Saturday, July 22, 2017

Legacies Beyond Faces

The final book in the "Real Faces" trilogy, which focuses on documenting the stories of Chamorro World War II survivors is finally here. I am happy to see it come to completion, I've been assisting with this project for several years now and it has been a very heartwarming experience. For so much of the past few decades the recounting and retelling of Guam's World War II story has been focused on the United States, their role in expelling the Japanese and ending the occupation. As a result, even when Chamorros were doing the commemorating, they were often times excluding or minimizing their own stories, their own beliefs, perceptions, and lessons, for the sake of aligning their tales and memories with a more patriotic and American-supremacist narrative. I am thankful to see that shift in recent decades, and thankful if my work, research and writing has played some role in making that happen.


"Legacies Beyond Faces"
by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Pacific Daily News
May 19, 2017

Over the past few years, the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation has been doing beautiful work in the community to commemorate the experiences of the Chamorros who suffered during the Japanese occupation of Guam in World War II. In the name of giving our elders their due, the foundation has published books, advocated for the passage of war reparations, held musical concerts, and even created a memorial wall with the names of 15,891 people on Guam during the war. I have worked with this foundation for several years, primarily through writing articles for their touching “Real Faces” series.

To date the foundation has published two books, “Real Faces: Guam’s World War II Survivors” and “Families in the Face of Survival,” and their third book, “Legacy Beyond Faces: A Sentimental Journey, Generation to Generation,” is set to be released sometime this summer. Victoria Leon Guerrero, the managing editor of UOG Press, has been a board member for the foundation since its inception and wrote recently in the Pacific Island Times:

[The foundation] was formed to tell the stories of Guam’s World War II generation. Its members felt an urgent need to capture these stories before they were lost. While these books are a collection of short stories, it is the hope and intention of the foundation that these stories will grow beyond the pages of this trilogy. That they will inspire the kinds of epiphanies that open minds, heal wounds, and bring families closer together.

This rationale for the foundation’s work is both beautiful and insightful. What would be the best way to pay tribute to our elders and to document their stories before they are lost? Would it be to simply record them and repeat them verbatim? Or would it be more powerful to put them into historical context and help facilitate the transmission of the stories, and the values or lessons they may offer, to younger generations? For those of us who have worked with Chamorro war survivors and collected their stories, the second option is by far the more powerful one.  

After all, if you were to spend hours with a war survivor, following their journey from the ruined fiesta for Santa Maria Kamalen to jubilation at the discovery of US Marines in Manenggon, these types of details may just be the surface of their experiences. There is most likely so much more that they wish they could say but may not be sure how. Over the more than 200 interviews I’ve conducted with Chamorro war survivors, I’ve seen and heard this in a variety of ways. With the way Chamorro history has largely been framed since the war, it is easy to articulate the lessons of the war as being about patriotism to the United States, but, for war survivors who wanted to offer a different lesson to younger generations, their stories are harder to articulate.

If you look at the way the Chamorro people are traditionally represented in documentaries, books, and other media about the Japanese occupation, they are usually mere footnotes to the exercise of American military might. They suffer, they cry, they die, they hope, and, most importantly, they stay loyal to the US and affirm its best elements, as an avatar for democracy, justice, liberty, and freedom. A nuanced and enriching understanding of the Chamorro experience is lost in such accounts. For even if it is compelling or tragic, it is hollow: it is reduced to a shade of life, meant to give color and texture to American exploits, but not meant to stand alone or mean something on its own. The work of the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation is meant to change that. 


 Final Book in Trilogy of War Survivor Stories Published
by Chloe Babauta
Pacific Daily News
June 19, 2017

The Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation will release the third book in a trilogy of war stories today, .

"Legacy Beyond Faces: A Sentimental Journey Generation to Generation" features stories of more than 20 Guam World War II survivors, of which many were written by their descendants.

The foundation will host a launch event at 6 p.m. June 19, in the Ocean Sirena Ballroom at the Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort. The event is free and open to the public. 

War survivors, descendants and other book contributors will be present to sign copies of the book and share their stories. 

“'Legacy Beyond Faces' takes a unique focus on an instrumental outcome of the war ... a deep love for music,” foundation treasurer Mary Fejeran stated in a press release. 

The book includes interpretive essays and reflections by local scholars and musicians on Chamorro identity and music, and tributes to musical families descended from war survivors, the news release stated.

“It is a beautiful collection of stories and photos that work together to capture the very distinct musical legacy of the war,” Fejeran said.

The foundation has compiled and published two previous books with stories and essays that show survivors’ strength and resilience.  

The new book will be available for purchase at $70 for a single copy or $55 per copy for purchases of two or more books. Only cash and checks will be accepted. Customers who prepaid for books can pick up their copies at the launch, or at the office of Frank Blas & Associates after the launch.

After the launch, the books can be purchased at the office of Frank Blas & Associates in Barrigada on weekdays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information, call 734-7702.


The Surviving Faces of War
by Victoria Leon Guerrero
May 2, 2017
Pacific Island Times

At the heart of war is conflict. Two forces at odds. The obvious signs of war include weapons, battles, bloodshed, utter destruction. It is the worst of human experiences. But it is never simply something that happens in the present. The pieces of war are put together throughout history. From the moments that led to it, to the lasting memories and trauma that keep it alive for generations. We know this all too well on Guam, where World War II continues to shape so much of who we have become as a people and as a place in the world.

Through a trilogy of books about the war, the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation has worked closely with survivors and their families to capture Guam’s wartime legacy. The Foundation has compiled and published stories and essays that offer a glimpse at the strength of those who survived the war, and the enduring resilience of the families who inherited their tribulation.

This summer, the Foundation will launch the third and final book of the trilogy entitled, “Legacy Beyond Faces: A Sentimental Journey Generation to Generation.” This book takes a unique focus on an instrumental outcome of the war that continues to uplift survivors and their descendants – a deep love for music.

Music played an integral role in both raising Chamorro spirits and expressing resistance during the war. Just as the second book of the trilogy entitled, “Families in the Face of Survival” highlighted the role of family, food, and faith in helping Chamorros survive the war, this third book examines how music kept them strong during this difficult time. The book also celebrates the role music continues to play in Chamorro families as part of the wartime legacy, and features reflections from some of the children and grandchildren of survivors, who have become some of Guam's most recognized musicians.

