What the fuck is wrong with this country? Where did we go so wrong?
posted by entropicamericana at 6:16 PM on November 19, 2013 [39 favorites]


Swinging a sledge on the downtrodden really keeps my arms toned and torso limber. It's like kettlebell!
posted by planetesimal at 6:17 PM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


This fucking guy can't even use a sledgehammer properly omg

maybe he'll throw out his back
posted by pyramid termite at 6:17 PM on November 19, 2013 [14 favorites]


by the way, he still wakes up people in public parks who are sleeping during the day, so he doesn't get a pass from me
posted by pyramid termite at 6:18 PM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


What the fuck is wrong with this country? Where did we go so wrong?


Hawaii is a very expensive place to live. If shit goes wrong in your life, it's very easy to lose your savings if you're in Hawaii, and once you can't afford a plane ticket to the 48, you're going to be sleeping rough.

OTOH, there certainly are worse places in the world to be sleeping rough.
posted by ocschwar at 6:21 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Tom Brower was a steel-driving, degenerate, hollowed-out shell of what once was a man.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:25 PM on November 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


*hides plastic bags full of paint purified capsaicin powder and diseased pigshit straight from the factory-farm in shopping cart*

FTFY.

You know, I get it - the destitute =are= scary. The desperation and insanity they give off are very threatening, and for some reason, culture or instinct, we're certain these people are out to harm us. As a Concerned Dad, I would put myself between a homeless person in the park and my little girl, and Go Ballistic if they approached her. As a Civilized Human Being who pays taxes and votes, I recognize their right to be there as citizens, their lack of alternatives, and the issue isn't that they're in my park, the issue is that they have to be in my park, as we have failed them as a civilization. Ain't nowhere else to go, and "dead somewhere" ain't an option.

Evil, stupid motherfucker probably just chucks his leaves and sticks into the neighbor's yard instead of mulching. Ain't got NO TIME for that kinda asshole.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:26 PM on November 19, 2013 [23 favorites]


What a douchebag.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 6:26 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


no one knows how or why it happened - at first, it was a couple of shopping carts at safeway, that inexplicably started moving out the sliding door by themselves, with no wind or person to propel them - then, it was more and more of them - at every grocery store in honolulu, cart after cart, propelled itself into the parking lot and then out into the street, seemingly at random, even going uphill - employees who attempted to stop them found themselves unable to stop their progress towards whatever destination they were headed

finally, a pattern emerged - at first one by one, then by tens, and then hundreds, they gathered in the parking lot of the hawaii state legislature

and waited
posted by pyramid termite at 6:28 PM on November 19, 2013 [80 favorites]


If, while he's out smashing carts, someone found his car (unattended) and proceeded to reciprocate, I for one wouldn't mourn.
posted by notsnot at 6:33 PM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


Isn't there a study proving that making life extremely difficult for the homeless actually results in them turning their lives around and becoming productive citizens? No? Oh, well fuck this guy then.
posted by orme at 6:35 PM on November 19, 2013 [50 favorites]


In my limited understanding of the matter, homelessness is generally an expression of some sort of mental illness.

Not particularly. Homelessness is generally an expression of lack of money brought on by many different factors, mental or physical illness being just one. And of course once you are homeless your susceptibility to factors leading to mental or physical disability dramatically increases.

Half the fucking military budget and you have enough money to balance the budget and provide a working strong safety net and hey.. perhaps even enough for a fucking tax cut.
posted by edgeways at 6:39 PM on November 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


I KNOW IF I MAKE HOMELESS LIVES WORSE THEY WON'T WANT TO BE HOMELESS SO MUCH

He's like leftists who voted for Bush under the theory that making things worse will spur everyone to make things better.
posted by klangklangston at 6:39 PM on November 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


Christ, what a Republican.
posted by islander at 6:42 PM on November 19, 2013 [20 favorites]


This guy need his house egged until he himself is rendered homeless. What scum.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:45 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Homelessness is generally an expression of lack of money brought on by many different factors, mental or physical illness being just one.

Homelessness can also be brought about by many other factors too - not just money... the streets of inner Sydney are home to many young kids who have run away from home due to abuse, neglect etc. I have been involved in homelessness in Sydney and each person's story is different. For some, it just an inability to cope with life.

Regardless of the reason, most people are not living "on the streets" by choice... so smashing their possessions will do very little to help. It potentially place them in greater danger (ie destroy their shelter, warm clothing etc).

Much better to offer them some swag!
posted by greenhornet at 6:49 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


the next hour was a blur of twisted metal and supermarket flyers sticking to the windshield of his car, but somehow tom managed to plow his way through the clanking mass of shopping carts to freedom on the street, with the surviving carts following his jeep cherokee with maniacal fervor

there was only one way out - he had a friend at the marina - cellphone shaking in his hand, he called him

"you're my only hope - the shopping carts have sworn revenge against me - i don't know shit about shopping carts, but i damn well know they can't swim"

he pulled into the marina parking lot and ran from the cherokee, not even bothering to turn it off - already the thumping of hundreds of uneven wheels sounded behind him, foretelling his doom

bob pulled the rope off the dock and got the small cruiser boat into the channel - soon, they were in the open ocean, rolling over the waves and tom breathed a sigh of relief

"whoa, what's that?" - bob was looking over the waves with a look of severe puzzlement

"what's what?"

bob whistled - "it's a shitload of shopping carts - on surfboards!"
posted by pyramid termite at 6:51 PM on November 19, 2013 [30 favorites]


islander: Sadly, he is a Democrat (of the Strom Thurmond variety, I presume). See his legislative bio.

Said bio actually links to an op-ed of his from a few years ago on homelessness. He essentially argues that the state should create "safe zones" where homeless can stay until they get back on their feet (how they will do so is not addressed specifically); the trade-off being that "the government needs to remove the homeless from areas of aesthetic, cultural and economic importance for the enjoyment of residents and visitors." The homeless should not "have unlimited access for 'camping' at popular spots. Being homeless should mean fewer options on where you can stay, not more."
posted by dhens at 6:53 PM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sadly, he is a Democrat

I just noticed that *mind blown*. He is now officially my most despised Democrat ever.
posted by ogooglebar at 6:56 PM on November 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


How... what...

This reminds me of that time a reporter finally asked an anti-abortion Republican (male, natch) lawmaker why he thinks a woman would choose to have an abortion.

He literally had no answer, he'd never even considered the question.

Same here. Maybe just.. oh take like, five fucking seconds to consider why someone might be homeless? Before going on some nutty vigilante mission?
posted by odinsdream at 6:57 PM on November 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


Christ, what a Politician.
posted by islander at 6:59 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Brower is a fairly liberal Democrat who represents Waikiki and was a strong supporter of the Marriage Equality bill that just passed (something he said in the context of mocking opponents - "do they believe that blocking this law will make them stop being gay?" - of the measure was taken out of context to suggest he'd said something nuts in some Buzzfeed-like article or other).

I have no idea what got into his head, but the national attention has made him rethink his behavior. To sort of paraphrase him, I wonder if he thought smashing their shopping carts would make them stop being homeless?

Between Brower and Jo Jordan, we've had a banner month in Hawaii for well-liked state Democrats behaving in bizarre ways.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:00 PM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maybe just.. oh take like, five fucking seconds to consider why someone might be homeless?

THEY ARE HOMELESS

BECAUSE THEY DO NOT YET KNOW

THAT THE SHOPPING CARTS CAN BE DEFEATED

WE DO NOT HAVE TO BE THEIR SERVANTS

FERRYING AROUND THE CARTS' BELONGINGS

WE CAN DESTROY THEM WITH HAMMERS

AND BE FREE
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:00 PM on November 19, 2013 [35 favorites]


It's a shame that Hawaii treats its mentally ill citizens so poorly that they have no alternatives other than to run for the state senate.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:02 PM on November 19, 2013 [32 favorites]


Put this in perspective

2012 Voting results House of Representatives - District 22 -
General Election

Tom Brower 4,317
Marcus Hester 1,886

Big fish, little pond - reaching for attention

(register to vote - it does matter)
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 7:03 PM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Someone has finally spotted a DINO.
posted by ogooglebar at 7:03 PM on November 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


Oahu is full of homeless hating politicians. I wrote this op-ed piece "A Park is for the Public? Unless They Are Homeless" in May of this year after the second sidewalk bill (immediate confiscation of belongings from city property)
Honolulu’s most predictable reaction to homelessness and the (de)Occupy campers can be summed up as “but think of the tourists!” In his January 2013 op-ed, the director of the Honolulu Museum of Art called the park a “civic embarrassment” that he didn’t know how to explain to “visiting dignitaries.” We want to hide the homeless, the protestors, the unsightly.

This is clear in reports to Neighborhood Boards that cite the discomfort of seeing people sleeping in doorways of unused buildings or on a median between two streets. By sleeping in those locations, homeless people are not obstructing the flow of traffic. But they are visually obstructing enjoyment of the scenery and deemed eyesores. In Honolulu, tourists have become an interest group of virtual residents through their proxies, the tourism industry and concerned citizens. In contrast, the homeless themselves are often excluded from our definition of city residents; their few advocates are left appealing to our shared humanity.

When the most vulnerable (e.g. homeless) or the most outspoken (e.g. (de)Occupy Honolulu) are ejected from our definition of the public, how we define democracy is sorely limited. When our belief in what tourists want overrides the very real needs of human beings, how we regulate public space is operating from deeply flawed assumptions.
posted by spamandkimchi at 7:08 PM on November 19, 2013 [19 favorites]


This is such a poetic statement on America that I can't believe he's not a performance artist.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:29 PM on November 19, 2013 [20 favorites]


Since spending some time in the developing world last year, i've wondered what the impact of zoning regulations is on the homeless problem, and how many homeless people we'd have if we'd let them build their own shelters. Now, I guess people don't want to see latin american style slums full of currogated tin shacks in honolulu, but isn't it better to have that than people sleeping under blankets at bus stops or in public parks? Basically it comes down to the fact that we'd rather see people die than destroy their property values with an unattractive shelter.
posted by empath at 7:34 PM on November 19, 2013 [21 favorites]


empath, THAT is an awesome insight! I was born in California, and some of the hostility really dates to the Dust Bowl era. It's very little to do with issues of cleanliness or begging or public intoxication or defecation. That last was a huge issue for me.
In San Francisco few homes have air conditioning. If lots of random people have used your sidewalk as a toilet, you just can't open the windows for some fresh air.
I would rather see hygiene stations where homeless people could clean up, use the bathroom, lock up their things and get mail. All these things are a HUGE issue, maybe a bigger one than where to sleep, not that a safe sleeping spot isn't an issue.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:42 PM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


I can't believe he's not a performance artist.