Legacy Beyond Faces shares the stories of more than 20 survivors, many written by their descendants. It also includes interpretive essays and reflections from local scholars and musicians on Chamorro identity and music, and features tributes to musical families, who descended from war survivors. It is a beautiful collection of stories and photos that work together to capture the very distinct musical legacy of the war.

The Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation was formed to tell the stories of Guam’s World War II generation. Its members felt an urgent need to capture these stories before they were lost. While these books are a collection of short stories, it is the hope and intention of the foundation that these stories will grow beyond the pages of this trilogy. That they will inspire the kinds of epiphanies that open minds, heal wounds, and bring families closer together.

These books teach us that just as war is never simply something that happens in the present, neither is peace. In sharing their stories, one thing most war survivors commonly say is that they do not want their children, or their children's children to ever know the horrors of war. Many of them have died since they shared their stories, and many more died before they ever could. They may not have found the peace they sought, but we can. May their legacy inspire lasting peace in our community for generations to come.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Independent Guåhan Teach-In - Filipino Revolutionary History


HAGATÑA, GUAM (July 11, 2017) - As part of their monthly Teach-In Sessions, Independent Guåhan will be holding a session introducing Filipino Revolutionary History and how Filipino struggles for independence are connected to CHamoru self-determination. The Teach-In will feature Josephine Ong, Kristin Oberiano, Jamela Santos and Ruzelle Almonds.

“As Filipinos living on Guam, we need to acknowledge that the fight for CHamoru self-determination is a fight for the ideals of self-governance, sovereignty, and freedom - the same principles that led to the establishment of the Philippines, the USA, and other independent countries around the world,” says Oberiano, whose grandfather came to Guam during the Camp Roxas Era.

All four presenters are Filipinos who consider Guam their home and are passionate about the conversation on the island’s political status. Through the teach-in, they hope to communicate to fellow Filipinos why their community should stand in solidarity with the CHamoru people.

“I feel more and more that we have a responsibility to acknowledge that the lands we are occupying as settlers are lands of a people who have not yet established independence from their colonizers in the same way that our people have,” says Santos. She expresses that should Filipinos understand their own history of independence, there is opportunity to increase the Filipino community support toward the CHamoru self-determination movement.

Among the topics of the teach-in include: Philippine revolutionary history, Philippine migration history and CHamoru self-determination movements. By drawing these connections, the teach-in aims to open the conversation on Guam’s political status for non-CHamorus and hopefully settle uneasiness people may have on the topic.

The Filipino Revolutionary History Teach-In will take place on July 20, 2017, at the University of Guam Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) Building at Room 106 from 4:00 pm to 5:30pm. The presentation is open to those who are looking to gain a new perspective on Filipino history as well as non-Chamorros who seek understand their role in the conversation on Guam’s political status.

For more information, find Independent Guåhan on Facebook or Instagram.  

Obamacare v. Trumpcare

Some recent updates on the health care debate in the United States. It is fascinating to contemplate that in the past few years one party lost political power in order to expand health care to tens of millions of more people, and now another party is on the verge of potentially losing power as well, by taking health care away from tens of millions as well.


"Americans decided that health care is for all. Republicans want to roll that back."
Former Vice President Joe Biden
Washington Post
July 17, 2017

As vice president, I met with Americans all across our country. What they told me over and over is that the Affordable Care Act gave them peace of mind — that if they got sick, or if their child got sick, they could get care and not have to worry about going broke as a result. They no longer had to lay awake at night wondering: Can I pay for this treatment? What happens if she gets cancer? How will I feed my family and afford the care?

They told me that because when the ACA became law and health-care coverage was extended to millions of people, it meant we had finally decided, as a nation, that health care is a right for all and not a privilege for the few.

Republican leaders in Congress believe the opposite. And if they take that peace of mind away, they’ll have to look Americans in the eye and explain to them that they have to start worrying again.
Last week, Vice President Pence told the National Governors Association that the GOP health-care bill currently being debated in the Senate “strengthens and secures Medicaid for the neediest in our society.” Respectfully, that’s simply not the case. Their bill tries to deal with opioid addiction on the cheap, eviscerates the ACA’s Medicaid expansion and guts the ACA’s promise that care like maternity and mental health and substance-use disorder services must be part of any viable health coverage system. They want to drag us back to a time — not all that long ago — when Americans could be denied basic health care because they were unable to afford it. That’s the reality of where we are today and it’s enough to make your blood boil.

Now, I hear some folks say: But hospitals don’t turn anyone away from the emergency room. Before the Affordable Care Act, though, hospitals provided about $40 billion each year in uncompensated care. People who didn’t have health insurance or couldn’t cover their co-pays were putting off needed medical care and skipping out on preventive care altogether. That’s not a sustainable model, and we’re better than that. A health-care system built around emergency room visits isn’t a health-care system at all.

The ACA isn’t perfect, but the choices we made when designing the law flowed from a commitment to provide the best possible care to the most people. Compare that to Republican proposals, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said will mean more than 20 million fewer people will have health coverage by 2026, and millions more will no longer have the same protections provided by the ACA.

Here are just some of the people who could lose access to care if congressional Republicans get their way:

More than 70 million Americans rely on Medicaid, including close to 2 million veterans. Medicaid, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program, covers 39 percent of children in America, 49 percent of all births, 35 percent of Americans with disabilities and 64 percent of nursing home residents, around seven in ten of whom are women. Rural hospitals would be hit especially hard by proposed cuts because they’ve benefitted most from the Medicaid expansion that has meant fewer uninsured requiring uncompensated care, and yet Senate Republican leadership is looking to cut Medicaid by about three-quarters of a trillion dollars.

Slashing the Medicaid expansion would affect over a million Americans who’ve used it to cover mental health and substance-use disorder treatment. The original Senate bill proposed spending $2 billion to address the opioid epidemic — a drop in the bucket when it comes to addressing a crisis that is ravaging communities and ripping the heart out of our country.