He was, however, a morning DJ who used the name "Bad Mouth" Brower on our ultra-alternative radio station in the 90's. I was reminded by a friend just now that he caused a lot of backlash with his views back then, too.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:43 PM on November 19, 2013


Something that has sort of surprised me the few times I've been to Hawaii: there's a lot of anger just sort of in the air. It's a beautiful place, of course, but the people, the locals that is, tend to be a bit coarser and blunter and just damn angry a lot of the time. Is the lack of seasons? Does winter act as a literal cooling mechanism? Maybe it's just confirmation bias on my part, but there it is.

Also, if this guy is a Democrat, I'd hate to see what Hawaiian Republicans are like.
posted by zardoz at 7:44 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fuck that guy.

Also: fuck his party.
posted by pompomtom at 7:46 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Something that has sort of surprised me the few times I've been to Hawaii: there's a lot of anger just sort of in the air. It's a beautiful place, of course, but the people, the locals that is, tend to be a bit coarser and blunter and just damn angry a lot of the time. Is the lack of seasons? Does winter act as a literal cooling mechanism? Maybe it's just confirmation bias on my part, but there it is.

I've lived out here for 23 years and this is completely the opposite of my experience. It might be the difference between interacting in the visitor world versus interacting in the resident world.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:47 PM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Since spending some time in the developing world last year, i've wondered what the impact of zoning regulations is on the homeless problem, and how many homeless people we'd have if we'd let them build their own shelters. Now, I guess people don't want to see latin american style slums full of currogated tin shacks in honolulu, but isn't it better to have that than people sleeping under blankets at bus stops or in public parks? Basically it comes down to the fact that we'd rather see people die than destroy their property values with an unattractive shelter.

Maybe there's a counterargument to be made that restricting them to certain areas reduces their visibility and might diminish the political will among non-homeless (because if they don't visit those areas, they no longer have to see it) to enact policies that help the actually reduce the amount of homelessness (instead of just sweeping it into a corner where no one has to look)?
posted by juv3nal at 7:53 PM on November 19, 2013


It's a beautiful place, of course, but the people, the locals that is, tend to be a bit coarser and blunter and just damn angry a lot of the time

I noticed the time I visited Trinidad that the place seemed to be a pent-up hotbed of hostility which none of my Western companions could perceive. I figured it to be due to it being an island, with nowhere to go and the desperately poor and the inexplicably rich living within meters of one another.

But given the chance to leave, it may be exacerbated by another thing: Even for the poor, it's home. Hawaii is at least warm, so the homeless don't need to worry about hypothermia, as they do every once in awhile even in New Orleans.
posted by localroger at 8:07 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't dislike the plane ticket idea, because I have been far from home and unable to afford the bus ticket to get back to my family and people who might have been able to help me, and there aren't exactly any buses from Hawaii. I had family members who took a weekend to tag-team driving to get me. Which... you also can't do in Hawaii. It would be disturbingly easy to get stuck there if you'd moved there thinking you were going to create a brand new life there and it didn't work out.

The destruction of property stuff is, of course, total bullshit.
posted by Sequence at 8:09 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't believe someone could be so bone-headedly ignorant. Really, it astounds me to think that someone would take a sledgehammer to the possessions of a homeless person and think it would do anything to eradicate the "homeless problem." It's infuriating to think a man like this is representing anyone, anywhere.
posted by sevenofspades at 8:35 PM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ideefixe: "Turns out that he destroys the carts that are already damaged, and returns the ones that work. He hasn't actually destroyed any carts with possessions in the carts, nor has he taken any carts away from anyone. Al-Jazeera says he's smashed about 20 carts."

This local news segment says that he's destroyed 20 and returned 6. Given that the carts cost stores upwards of $100, I'm thinking they'd rather have him bring back most or all of the ones he's smashing so they can be repaired, but that's not the kind of thing that gets big hit counts on Youtube.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:00 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where did we go so wrong?

That's assuming there was ever a time in the past when things were right.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:19 PM on November 19, 2013


Big fish, little pond - reaching for attention

Yeah, it's that. But more too. Something MissySedai said in the "fail" thread: "these near-strangers freaked the fuck out at us is because they're afraid it's going to happen to them."

This is a modern political circus act as filled with symbolism as the burning of the Judas effigy or voodoo or Odin's hanging, the social ritual of destruction of the object of fear.

It's at once a very sophisticated, perceptive reaction, and utterly idiotic (in the old Athenian sense of the word).

Reminds me of the barricade minded survivalists (as opposed to the neo-survivalists) holed up with ammo and cans of spam. Utterly self-defeating. And most particularly against the exact goal.

I mean, what is the goal here (if Brower could be said to consciously have one beyond being, what, "disgusted" or "tired" of passing laws (wtf!?) or his confabulation of cleaning the streets of shopping carts) if not to assuage fear by committing (otherwise impotent) violence?
You can't threaten someone already beaten into submission.

At best, practically speaking, this leads to more violence against homeless people. At best. That's the only practical upshot of what he's doing (beyond the self-serving circus).

(Actually, at best he runs into Marv)

It's funny, synchronicity (got a red truck, crazy stuff going on personal life), I was just contemplating the William Carlos Williams poem:

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens

(And the concordant, mefi thought:
This Is Just To Say
I have sledgehammered
the shopping carts
that were in
the park

and which
you were probably
saving
for sundries

Forgive me
I am an
asshole of truly
epic proportions)

So many people, especially now, are just that far away from collapse or just that far away from coming back. Just one car away. One wheelbarrow. One shopping cart. Whatever.

And the absolute last thing anyone in need of a hand needs is an answer with a hammer.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:19 PM on November 19, 2013 [23 favorites]


Let's not tag this guy as a vigilante because that implies homelessness is a crime, and it isn't.

Instead, let's call this guy out for what he is: a thug. Here we have an elected official who intimidates some of the most vulnerable among
his constituency solely as a ploy to gain traction with those he deems more worthy.

He's a cheap punk, and that his behavior has escaped the attention of the courts and censure by his colleagues is shameful.
The fact he is an elected official who ostensibly represents those he torments is doubly shameful, but not surprising.
Shitbird politicians are a dime a bushel. They'll continue these stunts until someone smarter steps up and demonstrates that it's far more
cost-effective to proactively assist those in need rather than wait for them to run afoul of the law, land in emergency rooms or otherwise tax an already strained public infrastructure.
posted by Pudhoho at 9:45 PM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wonder what he'd do if someone ran up while he was a-smashing and hollered "No! Not my shopping cart! That's where I keep my bootstraps!"
posted by Spatch at 9:51 PM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Maybe there's a counterargument to be made that restricting them to certain areas reduces their visibility and might diminish the political will among non-homeless (because if they don't visit those areas, they no longer have to see it) to enact policies that help the actually reduce the amount of homelessness (instead of just sweeping it into a corner where no one has to look)?

The thing about 'zoning' is that it really can't be used to describe a user. You can't exclude homeless people from anywhere, or from engaging in an accepted use. You can forbid overnight camping in public parks and so forth, and often that's what's done in public places in North America. Clearly the solution is a concerted effort to combine social services to address the systemic reasons behind homelessness - poverty, violence, abuse, drugs and alcohol, fractured social circles, etc. but your country does not do that well. As others have said, Hawaii is a hard place to leave if you have no money. In that sense, the plane ticket might not actually be such a bad idea, for those who want it. There's a very big income disparity there and a huge drug problem and the two do not play well together.

I've spent enough time on Maui to have made some family friends, and I don't agree that Hawaii is an inherently hostile place. It's hostile if you act like a houli dickhead who thinks that the state is nothing more than a theme park. If you act respectfully and decently even people who have absolutely nothing will share things with you and treat you with respect back. But, most tourists don't even think to talk to locals. One of my favourite things to do there is fish from the shore, and it's a great way to meet people. They will laugh at your inability to catch fish, but laugh with you rather than tell you to fuck off.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:52 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey, don't we have a term for what it's called when someone deliberately intimidates a large number of people with a symbolic show of violence? What was it again?

(and yeah, it's still used sometimes when people only destroy property)
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:00 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


In the spirit of providing homes to homeless people and building homes out of shipping containers...has anyone done an architectural study building inexpensive homes out of shopping carts and cardboard/pallet lumber?
posted by davejay at 11:43 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


davejay: In the spirit of providing homes to homeless people and building homes out of shipping containers...has anyone done an architectural study building inexpensive homes out of shopping carts and cardboard/pallet lumber?

I suspect that in Hawaii, the cost of land is probably the overwhelming majority of the expense of any housing project. If the land is ridiculously expensive it doesn't matter if you can build cheaply. Actually, you'd probably be better off building larger buildings that could house more people.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:51 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mrs. Ghidorah and I absolutely love Hawaii, and fantasize about someday being able to live there, to the point that we've given it serious thought. The thing is, the only way we could do it, as far as we've been able to tell, is to win the lottery first. The number of homeless, and the number of people well into middle age working in what should be entry level service jobs... it's pretty clear there's a massive employment problem. Assholes like this should be trying to fix the problem, trying to find ways to increase employment opportunities, not shaming people who've been stuck standing when the music stops. Homelessness isn't the problem. Or rather, being homeless isn't the problem. The problem is all of the crap that results in people being forced to live in park, or on a median, or take shelter in a doorway.

tl/dr: Fucking asshole.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:53 PM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have no respect for this society. Why the hell was I born into a world that contains this guy? Yet another reason to support voluntary human extinction.
posted by bookman117 at 12:11 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yet another reason to support voluntary human extinction.

I feel like that might be an over-reaction.
posted by empath at 12:15 AM on November 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Yes, the appropriate thing to do would be to knock down his house with a sledgehammer. After carefully setting his food, clothing, medical records, and family photo albums outside in a tidy pile.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:28 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well. that's one way to describe being a total arsehole. Maybe he can escalate it for the holidays by setting first to some of them.

Nah. Monetise that. Remember Bum Fights? Or, stuff like the glass-chewing from Hobo With A Shotgun. The homeless can be humiliated AND exploited.
posted by Mezentian at 1:29 AM on November 20, 2013


Russian Tramp Betting
posted by asok at 3:43 AM on November 20, 2013


Watching the enjoyable if silly and politically naive film Dave one thing I'd always noticed was that the issues they chose to focus on were ones everyone could agree on. Everyone wants the homeless to be helped, right? Not this guy! Presumably he sits there fuming during the scene where Dave finds money to save the homeless project.