After facing an outcry, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell increased that to $45 billion. But my longtime Senate colleague is, I believe, missing the point. You can’t take away comprehensive health insurance from people struggling with opioid addiction and then just throw $2 billion or, for that matter, $45 billion their way for treatment. Experts say we need closer to $183 billion over 10 years to provide those on Medicaid with treatment for addiction and to provide care for other illnesses that often affect those addicted to opioids. Americans in communities affected by this epidemic understand firsthand that the status quo is grossly inadequate. We must do more to address this crisis, not less.

A middle-class family getting health insurance through a small employer could lose coverage for maternity care, mental health care or substance-use disorder services. Under the Senate’s bill, they would bear the burden of paying for these services out-of-pocket or having to go without them.
The new bill would create two individual insurance markets: One in which insurers must cover people with preexisting conditions, and one in which they don’t. And you don’t need a Ph.D. in economics to guess what would happen next: Healthier, younger people would flock to the less expensive, unregulated market. Those remaining in the regulated market will be older and sicker, and their premiums would increase to the point that they could be left with an option for insurance that exists on paper, but not in practice.

If you’re young and healthy, maybe this bill means that you’d pay lower premiums. But the thing about life is that if you’re lucky, eventually you grow old, and, in the meantime, you don’t know what will happen next. In the blink of an eye, or in one phone call from a doctor, your outlook may change. And if, God forbid, you find yourself in that position one day, I hope we still have the ACA in place so you can have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that no matter what, you can still get affordable care.

Senator McConnell says there’s still time to make changes to the bill before it gets to the Senate floor. But it shouldn’t even get there, because his bill can’t be fixed. By denying that all Americans have a right to health care, it’s fundamentally flawed. And Republicans are underestimating the American people if they think a few changes to the bill here or there will convince us that this bill is anything but a big step backward.

In my 36 years as a senator, I saw my colleagues take plenty of hard votes. This just isn’t one of them. If Republican leadership wants to improve the ACA, let’s first come to an agreement that everyone should have health coverage. Then, based on that premise, let’s have a debate about how best to improve care and reduce costs. Let’s again make the commitment that in America, health care is a right for all, not a privilege for the wealthy.


 "Republicans Leap into the Awful Known"
by Paul Krugman
New York Times
July 17, 2017

Sometime in the next few days the Congressional Budget Office will release its analysis of the latest version of the Republican health care plan. Senator Mitch McConnell is doing all he can to prevent a full assessment, for example by trying to keep the C.B.O. from scoring the Cruz provision, which would let insurers discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. Nonetheless, everyone expects a grim prognosis.

As a result, White House aides are already attacking the C.B.O.’s credibility, announcing in advance that whatever it says will be “fake news.” So why should we believe the budget office, not the Trump administration? Let me count the ways.

First, this White House already has a record of constant, blatant lying about health care that is, as far as I can tell, without precedent in modern history. Just a few days ago, for example, Vice President Mike Pence made the completely false assertion that Ohio’s expansion of Medicaid led to a cutback in aid for the disabled — a lie that the state’s government had already refuted. On Sunday, Tom Price, the secretary of Health and Human Services, claimed that the Senate bill would cover more people than current law — another blatant lie. (You can’t cut hundreds of billions from Medicaid and insurance subsidies and expect coverage to grow!)

The point is that on this issue (and others, of course), the Trump administration and its allies have negative credibility: If they say something, the default assumption should be that they’re lying.
Second, the C.B.O. is hardly alone in its negative assessments of Republican health care plans. In fact, just about every group with knowledge of the issue has reached similar conclusions. In a joint letter, the two major insurance industry trade groups blasted the Cruz provision as “simply unworkable.” The American Academy of Actuaries says basically the same thing. AARP has condemned the bill, as has the American Medical Association.

Third, contrary to White House disinformation, the C.B.O. actually did a pretty good job of predicting the effects of the Affordable Care Act, especially when you bear in mind that the act was a leap into the unknown: We had very little experience of how an A.C.A.-type system would work.

True, the C.B.O. overestimated the number of people who would buy insurance on the exchanges the act created; but that was partly because it overestimated the number of employers who would drop coverage and send their workers to those exchanges. Overall gains in coverage have been reasonably well in line with what the C.B.O. projected — especially in states that expanded Medicaid and did their best to make the law work.

Finally — and this seems to me to be the most compelling argument of all — predicting the effects of destroying the A.C.A. is much easier than predicting the consequences when it was enacted, because what the Senate bill would do, pretty much, is return us to the bad old days. Or to put it another way, what McConnell and Senator Ted Cruz are selling is a giant leap into the known, taking us back to a system whose flaws are all too familiar from recent experience.

After all, before Obamacare, most states had more or less unregulated insurance markets, similar to those the Senate bill would create. Many of these states also had skimpy, underfunded Medicaid programs, which would be the effect of the bill’s brutal Medicaid cuts.

So while careful, nonpartisan modeling, the kind the C.B.O. excels in, is important, you don’t need a detailed analysis to know what American health care would look like if this bill passes. Basically, it would look like pre-A.C.A. Texas, where 26 percent of the nonelderly population was uninsured.
And lack of insurance wouldn’t be the only problem: Many people would have “junk insurance” — insurance with deductibles so large or coverage limitations so extensive as to be effectively useless when needed.

Now, some people might be satisfied with that outcome. Hard-core libertarians, for example, don’t believe making health care available to those who need it is a legitimate role of government; letting some citizens go bankrupt and/or die if they get sick is the price of freedom as they define it.
But Republicans have never made that case. Instead, at every stage of this political fight they have claimed to be doing exactly the opposite of what they’re actually doing: covering more people, making health care cheaper, protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions. We’re not talking about run-of-the-mill spin here; we’re talking about black is white, up is down, dishonesty so raw it’s practically surreal. This isn’t just an assault on health care, it’s an assault on truth itself.

Will this vileness prevail? Your guess is as good as mine about whether Mitch McConnell will hold on to the 50 senators he needs. But the mere possibility that this much cruelty, wrapped in this much fraudulence, might pass is a horrifying indictment of his party.