"DAVE!" He yells, because I imagine he yells about everything, "YOU'RE THE PRESIDENT! JUST GIVE EVERYONE SLEDGEHAMMERS! DO I HAVE TO TELL EVERYONE HOW TO DO THEIR JOB?"
posted by Cannon Fodder at 4:51 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


If there are homeless people, isn't it the legislature that should fall to the sledgehammer? Isn't this like victim blaming?
posted by Goofyy at 5:06 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


So if you don't have a home, you don't have the right to own any property?

It gets worse. Recently, Columbia, South Carolina passed an ordinance making homelessness, essentially, illegal. Luckily, the backlash put a stop to that madness.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:27 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Recently, Columbia, South Carolina passed an ordinance making homelessness, essentially, illegal.

SOUTH CAROLINA, I ARREST YOU FOR HAVING HOMELESS. YOU ARE NOW ILLEGAL AND IN PRISON

CHECKMATE
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:32 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well... there's apparently more than one way to put things like homelessness/mental health in the national spotlight.
posted by Blue_Villain at 5:45 AM on November 20, 2013


God, an ex-boyfriend was all about Hawaii and living with nature and what not. He just had a child and named the kid something like Rainbow Orion Butterfly. This dude is all about LIFE and LOVE and LIGHT and NATURE but if you get him started on poor people/ natives on the island, it's like, 'oh shit I dated a complete fucking asshole for a few years, shit'
posted by angrycat at 6:09 AM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


has anyone done an architectural study building inexpensive homes out of shopping carts and cardboard/pallet lumber?

yes a few

There is a design for pop-up cardboard shelter that won an award I believe.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:13 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is being poorly framed. If he's only smashing empty shopping carts,then he's not smashing the property of the homeless, he's smashing the property of the grocery store or whoever said homeless person stole the cart from originally.
posted by corb at 6:23 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Someone has finally spotted a DINO.

So Sarah Palin was right! Humans and Dinos did live on earth at the same time!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:25 AM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is being poorly framed. If he's only smashing empty shopping carts,then he's not smashing the property of the homeless, he's smashing the property of the grocery store or whoever said homeless person stole the cart from originally.

I've tried and failed like 8 times to come up with the appropriate expression to convey my reaction to this comment.
posted by empath at 6:29 AM on November 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


If he's only smashing empty shopping carts,then he's not smashing the property of the homeless, he's smashing the property of the grocery store or whoever said homeless person stole the cart from originally.

It does say in the article that he first tries to find the store the cart came from and smashes the unidentified ones.

Also, perhaps I'm a bit of a hippy or something, but I think human survival trumps minor property rights and misdemenor theft.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:52 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"He is now officially my most despised Democrat ever." Old Joe Lieberman breathes a sigh of relief.
posted by NiteMayr at 6:57 AM on November 20, 2013


Joe had nothing on the Dixiecrats.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:03 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, perhaps I'm a bit of a hippy or something, but I think human survival trumps minor property rights and misdemenor theft.

In looking into a right for a honest trial you might look at the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS Now a complaint to Geneva isn't supposed to be based on news reports but perhaps a indigogo campaign to pay for some boots on the ground to gather signatures and stories to submit?

If buycott.com was useful, one could add the Corporations that have donated to the clown on a "do not patronize" list for further "fun".
posted by rough ashlar at 7:04 AM on November 20, 2013


When you're only a tool with a hammer every homeless person looks like a problem.
posted by Floydd at 8:08 AM on November 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


On the one hand, we have the homeless possibly taking property that's not theirs. On the other hand, we have a politician destroying most of said property, and, from the video, we see he's destroying some that have store logos on them that could easily be returned. But hey, let's focus on the fact that people who literally don't have a pot to piss in took the property, and not the self-aggrandizing asshole who destroyed it.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:20 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't get the point of the smashing. Fine, so let's take it as truth that he makes sure the carts don't belong to [are being used by] a homeless person, removing to some extent the repugnant idea that he's being a dick to people already hard on their luck. He's returning the working ones to the stores they originally came from, which means he has some way to transport full-sized/not-smashed carts.

So why is he taking a sledgehammer to the broken ones? What's he doing after smashing the broken carts? I assume he's disposing of them out in some way. If that's the case, why does he need to smash them? Couldn't he take them as-is to a scrapyard or recycling center that will disassemble and recycle the plastic and metal?

It seems like the only answer is "PR stunt" and if that's the case, this dude is hopelessly inept at PR.
posted by misskaz at 9:22 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is, surprisingly, not the worst story I have heard in the news this week
posted by thelonius at 9:37 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


misskaz: I don't get the point of the smashing.

This is obviously 100% about the message it sends. Nobody would care if the guy was like "Oh, we sent out the police to scrap any damaged carts they found that weren't obviously in use." That kind of thing probably happens all the time all over the country without it making the news. This is all about sending a giant middle finger to the homeless in the area, along with some implicit threat. It's probably part of a two-part campaign to get rid of the homeless in the area, by making it really unpleasant to be homeless while offering them plane tickets away.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:49 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, we have the homeless possibly taking property that's not theirs. On the other hand, we have a politician destroying most of said property, and, from the video, we see he's destroying some that have store logos on them that could easily be returned. But hey, let's focus on the fact that people who literally don't have a pot to piss in took the property, and not the self-aggrandizing asshole who destroyed it.

Possibly? Do you really think that upon becoming homeless, the first thing people did is went out and spent $150 online to buy a shopping cart?

But aside from that: I'm not saying the politician is praiseworthy. Even from a morally-neutral standpoint, I think this is possibly one of the most ridiculous ways to discourage homelessness I have ever heard of, and I've heard of a lot. Morality aside, it is ineffective and doesn't even serve his purpose of having homeless people out of the public eye. Even if he was making any kind of significant dent, does he think homeless people somehow don't know how to find shopping carts? They're just ambling along, then happen to stumble over a shopping cart and think "What luck! I never thought of that before!"

From a moral position, I think that smashing property is a violation of property rights - but I actually believe in property rights. What I find silly is the double standard of believing in property rights only if it's the dubious "property rights" of people who stole said property, while not believing in the property rights of the original owners. If this guy was sneaking into grocery parking lots and doing this I think few would shed a single tear.
posted by corb at 9:51 AM on November 20, 2013


If this dude was sneaking into grocery parking lots and doing this, he'd be arrested and jailed. So there's that to consider I guess.
posted by Fezboy! at 9:59 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Possibly? Do you really think that upon becoming homeless, the first thing people did is went out and spent $150 online to buy a shopping cart?

In addition to other rights, including the right to dignity AND property rights, I am a pretty big fan of a right to a fair trial when accused of a crime before anyone can deprive you of your life, liberty, or property. A fair trial in my mind doesn't mean one self-entitled person can assume because you are a homeless and in possession of a shopping cart, that incidentally has no other person making a claim of ownership at the time, that you can have that cart taken and smashed.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:01 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


before anyone can deprive you of your life, liberty, or property

Do yourself a favor and don't look up the phrase "civil forfeiture." You really won't like what you find.
posted by localroger at 10:08 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, considering how many random abandoned carts are kicking around the place, I'd bet most of the homeless using one mostly just take one of those. So, they're probably originally stolen, but not necessarily by the people using them now. Also, I think carts get abandoned and lost by stores fairly often too (abandoned when stores go out of business, lost when storms blow them out of parking lots).
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:12 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


discourage homelessness

er... ok? I guess we just need to convince people they shouldn't be homeless.

corb I think what people are responding to, and it's not that hard to get to this point, is the disparity of the situation you describe. Minor theft vs the destruction of a significant portion of an individual's possession. If you steal $100 from someone who makes $100,000 a year vs someone who makes $20,000 a year your impact is significantly different. A person who steals a $150 cart because of need vs someone who destroys it because of political desire, there is a moral ambiguity here?

If the fellow snuck into a grocery parking lot and smashed a bunch of carts he'd be arrested... but doing it to those on the lowest rungs on economical power gets him a pass. I guarantee you he still would not be arrested if he went in and smashed any piece of property of these folks. Guarantee it.

Systemically there is no redress for gross inequalities of wealth and the benefits that accrue from this. for example, people rave about the idea of drug testing welfare recipients but refuse to hold accountable those that actually affect our economy. It's always easier to piss down on those less politically powerful them oneself them to look up and realize where that brown rain is coming from.... and usually it involves language like "taxes" and "property rights".
We always seem to desire to hold the poorest to account and refuse to apply the same standards to the wealthy and powerful. Lets drug test everyone who is involved in the F-35 shall we? at $1.5 trillion surely that requires max oversight.. oh wait that's different.
posted by edgeways at 10:35 AM on November 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Do yourself a favor and don't look up the phrase "civil forfeiture."

OK, now you look up if it is legally enforceable by a single state senator with a sledge hammer.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:45 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am often surprised by the nasty attitudes otherwise progressive people espouse toward the homeless (as well as other matters involving poor people, like raising the minimum wage). "Born on third base and think they hit a triple" syndrome is not confined to Republicans, I guess.
posted by Jess the Mess at 11:39 AM on November 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole. I hope he spontaneously combusts.
posted by MissySedai at 11:41 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK, now you look up if it is legally enforceable by a single state senator with a sledge hammer.

It's enforceable by a single cop whose department stands to get a share of whatever he steals from you, on the theory that it's the property that's being charged and property doesn't have civil rights. So really it's worse than what this asshole is doing.
posted by localroger at 1:33 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


corb: " From a moral position, I think that smashing property is a violation of property rights - but I actually believe in property rights. What I find silly is the double standard of believing in property rights only if it's the dubious "property rights" of people who stole said property, while not believing in the property rights of the original owners."

Show of hands -- how many here people weren't aware prior to reading this lecture that removing shopping carts from the premises of the store where you got them is illegal?

corb: If this guy was sneaking into grocery parking lots and doing this I think few would shed a single tear.

What color is the sky in this fantasy world where people are just fine with having the property of the stores they shop at vandalized?