"An Open Letter to the United States Senate"
Marian Wright Edelman
Huffington Post
July 14, 2017

I learned my first lessons about injustice and health as a little Black girl growing up in segregated Bennettsville, South Carolina. I remember my parents’ and my sadness over the senseless death of little Johnny Harrington, who lived three houses down from our church and who died before he reached 10 because his hard-working grandmother didn’t know about the need for or have the money for him to get a tetanus shot after he stepped on a rusted nail.
I also remember being awakened in the middle of the night after a Black migrant family’s car collided with a White truck driver’s vehicle on the highway in front of our parsonage, and the horror I felt when my daddy, my siblings and I witnessed the White ambulance driver and attendants arrive on the scene only to leave behind the seriously injured Black migrant worker after they saw that the White truck’s passengers were not hurt.
And I remember the loss of a playmate who lived around the corner who died from a broken neck after jumping off the bridge at Crooked Creek nearby where many Black children swam and many Black families fished for food. When I got older, I learned the creek was an outlet for hospital and other sewage.
The sorrow and outrage and sense of injustice I felt as a child at senseless deaths and injuries shaped my life’s work. I cannot stand seeing any child mistreated, placed at risk or excluded from essential services because of the color of their skin or the poverty of their parents or grandparents they did not choose. God did not make two classes of children and my Biblical values and my parents’ efforts to live up to its teachings enjoined me to believe each child is sacred.
During the Civil Rights Movement it was always clear that health care was one of the basic rights for which we were fighting because it could mean life or death. As my friend and mentor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman.” I would never have believed that decades later Dr. King’s words would still ring true and that after 50 years of hard-earned progress expanding access to health coverage for 95 percent of all children, it could all be ripped away in a heartless game of politics and greed that disregards human life — even the smallest human life.
In the wealthiest nation on earth, the fact that we are still unwilling to treat health care as a right available to all regardless of color, income or creed is a disgrace. That child lives are considered political fodder rather than a sacred responsibility by every adult is unjust and shameful.
You, the ever powerful United States Senate, will soon have a choice to make when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brings the deeply harmful, flawed, unpopular and misnamed Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) — it should be called the Worse Care Reconciliation Act — to the Senate floor for a vote. This draconian bill will unravel decades of progress fighting for more health equity and justice for all. I hope every voter will stand up for children, the disabled, the elderly, and the most vulnerable among us and make sure those who vote against them are held accountable.
At a time when 95 percent of children in America have health coverage after years of laboriously achieved incremental progress with bipartisan leadership and the percentage of uninsured Americans is at a record low, will you vote for renewed pain and suffering or forward progress? Will you vote to end Medicaid as we know it — a lifeline for more than 37 million children and more than 40 percent of children with special health care needs — to pay for a giant tax cut for wealthy Americans and corporations who don’t need or deserve it? Will you vote to rip away health coverage from 22 million Americans and leave millions more paying a lot more for skimpier coverage? Will you vote to undermine coverage for essential services for children and other Americans including those with pre-existing conditions? Will you vote to strip important and popular protections, returning us to a day when discrimination based on age, gender, health status and ability to pay is permitted? Will you vote to deprive millions of Americans mental health and substance abuse treatment in the midst of a national opioid crisis?
You may be wooed with “fixes” being negotiated behind the scenes that tinker around the edges of the cruel, unjust Better Care Reconciliation Act, but make no mistake: it is irreparably flawed and no altering of growth rates and caps, taxes, or creating special “funds” or “risk pools” will fix it. It deserves a swift and decisive death in the Senate if we are to keep any semblance of an American sense of fairness and moral decency alive.
I have just returned from two days in the Mississippi Delta which Senators Robert Kennedy, Joseph Clark and George Murphy visited 50 years ago where they saw children with listless eyes and bloated bellies from lack of food and health care. Mississippi is one of 19 states that turned down Medicaid expansion money their people need. Health injustice still disproportionately affects people of color but those who will suffer come from every race in every state.
Would you vote to deprive your own children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews of basic life supports? I suspect not. Denying children essential health care makes no moral or economic sense. Healthy children and adults make America stronger and safer. So at this critical moment in our nation’s history, I hope you will stand up for children, the disabled, and the elderly left behind in multiple ways by the politics of greed and self-interest. Please vote NO on the misnamed Better Care Reconciliation Act — a mean-spirited, draconian, un-American step backward that would leave preventable suffering among millions in its wake.


 "How the White House and Republicans Underestimated Obamacare Repeal"
by Nancy Cook and Burgess Everett
July 17, 2017

The longer Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare flounder, the clearer it becomes that President Donald Trump’s team and many in Congress dramatically underestimated the challenge of rolling back former President Barack Obama’s signature achievement.

The Trump transition team and other Republican leaders presumed that Congress would scrap Obamacare by President’s Day weekend in late February, according to three former Republican congressional aides and two current ones familiar with the administration’s efforts.
Republican leaders last fall planned a quick strike on the law in a series of meetings and phone calls, hoping to simply revive a 2015 repeal bill that Obama vetoed.

Few in the administration or Republican leadership expected the effort to stretch into the summer months, with another delay announced this weekend, eating into valuable time for lawmakers to tackle tax reform, nominations or spending bills.

As Trump himself infamously remarked, “nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated” — even though health care has reliably tripped up past administrations.

Now that the difficulty of getting 50 senators to rally around a bill has come into stark relief, Republicans are starting to acknowledge they misjudged the situation.

“It’s easier to rage against the machine when you’re not in control of the machine, No. 1. And the perception that we are in control of the machine is inaccurate,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.).

“Needing 50 out of 52 members on the same page in the Senate? I think that is not being in control of the machine.”

The failure of the plan to quickly repeal Obamacare earlier this year forced Republican leaders to start over and attempt the daunting task of crafting a more comprehensive health care plan that would unite all sides of a squabbling conference. And the Trump administration’s lack of sufficient staff and planning for that early effort helped lay the groundwork for the legislative chaos the GOP’s agenda is mired in today.

A senior administration aide said that although the White House didn’t expect health care to take so long, the blame game will dissipate if the president signs a health care bill by August.

“If, a week from now, we have completed the repeal of Obamacare, I don’t think people looking back on it will do the woulda, coulda, shoulda game,” the aide said.

Still, rank-and-file senators now say starting with tax reform could have done more to unify the party and avoid the GOP’s ongoing quagmire.

“I would have much preferred to start off with tax. But that wasn’t my decision,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.). “Tax is the heavy lift here. It’s not going to be easier than health care. And we’ve been doing this for seven months.”

Past administrations have also been hurt by health care. Democrats said after the passage of Obamacare that they wished they had delayed the topic until more of their agenda was underway — House Democrats lost their majority in 2010 shortly after the law passed.

First lady Hillary Clinton took flak in the early 1990s for her failed health care task force, and President George W. Bush faced tremendous opposition when his administration pushed through the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit — even though the program has cost less than original estimates.

Still, after the November 2016 election, few in Trump world or Congress saw potential problems after Republicans campaigned on killing off the Affordable Care Act for seven years.

“We are probably all guilty of not being as creative as we needed to be,” said one former congressional leadership aide. “Every administration likes to check off an accomplishment.”

During the transition, the Trump administration never established a great deal of coordination with the Hill or a concrete game plan for health care, according to congressional aides and one former transition official.

The transition had just a handful of health policy people, who were also tasked with working on the confirmation processes for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma. The administration official said the lengthy confirmation process, which he blamed on Democrats, hurt the White House because it meant the administration did not have two key health policy experts in place.

Helping sort through the process were Marc Short, now the White House legislative affairs director; Rick Dearborn, the White House deputy chief of staff; and Stephen Miller, a senior adviser for policy. All three had congressional experience, but several Republicans said Trump’s staff lacked experience negotiating or moving major legislation.

“I just don’t have confidence that the administration had the health care expertise and policy advice that they needed there,” said G. William Hoagland, former staff director for the Senate Budget Committee and former leadership aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. “The result is what we are seeing today.”

On the Hill leading up to the inauguration, one leading idea was to resurrect the 2015 House and Senate bills that repealed much of the law. Republicans were already on the books supporting the bills, which needed only 50 votes in the Senate instead of 60.

But when GOP leaders in January pitched the idea — which involved repealing the law and figuring out a replacement later — they were met with stern resistance from lawmakers worried about constituents who had gained insurance through the 2010 law and who could lose coverage if it were suddenly revoked.

“Health care looks much easier when you’re at the talking point level,” said Larry Leavitt, a senior vice president at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation and senior health policy adviser during the Clinton administration. “It always gets more difficult as you start filling in the details.”

This was the first hint of real trouble for the Republican health care efforts. Passing a bill they knew would be vetoed under Obama was easy; passing one that would thrust their constituents into uncertainty was riskier.

“When you’re six years into a program, to change it when people are relying on it, there’s a fear that it may affect their own policies or their own families,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). “This is tough; this is complex. We knew it would be, but it’s really tough.”

In late January, lawmakers at a closed-door session at a Republican retreat in Philadelphia raised a myriad of concerns about tackling Obamacare, from the contours of the replacement plan to ways to keep premiums affordable. One former Republican Senate aide later called that meeting with Andrew Bremberg, the head of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, prescient, because lawmakers privately raised many of the concerns that have since dogged the bill.

At the same policy retreat, House Speaker Paul Ryan laid out a three-pronged approach to scrapping Obamacare. He wanted to repeal as much of the legislation as possible, eliminate more through deregulation, and then work with Democrats on a replacement, said one former Republican aide.

Many Republican lawmakers doubted Democrats would work with them on redoing the health care law.

The president and one of his former campaign rivals also unexpectedly helped undermine the GOP’s repeal plans. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said on television the GOP needed a replacement plan if it was going to repeal the law. Then Trump endorsed that requirement. Their comments caused GOP leaders to start from scratch.

Now that the Senate’s attempt to revamp the health care law has run into roadblocks — with moderates insisting on protecting coverage for their constituents, while conservatives focus on undoing as much of Obamacare as possible — both Paul and Trump have suggested going back to a repeal-only bill.

Many Republicans say that’s unworkable now.

“We’re not just trying to get rid of the law, we’re trying to replace it with something better. Getting rid of it is pretty straight-forward,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “Replacing it with something better is a significant undertaking, but it needs to be done.”

Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell maintains that the Senate will vote soon, though he was forced to delay again while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) recuperates from surgery. With two Republicans saying they will definitely vote no, the bill could not pass without McCain present. Other senators are still undecided.

“They’re trying to turn around a massive piece of public policy that has been the law of the land for seven years,” said Lanhee Chen, policy director for the 2012 Romney-Ryan presidential campaign. “One cannot overstate the magnitude of what is being attempted. This is a totally unique experiment in some ways.”

In the meantime, neither the White House nor Congress wants to claim responsibility if it doesn’t work out. While lawmakers grumble that Trump should have started with an easier policy goal, White House aides say they assumed congressional Republicans had it under control.
Republicans had campaigned on undoing Obamacare since 2010, the senior administration official said: “That was not contingent on President Trump.” 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Truth-Telling in Children's Stories

The first book that I bought for my daughter, prior to her even being born was a children's book that focused on the tale of the slaves who killed their captors aboard the ship The Amistad and after a long legal struggle were allowed to return to Africa. I only read it to her a few times over the years because the subject matter was difficult and the historical and racial politics difficult to unpack.

Over the years I've tried to do the same with other books, especially liking to read to the kids books that focus on the experiences of Native Americans and African Americans. Parenting is a convoluted endeavor no matter what ethical commitments you do or do not feel. There are always problems, limitations, blindspots and ways in which your best intentions or goals backfire. But pushing your children to accept difficult truths and also feel the both responsibility and capacity to change things for the better is essential.

It is one reason why, in my own creative works, including with the children's books that I have written and published with my brothers through The Guam Bus, I always want to find ways to include stories of our own truths and injustices so that parents can engage in their children in a variety of ways in discussing or processing them. I was happy to see Chamorro educator and writer Desiree Taimanglo Ventura recognize this in a blog post of hers last year.


"Truth-Telling in 2016"
by Guahanmommy
November 22, 2016

My aunties remind me that every generation has its share of turmoil and uncertainty, that with each new group of children raised, mothers hold their babies close, sending up prayers and asking higher powers to prepare their little ones for the world’s chaos. And while I know they are right, I find myself saying it over and over again: This is not the world I planned on raising my children in.
Within the past few weeks, I have had to have some heavy conversations with my child, conversations I never dreamed of needing to have.  Children have classmates who have families that talk.  Children pick up conversations they were never meant to hear.  Children catch glimpses of news stories we think they aren’t paying attention to.  When the children in my life ask difficult questions, I’ve always made it a point of being tactful, but honest.  I’m not a fan of feeding children false narratives that sugar coat ugly things.  I can’t bring myself to spin a web of comfortable stories that allow them to completely disconnect from reality.  I definitely don’t like scaring children, but I take my time when answering.  I weigh every word carefully and I make sure that when I am done, I feel as if I have told them the truth.

Doing this take a little bit of skill, and sometimes, more patience than you really have when dealing with kids .  Some people aren’t good at it (or they’re not willing to put the energy into truth-telling with children), but I want to make a case for it.  I think it’s worth doing.  I think in the long run, our world will benefit from children raised with truth.  And I don’t think telling the truth sacrifices the magic of childhood.  Maybe we need to reevaluate where we think the magic of childhood comes from in the first place.

Some of my friends and relatives disagree with this.  They believe there are certain truths that should remain hidden. Protective lies, they believe, are different from regular lies. The assumption is that they are in the best interest of the person we love.  But here is the thing with protective lies: eventually, they are dismantled.  Our children often uncover the truth in painful, unsettling ways.  They end up wondering why we didn’t tell them certain things, and often end up feeling betrayed or misled.  They sometimes come of age and feel like the wool had been pulled over their eyes for years, and they resent us a little for allowing them to carry on in ignorance.

For many families on Guam, the decolonization process is painful.  Decolonizing means sharing a certain amount of traumatic family and island history. It involves acknowledging ugly things that are going on around us, and finally talking about them.  For my generation and those older, these things happened later in life.  We were raised with many secrets, many feelings unsaid.  Finally saying them can cause conflict and pain, but raising your children with consciousness and gentle truth is a powerful way to spare them some of that hurt and shock.  It also prepares them to more readily enter the adult world and make positive change.  Basically, my generation is spending lots of time “healing” and I sometimes get excited thinking about what our children will be able to do not having to spend so much time sorting out their newfound realization of their colonial status.

I am friends with women who were raised by long-time Chamoru activists on island.  They grew up with an awareness of Guam’s relationship with the US and a more complete understanding of indigenous issues. I was not raised this way.  Many of the people I know were not raised this way.  These women don’t really have many memories of feeling shocked into decolonial thinking.  They didn’t have to sit and have painful conversations with elders over and over again (within a short span of time) about why secrets and histories were only whispered, or why some of our problems exist. A full explanation of the world around them was just, well, normal to them. They do not get uncomfortable or offended when certain truths are said in front of them (something I still occasionally struggle with.  My decolonization is ongoing). Their parents made it a point to raise conscious children and because of that, they operate from a very different place, a place that strikes me as empowering for both them and others.

This is not the world I planned on raising my children in, but I’m preparing them to change it.  And I think we can do that by raising children with a little more truth, particularly during the holidays when they are encouraged to reflect on values and things that are important to them.

I’m sincerely wishing all of you a Happy Thanksgiving week. The world feels like a very confusing place, but there are so many pockets of hope and so much to remain grateful for.  (I feel like a lot of people on my social networking feeds are forgetting that right now.)

I’m expressing gratitude for all the indigenous people who continue to risk their lives in order to protect our earth’s resources, for everyone brave enough to choose peace when war seems more lucrative, for those willing to be mocked and scolded for insisting on equality, and for all the young people who are inheriting a world their parents never anticipated.

I also want to add this great song my friend, Barb, shared with me.  Her daughter sings it on Thanksgiving and it’s a helpful example of how truth can be shared with children.  There are so many fun and creative ways to share truth with our kids.  No “childhood magic” needs to be sacrificed to do so.

Saturday, July 01, 2017


Este i nuebu na hinekka ginen as Craig Santos Perez yan i asagua-ña si Brandy Nalani McDougall. 

Anggen ti un fåhan este trabiha, put fabot, yemme' i link gi papa'. 

Meggai na gefpå'go na tinige' ginen i mantitige' yan manyiyinga' ginen i islan Guåhan yan i islas Hawai'i guini. 

Banidosu yu' sa' unu na tinige'-hu "Ga'pang's Quest" mana'saosaonao gi este na hinekka. 

Gof maolek i prisu lokkue', ti gof guaguan. 

Dosse pesos ha'.


Home(is)lands: New Art and Writing from Guahan and Hawaii, edited by Brandy Nalani McDougall and Craig Santos Perez.

“Despite the vast distance between Hawaii and Guahan (Guam), these islands and their peoples have experienced similar cultural, historical, ecological, and political struggles. Writers and artists from both places have been engaged in unwriting colonial representations and envisioning decolonial futures. This anthology acts as a cross-current between our home(is)lands, weaving our voices across the New Oceania.”

Writers and artists include April Drexel, Selina Onedera-Salas, D Keali’i MacKenzie, Jay Pascua, Tammy Hailiʻōpua Baker, Kisha Borja-Kicho’cho’, Noʻu Revilla, Cara Flores, Ashlee Lena Affonso, Michael Lujan Bevacqua, Lyz Soto, Alfred Peredo Flores, Michael Puleloa, Desiree Taimanglo-Venture, Lufi A. Matā’afa Luteru, Julian Aguon, Kapulani Landgraf, Donovan Kūhiō Colleps, Jessi DeVera, and Aiko Yamashiro!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Setbisio para i Publiko #35: Ingrato

Tomorrow for my free Chamorro lessons at a Hagåtña coffee shop, we'll be focusing on translating four Chamorro songs into English. The reason for this focus is that next week is the "Na'lå'la': Songs of Freedom" concert being organized by Independent Guåhan (July 4th, 2-5 pm at the Adelup Front Lawn). After the success of the Respect the Chamoru People Rally in April, our group decided to have a similar public event, although this time focus more on art, music and poetry, as opposed to speeches. To get my Chamorro students into the mood for the event (as most of them will be there or are even volunteering), I picked out four interesting songs, with various social/political messages.

One of those songs was this one, "Ingrato" a traditional song written by Tun Jose Pangelinan, but made famous by Candy Taman and the groups Tropic Sette and Chamolinian. It has a simple, yet powerful message, especially profound in times of rapid social and cultural change. As modern societies find ways to tell us to be as self-absorbed, self-obsessed and selfish as possible, this song calls on children to not be ungrateful, but to appreciate how their lives were made possible by their parents. The lyrics (despensa anggen guaha linachi, isao-hu ha'!) are below.

I've also included below a recent performance of the song by Candy Taman as part of the Dandan Marianas series on Youtube.


Candy Taman
(Tun Jose Pangelinan)

I mañainå-mu todu i tiempo
Ma pulan hao puengi yan ha'åni
Ya desde hao ni mafañagu-mu
Sin håfa na fina’tånges
Ma sungon todu siha minappot
Put para un mana'dångkulo’
Ayu na hågu lokkue’ nu i patgon para i sainå-mu mungga ingrato
Ayu na hågu lokkue’ nu i patgon para i sainå-mu mungga ingrato

Atan hulo’ i pilan gi langhet
Sa mañila sumensuåbi
Ha i’ina i hemhom na chålan
Para ta li'e’ i hinaonao-ta
Kulang un saina gi famaguon
Ma pupulan maseha månu
Ayu na hågu lokkue’ nu i patgon para i sainå-mu mungga ingrato
Ayu na hågu lokkue’ nu i patgon para i sainå-mu mungga ingrato

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Na'lå'la' Concert

Independent Guåhan announces July 4th “Na’lå’la’: Songs of Freedom Concert” at Adelup

For Immediate Release, June 20, 2017 – After the success of the Respect the Chamoru People Rally in April, where more than 600 people gathered to show their support for the rights of the Chamorro people, Independent Guåhan is organizing the first of its “Na’lå’la’: Songs of Freedom Concert” series. This concert will take place on July 4th, 2017 from 2:00 - 5:00 P.M. at Adelup Field, and is free and open to the public.

Independent Guåhan is an organization that is committed to educating the island community about the importance of Guam’s decolonization and the possibilities should it become an independent country. The organization has spent the past year organizing General Assemblies, teach-ins, petition drives, coffee shop conversations, and podcasts. This concert represents another phase in community outreach, using creative performances to inspire the island community to imagine a different future for Guam.

More than a dozen young artists will be performing under the theme of “Music, Poetry, Knowledge and Freedom.” Confirmed performers include Difendi, Patrick Palomo, Shannon McManus, Stacia Guzman, and Matt Sablan. Each performance will connect to the overall theme of freedom, liberation, and working to create a better and more independent future for Guam. This reflects the spirit of “Na’lå’la’” or “to give life” in which the concert series is named. The concert is an expression of our determination to give life to a decolonized future. In addition to the live performances, there will also be informational booths, providing educational materials from various community groups.

This Fourth of July, Independent Guåhan invites the island community to come together to not celebrate the independence of another, but rather reflect on the need for our own decolonization.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Hong Kong of the Present/Future

I took this picture of the Hong Kong skyline while atop Victoria Peak, while I was there last week. 

Being in Hong Kong I was reminded of Carlton Skinner, who was the first civilian governor of Guam during the time of the passage of the Organic Act. 

Skinner is an interesting figure in Guam history, someone who was of critical importance, but who has received little to no attention from the island (save for a plaza that was named for him, that was demolished to make way for the Guam Museum). 

He had been a progressive person for his time, helping to racially integrate units for the US Navy during World War II. 

He sometimes joked that he must have gotten the job as Governor of Guam because it was an island filled with brown people and he had captained ships fill with black people. 

He is known for helping set up the local government, but also facilitating the legalization of the illegal land-takings by the US military during the immediate postwar years. 
While serving as governor, he famously gave a speech titled "Guam, The Hong Kong of the Future." 

Although the island had been given limited self-government, there still existed a security clearance, where the US Navy could dictate who or what could enter or leave the island. 

Carlton Skinner recognized so long as this was in place, Guam could never realize its full potential economically. 

The speech touched on the notion that when Guam was able to finally be released from undo US federal or military interference, it could take advantage of its location and prosper like other ports in the world. 

The security clearance of that era is gone, but other restrictions still persist.

Independent Guåhan June General Assembly

Independent Guåhan’s June General Assembly focuses on issue of military dumping and vandalism in the village of Toto

For Immediate Release, June 20, 2017 –
Independent Guåhan (IG) has continued to bring decolonization outreach and education to Guam’s villages with two successful forums in Malesso’ and Chalan Pågo. This month’s General Assembly (GA) will be at the Toto Community Center on June 29, from 6:00 -7:30 p.m. The focus this month is on the troubling history of military dumping on Guam and also creative ways communities can deal with problems such as vandalism and crime.

Each meeting, IG honors a Maga’taotao, or outstanding person. This month the group will honor the legacy of Tan Deda, or Magdalena S.N. Bayani, a war survivor, master techa and pillar of the M-T-M community who passed away recently. IG honors the strength and perseverance of Tan Deda and all other war survivors as June 28 is Guam War Survivors Memorial Day.

In analyzing the impacts of World War II on Chamorros and their lands, the educational discussion for this month’s GA will focus on postwar military contamination and how it has affected our health and environment. Looking to the future, the educational presentation will focus on how we can conceive of independence through village-based approaches, much like the models of sustainability practiced by Chamorros in the past. Examples of how an independent Guåhan can use programs such as community gardens to decrease crime and vandalism will be proposed.

This month’s assembly continues a village-based outreach initiative, where the group brings informational resources and critical conversations about independence as a political status option directly into the island’s villages.

Independent Guåhan’s monthly General Assemblies are always held on the last Thursday of each month.

Friday, June 23, 2017


"Donald Trump Has No Plan to Make America Great Again"
by Derek Thompson
The Atlantic
June 7, 2017

It’s “Infrastructure Week” at the White House. Theoretically.

On Monday, the administration announced a plan to spend $200 billion on infrastructure and overhaul U.S. air traffic control. There was a high-profile signing in the East Wing before dozens of cheering lawmakers and industry titans. It was supposed to be the beginning of a weeklong push to fix America’s roads, bridges, and airports.

But in the next two days, Trump spent more energy burning metaphorical bridges than trying to build literal ones. He could have stayed on message for several hours, gathered Democrats and Republicans to discuss a bipartisan agreement, and announced a timeframe. Instead he quickly turned his attention to Twitter to accuse media companies of “Fake News” while undermining an alliance with Qatar based on what may be, fittingly, a fake news story.

It’s a microcosm of this administration’s approach to public policy. A high-profile announcement, coupled with an ambitious promise, subsumed by an unrelated, self-inflicted public-relations crisis, followed by … nothing.

The secret of the Trump infrastructure plan is: There is no infrastructure plan. Just like there is no White House tax plan. Just like there was no White House health care plan. More than 120 days into Trump’s term in a unified Republican government, Trump’s policy accomplishments have been more in the subtraction category (e.g., stripping away environmental regulations) than addition. The president has signed no major legislation and left significant portions of federal agencies unstaffed, as U.S. courts have blocked what would be his most significant policy achievement, the legally dubious immigration ban.

The simplest summary of White House economic policy to date is four words long: There is no policy.

Consider the purported focus of this week. An infrastructure plan ought to include actual proposals, like revenue-and-spending details and timetables. The Trump infrastructure plan has little of that. Even the president’s speech on Monday was devoid of specifics. (An actual line was: “We have studied numerous countries, one in particular, they have a very, very good system; ours is going to top it by a lot.”) The ceremonial signing on Monday was pure theater. The president, flanked by politicians and businesspeople smiling before the twinkling of camera flashes, signed a paper that merely asks Congress to work on a bill. An assistant could have done that via email. Meanwhile, Congress isn’t working on infrastructure at all, according to Politico, and Republicans have shown no interest in a $200 billion spending bill.

In short, this “plan” is not a plan, so much as a Potemkin policy, a presentation devised to show the press and the public that the president has an economic agenda. The show continued on Wednesday, as the president delivered an infrastructure speech in Cincinnati that criticized Obamacare, hailed his Middle East trip, and offered no new details on how his plan would work. Infrastructure Week is a series of scheduled performances to make it look as if the president is hard at work on a domestic agenda that cannot move forward because it does not exist.

Journalists are beginning to catch on. The administration’s policy drought has so far been obscured by a formulaic bait-and-switch strategy one could call the Two-Week Two-Step. Bloomberg has compiled several examples of the president promising major proposals or decisions on everything from climate-change policy to infrastructure “in two weeks.” He has missed the fortnight deadline almost every time.

The starkest false promise has been taxes. “We’re going to be announcing something I would say over the next two or three weeks,” Trump said of tax reform in early February. Eleven weeks later, in late April, the White House finally released a tax proposal. It was hardly one page long.

Arriving nine weeks late, the document was so vague that tax analysts marveled that they couldn’t even say how it would work. Even its authors are confused: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has repeatedly declined to say whether the plan will cut taxes on the rich, even though cutting taxes on the rich is ostensibly the centerpiece. Perhaps it’s because he needs more help: None of the key positions for making domestic tax policy have been filled. There is no assistant secretary for tax policy, nor deputy assistant secretary for tax analysis, according to the Treasury Department.

Once again, the simplest summary of White House tax policy is: There is no plan. There isn’t even a complete staff to compose one.

The story is slightly different for the White House budget, but no more favorable. The budget suffers, not from a lack of details, but from a failure of numeracy that speaks to the administration’s indifference toward serious public policy. The authors double-counted a projected benefit from higher GDP growth, leading to $2 trillion math error, perhaps the largest ever in a White House proposal. The plan included hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue from the estate tax, which appears to be another mistake, since the White House has separately proposed eliminating it.

Does the president’s budget represent what the president’s policies will be? It should, after all. But asked this very question, Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, made perhaps the strangest claim of all: “I wouldn’t take what’s in the budget as indicative of what our proposals are,” he said.

This haphazard approach extends to the repeal of Obamacare, which may yet pass the Senate, but with little help or guidance from the president. Trump has allowed House Speaker Paul Ryan to steer the Obamacare-replacement bill, even though it violates the president’s campaign promises to expand coverage and protect Medicaid. After its surprising passage in the House, he directly undercut it on Twitter by suggesting he wants to raise federal health spending. Even on the most basic question of health-care policy—should spending go up, or down?—the president’s Twitter account and his favored law are irreconcilable. A law cannot raise and slash health care funding at the same time. The Trump health care plan does not exist.

It would be a mistake to call this a policy-free presidency. Trump has signed several executive orders undoing Obama-era regulations, removing environmental protections, and banning travel from several Muslim-majority countries. He has challenged NATO and pulled out of the Paris Accords. But these accomplishments all have one thing in common: Trump was able to do them alone. Signing executive orders and making a speech don’t require the participation of anybody in government except for the president.

It’s no surprise that a former chief executive of a private company would be more familiar with the presumption of omnipotence than the reality of divided powers. As the head of his own organization, Trump could make unilateral orders that subordinates would have to follow. But passing a law requires tireless persuasion and the cooperation of hundreds of representatives in the House and Senate who cannot be fired for insubordination. Being the president of the United States is nothing like being a CEO, especially not one of an eponymous family company.

Republicans in the House and Senate don’t need the president’s permission to write laws, either. Still, they too have struggled to get anything done. Several GOP senators say they may not repeal Obamacare this year—or ever. It is as if, after seven years of protesting Obamacare, the party lost the muscle memory to publicly defend and enact legislation.

In this respect, Trump and his party are alike—united in their antagonism toward Obama-era policies and united in their inability to articulate what should come next. Republicans are trapped by campaign promises that they cannot fulfill. The White House is trapped inside of the president’s perpetual campaign, a cavalcade of economic promises divorced from any effort to detail, advocate, or enact major economic legislation. With an administration that uses public policy as little more than a photo op, get ready for many sequels to this summer’s Infrastructure Week.


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