What people are actually saying here is that taking carts from stores and vandalizing carts are both crimes, but in one case, the stolen cart can be returned to the rightful owners, restoring the original owner's property, while in the other case, the property is damaged to the point of uselessness. Which outcome do you think the store owner prefers, one in which their carts are still out there and can some day be returned, or one in which they're damaged by a sledgehammer-wielding jackass trying to score political points?
posted by tonycpsu at 2:23 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hawaii has amazing weather. It's legal to camp in state parks for 6 days. State parks are closed 1 day a week, on different days, so people don't actually take up residence. Public transportation is pretty good. So, lots of homeless people can live reasonably in Hawaii, and do, although food and many things are more expensive. I'd love to know how many of the homeless are native Hawaiians. And I've been wondering why native Hawaiians don't have the benefits native (Continental) Americans have.

one-way flights off the islands to any of the state’s estimated 17,000 homeless persons New Hampshire public assistance offices used to give homeless people bus tickets to Portland, Me, because there's a basic safety net. Great way to induce compassion fatigue.

If we had a decent minimum wage, people would have a shot at trying to have a decent life. If we had genuine compassion, we'd take better care of people with severe mental illnesses, who are quite likely to become homeless.
posted by theora55 at 2:38 PM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Couple comments removed, cool it.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:56 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Isn't a significant portion of the homeless population made up of Veterans? Not that they have more rights to be treated like human beings but there's a narrative here involving harassment of the mentally ill, destitute, and war torn and why the fuck are we putting up with it? And Jesus had a good point, or the dude that wrote it down, when he said something about "what you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me." And some shit about being clothed when I didn't have any, and you get the drift. Not a Christian but I wish we'd adopt the humane parts of that religion if we're going to put up with the dicks who use it to justify intolerance.
posted by lordaych at 3:48 PM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


When I was a wee lass of nineteen, struggling to get out of my small town, I would work the graveyard shift of seven-eleven. It was sort of an early age to go solo with offers of cash for beer after 2 AM, dealing with that one guy who came in with blood all over his arms, but the guy I remember best was this guy who looked a bit like Einstein wearing a black raincoat.

What this guy's thing was coming into 7-11, picking up items off shelves to inspect the price, and then, while holding the item above his head, crooned the price of the item in an alarming falsetto. I think sometimes he got the name of the item wrong, because I remember him crooning specifically 'tater tots -- $2.99.' I am pretty darn sure that 7-11 sold no tater tots.

Anyway, I was pretty freaked by this -- I mean, the guy would be crooning names of imaginary foodstuffs for hours and I had reading this was getting in the way of -- so when an avuncular cop came in, I was all, 'hey, could you do something about tater tots man?'

The previously smiling cop sprang into aggressive action. He chased the mewling tater tots man around a few aisles, yelling at him in a voice that was designed to terrify. Tater tots man (God knows what he made of the situation) and I were scared.

So I got out of that small fucking Oregon town and went to undergrad at Portland State. And I was bopping down one of the park blocks but who was it? Tater tots man. My memory insists that he was pushing a cart, but I can't be sure. This is a while ago.

Anyway, point is, I thought for a while, wow, what a coincidence, tater tot man and I meet up again -- across the state -- some 400 miles away -- wait a minute.

So, anyway, I'm pretty sure my stupid fucking small town gave him a bus ticket to get him out of there. Because wealthy tourists who are buying tickets to the Oregon Shakespearean Festival and staying at Ye Olde Stupid Shakespearean Pun would find tater tot man off putting.

So, long story short, I am ashamed that maybe my actions made tater tot man's life harder, and also I think people who pick on homeless folks basically deserve to go to Hell, so for their sakes I hope there is one.
posted by angrycat at 4:48 PM on November 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


The issues of whether some homeless person stole a shopping cart, or property rights vis-a-vis shopping carts and their destruction by sledgehammer, are mostly beside the point.

While the local tv news clip shows Brower removing some fabric of some sort from one apparently abandoned shopping cart before taking the cart, he doesn't seem to destroy the property in the carts, but just dumps it where the cart was. So as miskazz and Mitrovarr, noted, destroying the shopping carts as Brower does only directly addresses the issue of abandoned shopping carts being an eyesore, which technically has nothing to do with homelessness. The feature that makes his actions repugnant is his framing of them, that he is specifically doing this to send a message about homelessness, and the messages that his actions send are:

1. that homeless peoples' property, not directly but as represented by the shopping carts, isn't held in any value by anyone in a position of authority or social standing, is completely insecure and will not be protected by legal institutions, and in fact is likely to be endangered by them; and

2. an implied threat of violence against the homeless themselves, or implicit condoning of violence against homeless people, by a person in position of legal authority.
posted by eviemath at 4:52 PM on November 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


This definitely seems more like the behavior of a Republican.
posted by Liquidwolf at 6:34 PM on November 20, 2013


2. an implied threat of violence against the homeless themselves, or implicit condoning of violence against homeless people, by a person in position of legal authority.

Yes, that's the big one here. How long until the hammer comes down on the homeless people themselves and not just "their" shopping carts? IIRC he even made a comment like: "Next time I'll take them from the hobos physically! Muwahahaha!"
posted by ZeroAmbition at 1:18 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of homeless veterans, but they make up a staggeringly small percentage of the overall homeless population- even less when you consider war veterans.

The reason there is such a perception of homeless veterans is twofold: first, many homeless people pretend to be veterans, because most people are more sympathetic to homeless veterans, who are perceived to not be as responsible for their homelessness. Secondly, military clothing is designed to be both warm and long-lasting, and it is frequently available at goodwill, or thrift or Army- Navy stores. It is often worn by the homeless for its utility. (This is often recognizable as it does not bear the normal tabs or nametapes.)
posted by corb at 5:15 AM on November 21, 2013


I wouldn't call 13% staggeringly small. In absolute terms, I would agree with lordaych that this number represents a "significant portion" of the homeless, and when you consider that veterans make up only 7% of the general population, it's definitely more than just a case of people pretending to be vets and/or buying army surplus clothing.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:10 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


What bothers me is not that there's one idiot smashing shopping carts-- more that there is apparently an appreciative audience for that. Who are the people he's playing to with that grotesque imagery? Or did he just massively miscalculate? I'd like to think it's the latter.
posted by BibiRose at 7:20 AM on November 21, 2013


There's an appreciative audience for political spectacle. The large homeless population is a serious problem in Hawaii, and it's much easier to do stupid shit like this than it is to come up with solutions that address the roots of the problem.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:27 AM on November 21, 2013


It's enforceable by a single cop whose department stands to get a share of whatever he steals from you, on the theory that it's the property that's being charged and property doesn't have civil rights. So really it's worse than what this asshole is doing.

1. Sledgehammer Douche is not a cop nor acting on judicial orders.

2. I think you have this idea a bit mixed up. The concept you are talking about is that the property is the "fruit of the poison tree" and is therefore forfeitable. A "single cop" would need to be enforcing a seizure warrant or be acting under a civil forfeiture action, which is not the same as a cop just deciding individually to just take something he feels like taking, aka stealing. A criminal forfeiture has to be a judicial action. Also, the onus is always on the state to show cause for a seizure. Taking a piece of suspected stolen property or evidence of a crime into custody is also a forfeiture of sorts, however, again the onus is on the state to show cause that the property was actually stolen or evidence.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:01 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


10th Regiment, you describe how most people think forfeiture works. In practice they seize your property on some incredibly flimsy pretext (just carrying a lot of cash is enough), then they keep it even though you are never even charged with a crime and the onus is on you to prove, often within a very limited time window and to nearly impossible standards, that the property is not involved in a criminal enterprise. No warrant or judicial order is necessary. Having hung out with professional gamblers in the 1990's I know several people who lost tens of thousands of dollars just this way.

A minimum of research should correct your erroneous view of how the forfeiture process works, but since people are lazy here's an article on it.
posted by localroger at 9:40 AM on November 21, 2013


No, I understand what you are getting at, but what you and the article are describing is called corruption and the symptoms of a system that favors people with means rather than legal forfeiture.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:53 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tonycpsu, you may be unaware, but HUD statistics around veterans (and many of their other datapoints) are gathered through self-reporting, and not through service verification. So yes, it is unsurprising that they report a 13% rate, because the self reports are relying on the same biases that drive the faulty numbers.

There are some advantages and disadvantages to this - street homeless tend not to carry their paperwork with them, making verification of even valid veterans difficult. At the same time, it allows for a lot of falsification or even self-delusion of the mentally ill.
posted by corb at 10:37 AM on November 21, 2013


To believe that veterans aren't overrepresented among the homeless, you'd have to assume nearly half of them are lying or delusional about their service. I find that hard to believe. We know that the socioeconomic and ethnic groups that are overrepresented in the military in the first place are also overrepresented in the homeless population, so it would be a statistical anomaly if veterans weren't similarly overrepresented.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:53 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]




Tonycpsu, you may be unaware, but HUD statistics around veterans (and many of their other datapoints) are gathered through self-reporting, and not through service verification. So yes, it is unsurprising that they report a 13% rate, because the self reports are relying on the same biases that drive the faulty numbers.



Thankfully we have your magic powers to tell us that that the number is actually much smaller? How do you know what you think you know?
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:26 AM on November 22, 2013


Among other things, I am a veteran and have worked in veterans services and advocacy for approximately seven years, as do a good proportion of the people I associate with. I have friends whose only job is to travel around looking for homeless people to find, count, or reach out to homeless veterans. I would consider myself roughly a subject matter expert on the situation of veterans, particularly the return of war veterans. When I see someone who presents as a homeless veteran, I run towards them, not away, because I would really like to be able to help them, and I have the means, ability, connections, and resources to do so. I am frequently disappointed.

Veterans, particularly war veterans, and ultimately tragically, tend to kill themselves in far higher numbers than become homeless as defined by HUD. When homeless or chronically homeless, they are overwhelmingly in the "double-up" category, which is no longer defined as homelessness by HUD or the VA, even though you or I might consider it so. Veterans are quite simply not a large percentage of the "street homeless." There are a lot of speculated reasons for that - some include the fact that mentally ill veterans who became mentally ill during or as a result of service are usually granted relatively high regular and immutable disability payments, which enable them to find housing more easily, as well as to have free mental health care and rehabilitation facilities- which I will never say is good, precisely, but it is often "bare functionality" level good. Other speculations include that veterans have a more highly developed safety net with each other, and thus are more likely to have someone they're able to stay with, even if it's not their own home.

The one exception is veterans with dishonorable discharges, or individuals who did not serve enough time to be considered a veteran, but consider themselves a veteran because they attended basic training.
posted by corb at 6:19 AM on November 26, 2013


« Older 36 years in the making   |   What This Unstoppable Pianist Did Is Genius. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments