Wednesday, August 15, 2018

United Natives Against Bureaucratic Miasma

I first traveled to the United Nations to testify in 2007. I testified along with two other Marie Auyong and Rima Miles before the Fourth Committee on the situation in Guam. We came in the wake of a larger delegation the year before which featured Victoria Leon Guerrero, Julian Aguon, Sabina Perez, Fanai Castro, Tiffany Lacsado and Kerri Ann Borja. That trip represented a big moment in sort of post-nation Chamoru/Angel Santos activism in Guam and the diaspora. The trip first came from a conference in San Diego that I along with a few others had organized in April 2006 about decolonization and Chamoru issues. It was, as far as any of us could tell, the first of its kind in the diaspora. The gathering of so many critical and conscious Chamorus in one place led to a great number of things, one of which was a period of new engagement around the United Nations.

Chamorus had been traveling on and off to the UN since 1982. There were high points, usually when the Government of Guam wanted to try to shame the US about something or draw more attention to something the US was ignoring, but for the most part, only one or two people, or no one would travel to the UN to testify. That trip in 2006 wasn't organized by anyone with government of Guam connections, but rather activists either raised in the diaspora or just in the states for school, who wanted to draw attention to the military buildup that had been announced back home.

2006 was a high point, as the group met with countries and UN officials, who were all eager to see some activity in Guam again around decolonization. The first year I attended was simply a placeholder, a reminder that even if we hadn't returned with the same intensity, we were still there and did not want to be dismissed or forgotten. I hadn't even planned on testifying, but was asked at the last minute and ended up flying out with just a day or two notice.

Another larger group returned in 2008, but even in my short time within the UN infrastructure I was struck by a number of things. Once the luster and grandness of the place wore off, you were left with a hollowness, especially coming from a colony. As I wrote in my dissertation, the UN gift shop was a particularly depressing spectacle, as flags from nearly every UN member were there, but none for the colonies.

As much as testifying there before the Fourth Committee was exciting, it was also depressing in a larger and more profound way. In that huge building, in that huge organization, the presence of Chamorus was relegated to an almost microscopic quality. Whereas many nations in the world are small, they are still treated with a bare minimum level of equality by virtue of their country status. They are there in all the halls and offices in some way or another. Their interests persist in small or large ways.

This was not the case for colonies. In those first steps walking through the valley of the UN framework, up until more recently, there was a resistance to Guam being a part of the UN mandate beyond the Fourth Committee and its role in overseeing decolonization. This wasn't just my experience, but that of others as well.

When Chamorus attempted to testify before the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues they were told that they weren't indigenous and that their issue lay before the Fourth Committee. Inquiries to other offices in the UN that dealt with discrimination or human rights were given the same answers.

The first point of resistance was the idea that for a colony, since it has no sovereignty or no real place at the UN, its presence there is continent upon the consent of the administering power or the colonizer. So when I asked why the UN doesn't undertake particular programs in Guam, they said that they need permission or a request from the US first. When I asked how Guam could get a UN visiting mission, again the answer was that a request from the US needed to be made. So to this point, the UN was resisting Guam gaining any further role there beyond the Fourth Committee, because of the principle of respecting state sovereignty and that unnecessarily infringing upon it, even in the name of something universal like decolonization. In fact, the only reason that Guam is even an issue on the Fourth Committee at all, is because the US listed it under international pressure following World War II. The US has then spent many a moment in the decades since trying to get Guam off the list, so it no longer has to answer for why this bastion of freedom still has colonies.

Beyond this however was a second type of resistance and that stemmed simply from bureaucratic apathy. Guam is a distant place for most people in the US, and for the UN as well, it is a distant afterthought. Bringing programs to it would mean expending resources, would mean doing extra work beyond what it already does. This is the anathema to the average bureaucrat's existence. So a lot of times when I and others were told that Guam was not eligible or could not be included, it wasn't true. It was simply bureaucrats reminding us that it is less work to close doors than open them.

But things have been changing. The passage of the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples helped change things so that Chamorus can now have an easier time of being included in the UN as indigenous people. Visiting missions to colonies do not require the consent of the colonizer, but can happen in the absence of their explicit consent. With more lobbying at the UN, in different office and different levels, Guam can gain more prominence, but it does mean pushing back against the apathy that prevents any real change from taking place.

Next week there will be a report back at UOG titled "United Natives" and it will focus on some of the new opportunities that young activists are creating at the UN and elsewhere. It'll take place on Thursday, August 23rd from 6-8 pm.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Water from the Stone of CNMI Sovereignty

Next month I'll be back in Washington D.C. to resume my research about federal territorial relations that I began last year. Much of my focus last year was on Guam and its commonwealth movement, but as I conducted interviews and sifted through files, I also found more and more references to the commonwealth of the CNMI as well and found its evolution and devolution to be even more fascinating. Even just the contrast of reading about what has taken place there for the past few decades in federal documents versus local government is striking. Take for example when a number of sovereignty provisions that had been negotiated through the commonwealth were lost about ten years ago. This process was referred to the in CNMI as a "federalization," akin to a takeover by the federal government. Within the federal government however it was referred to as as normalizing of a relationship, whereby those provisions were considered to be only temporary and would eventually be done away with once the CNMI had experienced some economic development. It is so intriguing to see one side argue that something was never set in stone, but always fluid like water, while the other states it was set in stone and either we lost the stone or someone grabbed it and smashed most of it.

I look forward to returning to this research. It has put me back in the mood for reading about the garment industry that the CNMI once boasted. Here is an article from 2005 in the Saipan Tribune that I came across recently.

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The rise and fall of the garment industry in the CNMI
by Jesus D. Camacho
Saipan Tribune
May 17, 2005
https://www.saipantribune.com/index.php/a360ee58-1dfb-11e4-aedf-250bc8c9958e/

According to the Tan Holdings Corp. website, Dr. Tan Siu Lin and his family brought THC to Guam in the early ‘70s and embarked on a variety of businesses: shipping, real estate, amusement, and movie distribution. Approximately six years after THC began conducting business in the Marianas, the Northern Marianas Islands became a bona fide Commonwealth in 1978.

Approximately five years after the CNMI came into existence, the Tan Siu Lin family made the decision to move the corporate headquarters from Guam to the CNMI in 1983. Subsequent to relocating to the Commonwealth, THC began to grow and become an extremely diversified and multifaceted corporation handling the gamut in terms of different businesses—garment manufacturing, shipping, freight forwarding, fishing, financing, real estate, ground handling, amusement, travel, wholesale, hotels, insurance, and publishing—which generated economic activity that bolstered the economies of the entire Marianas chain, as well as other island communities in the Pacific Rim, e.g., Palau, Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and others.

Today, THC is considered by many in the business sector, local and federal government, as well as residents of the island community, to be the strongest contributor in terms of generating monetary resources and economic activity in the CNMI and throughout the Pacific Rim, and has allowed for the opportunity for the CNMI economy to flourish and provide the residents with a more enhanced and decent quality of life.

Following THC’s move to the CNMI, then Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio and the 3rd Legislature under the leadership of the late Senate President Oly Borja and House Speaker Benigno Fitial in 1983 began discussions with THC chair Dr. Tan Siu Lin and his son, Willie Tan, regarding the development of a garment manufacturing industry in the CNMI. Shortly thereafter, the abovementioned gentlemen were instrumental, as well as successful, in terms of encouraging and attracting Asian garment manufacturers to commence operations on Saipan under specific terms and conditions. It did not take long for the garment manufacturers who set up shop in the CNMI to become competitive with other countries involved with the garment industry, e.g., China, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Mexico. (Interestingly enough, these are the very countries that have now displaced the CNMI in terms of garment production and manufacturing worldwide.)

The positives regarding the economic benefits of the garment industry in the CNMI clearly outweigh the negatives. Substantiating the positives are comments made by organizations and individuals, e.g., the Bank of Hawaii Economic Report of 2003 released in 2004 for the CNMI, as well as the Saipan Apparel Industry Report released in 2004. The BoH Economic Report of 2003 stated that “the involvement of the garment industry in the Commonwealth made it the most self-sufficient U.S. affiliated economy in the western Pacific.” In addition, the report indicated that “the garment industry should be credited with preventing an economic depression in the CNMI following the decline of its tourist industry during the Asian economic crisis during the 1990’s.”

Prior to 1992, the data collection and monitoring of how much the garment industry was producing in terms of Gross Business Revenues—as well as in Direct General Fund Garment Revenues, which collectively combined user fees, income taxes, NRW fees, and BGR Taxes—was almost non-existent. Thus, the actual amount of total funding given to the CNMI government in the form of taxes and fees from the inception of the garment industry in 1983 and up until the early 1990s was based essentially on projections.

The economic benefit to the CNMI from the garment manufacturers coming from the various fees and taxes to the government from the onset of the industry in 1983 until 1993 is estimated to be in the vicinity of about $250 million. And for the following decade, according to the BoH 2003 Economic Report, the total direct payment of garment revenues to the CNMI government—which incorporated user fees, income taxes and other fees from 1994 through 2003—was roughly $435 million. The amount of monetary resources generated by the garment manufacturing industry substantiated what the Bo H report said, “The Commonwealth in effect enhanced its comparative economic advantage.”
Combining all of the taxes and fees submitted by the garment industry to the CNMI government over the past 22 years (1983 through 2003) is just shy of three quarters of a billion dollars. Clearly, the garment industry has been a key economic component for the CNMI and the entire Pacific Rim region and should be given credit for being a catalyst in terms of giving the residents of the island community a better quality of life.

The Garment Industry Report explained the ramifications of the “multiplier effect” regarding business revenues, employment, and income collectively, which was in the vicinity of $135 million in 1995 and $325 million in 2004.

The spending of disposable income by garment workers and the payment of taxes and fees to the government and the organizations who contribute to the island economy, e.g., small business, has for over two decades played a significantly large role in terms of keeping the economic cycle of the island community moving and thriving.

The net result from the multiplier effect was the creation several thousand direct government and private sector jobs outside the apparel industry in the CNMI. This, coupled with the tourism residuals, has kept the CNMI relatively strong in terms of the overall island economy.

According to the report generated by Burger & Comer for the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association in October 2000, the number of people in the employ of the garment industry was estimated to be nearly 18,000, i.e., around 1,800 CNMI residents and about 16,000 non-resident aliens.

The only negative with respect to the income earned by the workers of the garment industry is the amount that is sent back to their countries, e.g., China, Korea, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, etc. Clearly, the income that goes out does not help the economic health and well-being of the CNMI.
Since the enactment of the General Agreement for Tariffs and Trade by the World Trade Organization in January 2005, the total number of workers in the garment industry in the CNMI has been reduced substantially. The estimation of workers in the garment industry is said to have plummeted by several thousand workers over the past six months. By the end of 2005, it is projected that more than three-fourths of the estimated 18,000 workers will be unemployed and without hope or sustenance to maintain a livelihood.

The Garment Industry Economic Report identified more than $135 million in direct economic impact provided by the garment industry workers. The report also stated that the garment industry is a major factor in the CNMI’s economy. This assertion is in direct conflict with what Gov. Juan Babauta recently told the media in May 2005 at the CNMI Department of Commerce regarding the garment industry.

In May 2005, Gov. Juan Babauta talked to the Department of Commerce personnel. Several questions were posed regarding the garment industry. Babauta was asked, “What is the administration doing to help the garment industry stay on island?”

Babauta’s response was, “They are going to shut down anyways and their contribution is not really a significant portion of the budget. We could survive without their revenue besides, they cost more than they generate for the government. We could run a smaller government without them.”

Babauta’s comment about the economic benefit of the garment industry to the CNMI government reflects a governor who is out of touch with fiscal realities. Based on a total government budget of $217 million, the total direct revenues from the garment industry is roughly $70 million or 30 percent of the total. How can nearly one-third of the budget be construed as “insignificant”?

If the garment industry is making a contribution to the budget of about one-third and is clearly a significant contributor of revenues, then the comment that Babauta made about surviving without the industry and it costing more than what they generate reflects a governor that does not understand what the true impact of the garment industry has been in the past and is to the CNMI government in the present day.

Another question posed was, “If the garment companies leave and the workers do not want to go, does the government become responsible for their benefits, e.g., food, housing, medical, return ticket? Babauta’s response was, “Where does it say the government has to take over responsibility—they have to go!”

The comments by Babauta reflect an elected governor who is not compassionate and appreciative of the garment industry and the workers who played a role in assisting their employers in making monetary payments to the tune of nearly a billion dollars to the CNMI government over a 22-year span of time. Turning his back on the industry and the workers shows Babauta’s true sentiments regarding the quest for survival of the industry and their workers.

Although there is no legislation saying there is any obligation to assist the garment workers, there should perhaps be more sensitivity and respect shown and expressed publicly and privately in terms of their displacement. And since nearly 2,000 garment workers are CNMI residents, the governor should provide some support in helping the displaced workers become acclimated back into the workforce to make a living.

To not show openly any support for the resident and nonresident garment workers, reflects leadership that is uncaring and oblivious to the people who worked painstakingly for long hours for very low wages for over two decades in the CNMI.

Since the industry has been a benefit and not a detriment economically, there should never be a nonchalant attitude about the industry and/or the garment workers who worked painstakingly to produce garments and allow the companies they worked for to compete with other garment manufacturers in the international marketplace.

Currently, Babauta is face to face with the unpleasant prospect of trying to confront the real issues surrounding the garment workers that are unemployed and stranded in the CNMI with no job, money, and encouragement from the designated political leader of the Commonwealth. His only solution thus far has been to say “leave”.

What will Babauta convey to the garment industry officials and the workers next? The island community will soon find out at his State of the Commonwealth speech slated for May 19, 2005.
Will the governor blame previous governors for not creating a sensible and systematic plan to deal with the nearly 18,000 displaced workers employed by the garment industry and the companies which will inevitably go out of business if the U.S. Tariff Code is not changed to assist the CNMI in remaining competitive in the garment industry globally? If he decides to, then he might get a stern rebuttal from the four former governors of the CNMI.

For nearly four years, the Babauta administration has done virtually nothing in terms of creating a viable and pragmatic “exit strategy” for both the companies and their workers. The problems that need to be resolved are serious and will no doubt elicit some tension throughout the entire island community. Organization development experts would describe the situation to be the essence of “crisis management.”

And to make matters even worse, Babauta and the anti-business proponents who are opposed to the garment industry have not stepped forward with alternatives to replace the garment industry, revenues to the government, as well as the positive economic impact on the island economy from the disposable income that is spent by those workers in the garment firms. In effect, they “watched what happened” to the garment industry and now Gov. Babauta is “wondering what happened” and what to do about it.

Babauta knew going into the governor’s office in January 2002 that at the onset of 2005, the GATT would go into effect and effectively dismantle the garment industry in the CNMI because it could not compete with countries like China, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Mexico.
The expression goes, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” The garment industry helped feed and sustain the economic base of the CNMI for nearly a quarter of a century. Now Gov. Juan Babauta is biting their hand when they are the ones who are hungry and struggling to survive amid the rapid dismantling and demise of the industry.

Babauta has not stepped up to the plate and shown support for a key remedy for the dilemma of the garment industry, i.e., amend General Note (3a) (iv) to grant U.S. insular possessions equivalent treatment to free trade partners by extending to all products, including textile and apparel, the current requirement that eligible products contain at least 30 percent U.S. and local content.

In addition, Babauta has not shown any strong public support for the amendment of the U.S. Tariff Code to allow foreign content to be increased from 50 to 70 percent and enable garment firms in the CNMI to cut pieces overseas at a lower cost and be able to assemble in the CNMI and remain a viable player in the garment industry internationally.

The U.S. Department of the Interior, in their findings regarding the effect of the loss of the garment industry said, “If the garment industry leaves the CNIU for whatever reason in the next few years, it could take with it one-half of the jobs in the CNMI, including one-third of the jobs of permanent residents.” The Interior Department also recommended that every effort be made to avoid an abrupt or disorderly phase-out of this industry and to retain the more productive segments of the industry as long as possible.

It does not appear that Babauta has taken to heart the serious recommendation made by the Department of the Interior regarding the current dismantling and demise of the garment industry in the CNMI. Not doing so is making a grave mistake that will negatively impact everything across the board.

Small and big businesses in the private sector are the heart and soul of every economy in a “free enterprise system.” They are the integral components in terms of producing monetary resources, which will directly and indirectly help stabilize the economy. When you take away the business element, you take away the lifeblood of an economy regardless of where it is geographically.
Whether it is the CNMI or federal government, a government cannot function effectively and adequately and maintain solvency and stability without the influx and contribution of tax dollars and/or fees that come from the business sector. To think that a government in a capitalistic system can do without the financial input of the business sector is naïve and puerile reasoning. The question now that should be posed is: “What will Gov. Babauta propose to fill the void that the garment industry will leave in the CNMI?” To not provide an answer to this extremely important question will be on the minds of the electorate as they approach and enter the voting booth in November 2005.

Dr. Jesus D. Camacho
Delano, California

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Iya Hagåtña

Infotmasion put i siudat (mismo songsong, lao i maga'songsong para i Islan Guåhan) gi Fino' Chamoru. Hu tuge' este para un curriculum project dos años tåtte. Ya-hu bei na'huyong guini lokkue', sa' hu Tango' na guaha estudiante pat otro e'eyak ni' sesso manmambisisita guini gi este na blog, ya ma kekealigao este na klasen tiningo'.

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Put iya Hagåtña

Guåhan i mås dångkolo’ na isla gi islas Marianas. Hagåtña i kapitåt na siudat. Gaige meggai na ofisinan gobietno giya Hagåtña. Gaige lokkue’ i gima’ i Gobietno yan i
Lihelaturan Guåhan.

I Plåsa de España mahåtsa desdi i tiempon Españot; manggaige guihi i kosas yan estorian i manmasusedi gi duranten i tiempon Españot. Gaige i Plåsa gi fiʹon i gimaʹyuʹos Dulce de Maria Cathedral-Basilica.  Dångkolo’ este na gumaʹyuʹos ya ma silelebra i gipot Santa Marian Kamalen gi diha ocho gi Disembre guini. Dångkolo’ este na silebrasion giya Guahan. I hinenggen Katoliko gi tiempon Españot  ha gof tulaika i hinengge yan kottura gi entre i Chamorro siha. Mas di kuattro sientos años i Españot ha okupa i Islas Marianas. Meggai na tradision yan kustombre gi Chamorro påʹgo ginen este na hestoria.  

Guaha siha latte manmahåtsa giya Hagåtna kuentan plåsa ni mafaʹnaʹan Latte Stone Park.  I latte ha represesenta i antigu na kotturan Chamorro. I acho latte kuentan haligen guma’ gi antigu na guma’ Chamorro. Matulaika i naʹan este na plåsa gi dos mit singko (2005) na såkkan ya mafaʹnaʹan påʹgo, Senator Angel Leon Guerrero Santos Memorial Park. Machoʹgue este para u ma onra i bidå-ña siha para u abånsa i direchon i ManChamorro gi tanoʹ-ñiha. Guiya lokkue’ munaʹmaestabblisa i Kumision para i Chamorro Land Trust na lai.

I otro na lugåt giya Hagåtña ni sesso mafatoigue ni ManChamorro yan ayu siha i manmanbisisita giya Guåhan, I Sengsong Chamorro, Chamorro Village;  ma’åʹagang lokkue’ I Sagan Dinanña, “the Gathering Place.”  Ma håtsa este na fasilidåt ginen i inapreban Siñot Magaʹlåhi as Joseph Ada yan i Liheslaturan Guåhan gi mit nuebe siento ochenta (1980).  I tutuhon-ña para metkao para i manlanchero siha. Lao påʹgo sagan kosas kotturan Guåhan yan minagof Chamorro. Kada Mietkoles, guaha “Puengen Metkao”. Differentes na klasen nengkånno’ manmabebende; guaha lokkue’ dåndan yan baila para todu i taotao ni manmåfatto.  Este na siña un liʹe yan un eksperensia i kotturan Chamorro. 


Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Na'lå'la': Songs of Freedom Vol. 2

Imagine a Decolonized Future for Guåhan at Independent Guåhan’s “Na’lå’la’: Songs of Freedom Vol. 2” Concert on July 4th.

For Immediate Release, June 20, 2018 – Each July 4th the island commemorates the independence day of the United States, despite the fact that Guåhan remains its colony. On that day last year Independent Guåhan organized the concert “Na’lå’la’: Songs of Freedom,” which was attended by more than 600 people. Independent Guåhan is proud to announce Volume 2 in their concert series, to take place on July 4th from 3-6 pm in the front field at Adelup. This event is free and open to the public.

Independent Guåhan is an organization that is committed to educating the island community about the importance of Guåhan’s decolonization and the possibilities should it become an independent country. The organization has spent the past two years organizing General Assemblies, village meetings, teach-ins, petition drives, coffee shop conversations and podcasts. The Na’lå’la’ concert series represents another strategy for educating the people of Guåhan about their political future, through the use of art, poetry and music.

A dozen young artists and bands will be performing under the theme of “Music, Poetry, Knowledge and Freedom.” Confirmed performers include Ben “Lamlam” San Nicolas, Maseha Håfa, Andrew Gumataotao, Trey Cunningham, JDinnaWAVE, Primitiva Muña and others. Each performance will connect to the overall theme of freedom, liberation and the working to create a better, and more independent future for Guåhan. In addition to the live performances, there will be informational booths, providing educational materials from various community groups.

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

 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

IG June 2018 June GA


Independent Guåhan will honor the legacy of Richard Flores Taitano and discuss reforming local government in June GA

Independent Guåhan (IG) invites the public to attend their June General Assembly (GA) on Thursday, June 28, from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the Main Pavilion of the Chamorro Village in Hagåtña. The educational focus for the evening will be on how Guåhan’s government can be radically reformed in an effort to provide more checks and balances and participation for the island’s residents.

Media coverage and social media chatter provide regular reminders of Government of Guam corruption and malfeasance. Many feel that the levels of corruption are so high that they provide an obstacle to ever achieving independence. In this month’s GA, Independent Guåhan will discuss ways that the government of a decolonized Guåhan could be reformed to reduce corruption and also provide more means by which people can participate in the functioning of their democracy. Models from other Pacific Island nations and indigenous groups in the Americas will be discussed as providing possibilities that would enable the government in an independent Guåhan to be more closely aligned with Chamoru cultural values.

At each GA, Independent Guåhan honors a maga’taotao: a notable figure that has helped guide the island and the Chamoru people on their quest for self-determination. This month, IG will be honoring the legacy of the late Richard Flores Taitano who left a lasting mark on island politics. Taitano was a member of the postwar generation of leaders who helped guide Guåhan to what it is today. He was well known from a young age for his intelligence and articulation and this served him well as a six-time senator, a pioneer in Democratic Party strategy and politics and the first Chamoru to ever work as the director of the Office of Territories of the Department of the Interior. As a senator he introduced a bill that created the Micronesian Area Research Center (MARC), and after his death, it was renamed in his honor. Dick Taitano dedicated his life to the promotion and preservation of Chamoru heritage, and Independent Guåhan is proud to honor his legacy.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Ma ayuyuda i manåmko'

Some images I took from the Ayuda i Mañainå-ta Dos event last month. There is a full album available on Independent Guåhan's Facebook page. I was glad to be able to help so many elderly people with their war claims forms, but I could not help but feel upset over my own grandparents not being eligible as they passed away in 2013 and 2015.

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I have spent the past few weeks meeting with people who are running for political office here in Guam this year. Some for senator, some for governor. This year promises to be an exciting one in terms of campaigns and candidates. With five teams running for governor (4 Democrats and 1 Republican). More than 80 packets for senatorial candidates have been picked up, with only 15 possible seats in the legislature. Mampos meggai na månnok manmalålagu gi kånton guma'!


What is different this year however is not just the amount of candidates, but also the diversity in terms of their background. More and more, people are running for office who haven't been in formal government service before. They haven't worked in a political machine. They are outsiders, activists, educators, working class people, lawyers, professionals, veterans, journalists and more. The question remains however, and I will acknowledge from the very start of the conversation, that there is nothing intrinsically better in terms of electing insiders or outsiders. Those who come from within a system can have knowledge to keep it running well or reform it. Those who come from without may have new ideas or not be enamored or bogged down with institutional loyalty or dependency. But at the same time, outsiders struggle to navigate systems they may have disdained before or just wish would evaporate and insiders may not even be able imagine past the limits into which they were born.

Insiders or outsiders, both have things to offer, your support for one or another may have alot to do with where you see yourself in relation to larger structures of power and society. For example, many white uneducated Americans may have voted for Trump, wanting to send an outsider to Washington D.C. to destroy the swampy system of the federal government. But in truth, their perception and identity as people outside of the system has little relevance to their relationship to that system. In truth, far more than any other group, those white Americans are greatly served by the existing system. It supports them and privileges them far more than any others. We saw this in terms of Republican attempts to destroy Obamacare. While most of Trump's supporters felt that system was against them or hurting them, in truth it helped make sure that more poor Americans got access to health care and couldn't be denied health care because of pre-existing conditions.

In thinking about this issue, I am drawn back to my freshman philosophy discussions on what makes someone ethical or moral. I still remember when I first took a philosophy class and read ancient Greek philosopher such as Socrates and Plato and their discussions. All cultures have these discussions, and while within the West, we are supposed to look to those thinkers as crafting the thoughts that became the glue to hold together the foundation of universality, but that's all bullshit really. As any historian can tell you, even within just the East - West paradigm, you find intellectual trajectories that run parallel in these civilizations even if they weren't actively talking to each other. If anyone thinks that the Greeks invented democracy, they simply don't know much about the history of the world at all. But nonetheless texts such as this represented my first steps into really thinking about those philosophical issues. I was intrigued them and remain interested in the notion of a "philosopher-king" especially in the time of Trump.

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The Republic “The Philosopher King”
Plato

Inasmuch as philosophers only are able to grasp the eternal and unchangeable, and those who wander in the region of the many and variable are not philosophers, I must ask you which of the two classes should be the rulers of our State?

And how can we rightly answer that question?

Whichever of the two are best able to guard the laws and institutions of our State--let them be our guardians.

Very good.

Neither, I said, can there be any question that the guardian who is to keep anything should have eyes rather than no eyes?

There can be no question of that.

And are not those who are verily and indeed wanting in the knowledge of the true being of each thing, and who have in their souls no clear pattern, and are unable as with a painter's eye to look at the absolute truth and to that original to repair, and having perfect vision of the other world to order the laws about beauty, goodness, justice in this, if not already ordered, and to guard and preserve the order of them--are not such persons, I ask, simply blind?

Truly, he replied, they are much in that condition.

And shall they be our guardians when there are others who, besides being their equals in experience and falling short of them in no particular of virtue, also know the very truth of each thing?

There can be no reason, he said, for rejecting those who have this greatest of all great qualities; they must always have the first place unless they fail in some other respect. Suppose, then, I said, that we determine how far they can unite this and the other excellences.

By all means.

In the first place, as we began by observing, the nature of the philosopher has to be ascertained. We must come to an understanding about him, and, when we have done so, then, if I am not mistaken, we shall also acknowledge that such a union of qualities is possible, and that those in whom they are united, and those only, should be rulers in the State.

What do you mean?

Let us suppose that philosophical minds always love knowledge of a sort which shows them the eternal nature not varying from generation and corruption.

Agreed.

And further, I said, let us agree that they are lovers of all true being; there is no part whether greater or less, or more or less honorable, which they are willing to renounce; as we said before of the lover and the man of ambition.

True.

And if they are to be what we were describing, is there not another quality which they should also possess?

What quality?

Truthfulness: they will never intentionally receive into their minds falsehood, which is their detestation, and they will love the truth.

Yes, that may be safely affirmed of them.

"May be." my friend, I replied, is not the word; say rather, "must be affirmed:" for he whose nature is amorous of anything cannot help loving all that belongs or is akin to the object of his affections.

Right, he said.

And is there anything more akin to wisdom than truth?

How can there be?

Can the same nature be a lover of wisdom and a lover of falsehood?

Never.

The true lover of learning then must from his earliest youth, as far as in him lies, desire all truth?

Assuredly.

But then again, as we know by experience, he whose desires are strong in one direction will have them weaker in others; they will be like a stream which has been drawn off into another channel.

True.
He whose desires are drawn toward knowledge in every form will be absorbed in the pleasures of the soul, and will hardly feel bodily pleasure--I mean, if he be a true philosopher and not a sham one.

That is most certain.

Such a one is sure to be temperate and the reverse of covetous; for the motives which make another man desirous of having and spending, have no place in his character.

Very true.

Another criterion of the philosophical nature has also to be considered.

What is that?

There should be no secret corner of illiberality; nothing can be more antagonistic than meanness to a soul which is ever longing after the whole of things both divine and human.

Most true, he replied.

Then how can he who has magnificence of mind and is the spectator of all time and all existence, think much of human life?

He cannot.

Or can such a one account death fearful?

No, indeed.

Then the cowardly and mean nature has no part in true philosophy?

Certainly not.

Or again: can he who is harmoniously constituted, who is not covetous or mean, or a boaster, or a coward--can he, I say, ever be unjust or hard in his dealings?

Impossible.

Then you will soon observe whether a man is just and gentle, or rude and unsociable; these are the signs which distinguish even in youth the philosophical nature from the unphilosophical.

True.

There is another point which should be remarked.

What point?

Whether he has or has not a pleasure in learning; for no one will love that which gives him pain, and in which after much toil he makes little progress.

Certainly not.

And again, if he is forgetful and retains nothing of what he learns, will he not be an empty vessel?

That is certain.

Laboring in vain, he must end in hating himself and his fruitless occupation?

Yes.

Then a soul which forgets cannot be ranked among genuine philosophic natures; we must insist that the philosopher should have a good memory?

Certainly.

And once more, the inharmonious and unseemly nature can only tend to disproportion?

Undoubtedly.

And do you consider truth to be akin to proportion or to disproportion?

To proportion.

Then, besides other qualities, we must try to find a naturally well-proportioned and gracious mind, which will move spontaneously toward the true being of everything.

Certainly.

Well, and do not all these qualities, which we have been enumerating, go together, and are they not, in a manner, necessary to a soul, which is to have a full and perfect participation of being?

They are absolutely necessary, he replied.

And must not that be a blameless study which he only can pursue who has the gift of a good memory, and is quick to learn--noble, gracious, the friend of truth, justice, courage, temperance, who are his kindred?

The god of jealousy himself, he said, could find no fault with such a study.

And to men like him, I said, when perfected by years and education, and to these only you will entrust the State.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Politics of a Language Not Being the Language of Politics


I have spent untold hours in the collection of the Micronesian Area Research center going through stacks upon stacks of newspapers looking at ads of those running for political office in Guam. Although I don't mention it much, when I began my masters thesis at the University of Guam in Micronesian Studies, my initial topics was actually political campaigns in Guam and analyzing Chamoru discourse in campaigns. I conducted around 50 interviews over several months, with a wide range of people. My intent was to reveal what role Chamoru "culture" or "language" or "identity" played in the organizing of political campaigns, the outreach, the strategizing or rationale.

My own motivation for taking on this project was tied to the 2002 Guam gubernatorial campaign. I was a young Chamoru grad student, who had started learning speaking Chamoru the year prior and was functionally, albeit awkwardly fluent in Chamoru. I was spending most of my free time in MARC doing research and interviewing older Chamorus with my grandmother. For the first time in my life I had a sense of being Chamoru and was excited about what it meant. At the time I even wrote a poem called "Loincloth Envy" which was about my gratitude for older Chamoru activists accepting me and allowing me to sit down with them and talk to them and learn from them.

In 2002, Felix Camacho and Robert Underwood were competing to be the next Governor of Guam. I wasn't active in the campaign at all, but I was very much an Underwood supporter, as was most of my family. I had read lots and lots of articles and speeches by Underwood and already considered him to be the Godfather of Chamorro Studies, for his work in articulating the critical turn in the self-examination of Chamorus.

That for me also represented a shift in the community around me and one that threw me off. As I was becoming more and more Chamoru in my own consciousness, Felix Camacho defeated Robert Underwood and became the first elected governor of Guam who could not speak Chamoru. I was a student in Rosa Palomo's intermediate Chamoru class at the time and helped organize a Chamoru language forum between the candidates, where Felix Camacho read a statement in Chamoru, but largely answered in English. I felt insulted that Felix Camacho wanted to represent the island but couldn't take the time to learn to speak his own language. I thought others would feel the same way, but more people felt threatened or felt intimidated by Underwood's ability to speak Chamoru.

When Felix Camacho won, I realized that for the first time in Guam's gubernatorial politics, a candidate had been elected because they were less outwardly Chamoru and that the ability for Underwood to speak Chamoru and speak intelligently about Chamoru history and culture, actually hurt him at the polls. Other factors were an issue of course, but as we can see in the time since, Eddie Calvo was elected who also can't speak Chamoru, and unless Carl Gutierrez or Frank Aguon wins this year, the next governor won't be fluent in Chamoru either (several of the gubernatorial and lt. governor candidates can understand Chamoru, but couldn't give a speech in Chamoru for example).

Because of my experiences watching that campaign, I decided to conduct my thesis research on Chamoru campaigning. I interviewed a long list of people who had long been involved in campaigns on Guam. I sat down with former Governors Ada and Calvo. I sat down with newly elected Congresswoman Bordallo and former Lt. Governor Frank Blas Jr. I sat down with the late Speakers Tony Unpingco and Ben Pangelinan. I only made it halfway through my list before I eventually decided to change topics for my thesis.

One reason I decided to change topics is because of a massive disconnect that I began to experience in my interviews and in my archival research. For people long involved in campaigns on Guam going back to the Popular and Territorial Party days, they painted their memories and their descriptions of campaigns with a heavy dose of Chamoru nostalgia. For them, these pocket meetings and rally were like Chamoru rallies. Everyone spoke in Chamoru, best speakers were always the Chamoru speakers. They had the best jokes and since they were speaking in Chamoru, people gave them more leeway to say mean things about the opposing party. People also said that the Chamoru culture and the clan (for better or worse) was the backbone of the party machine in those days.

But the disconnect for me was that in the campaign materials, the ads and the pamphlets that they produced, the Chamoru language was usually not used at all. The language would appear in snippets or friendly and unoffending fragments like "bota" or "håfa adai" or "Si Yuus Maase" but rarely anything more than that. Candidates would rarely have road signs or yard signs in Chamoru. They wouldn't have newspaper ads in Chamoru. Eventually some candidates would start to have parts of their platform translated into Chamoru, but this was also accompanied with them translating parts into Tagalog as well.

This was depressing because it represented yet another example of what I later called (with my former student and now colleague Ken Kuper) un gefpågo na dinagi, a beautiful lie. One of those comforting narratives that in a way covers over a massive gap, in this instance, the fact that while political players talked about how amazing the deck chairs were on this Chamoru såkman, they weren't paying attention as it was clearly sinking. And worst of all, they weren't seeing the role that they were playing in ensuring that politics would be an increasingly English game on the island, and that Chamoru would be increasingly minimized and tokenized.

I've collected as many ads as I can over the years that use the Chamoru language. Most of them appear around Mes Chamoru or Chamoru month. Other than that, few candidates every really use or engage with the Chamoru language. It is my hope that through my own work and advocacy, we can start to change that.

In the meantime, below is the text from the ad that is featured in the image in this post. It is from Robert Underwood when he was running for the US Congress in the 1990s.

******************


Para I Taotåo Guåhan
I ETMÅS GUAGUAN NA BOTU

Tåya’ mås empottånte yan guaguan na direcho gi sesteman i pulitikåt i tano’ kini i uputunidåt para ta ayek håyi para u giha mo’na i tano’-ta.

Kon dångkolo na respetu, para i minaolek i taotåo-ta, para i adilånton i ikunumiha, Para u ma abånsa i idukasion i famagu’on-ta, Para i pruteksion i lina’lå’-ta yan kotturå-ta.

Hu gågagåo ta’lo i boton-miyu gi mamaila na ileksion. I konfehånsan-miyu yan i respeton-miyu mås takhelo’ para guåhu.



Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Trump Visits Guam

Donald Trump will be on island for a few hours tonight, following a summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un in Singapore. Although there had been rumors for months about a Trump visit, it was only really confirmed earlier today when the local media got a chance to look at the White House schedule this week. Pundits are trying to figure out what the meeting means, and how much credit Trump should or shouldn't receive for his haphazard and sometimes confusing attempts at diplomacy, but we shouldn't be too distracted by that discussion in Guam.

Regardless of what decisions may come from this meeting, Guam remains a territory of the US and not a sovereign player in any decisions regarding security in this region. So long as we remain a colony, genuine security will always remain outside of our reach. Decolonization is the only way to ensure greater security for our people and that our island becomes more than just the tip of America's spear.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Hale'-ta Hike: Pågat

So far this year Independent Guåhan has organized two Hale'-ta Hikes; the first to Laso' Fouha or Fouha Rock, and the second to Hila'an. Our third hike is set for later this month to Pågat.

I have written in several articles recently about how important this type of outreach has been in terms of developing community resistance to US military plans in Guam. Taking people into the areas that may be affected, contaminated or closed off to the public, and allowing them to forge their own personal and eventually, hopefully, political connections was essential, especially in the case of Pågat.

This is one reason why things have been different recently with regards to Litekyan. The fact that when you take people on hikes there, you are walking not through "public" or "local" lands, but instead federal property makes it difficult for people to imagine a strong connection to the lands and their meaning. Instead it feels like more of the stolen lands, stolen spirit of the island that we may never get back.


Friday, June 01, 2018

Paulette Jordan for Governor


She Hails from Tribal Chiefs. Now She's Ready to be Idaho's Governor.
by Jennifer Bendery
5/9/18
Huffington Post

WASHINGTON ― When you think of political dynasties in American history, you might think of the Kennedys or the Bushes. You’ve probably never heard of Paulette Jordan’s family.
Jordan, an enrolled member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe, comes from thousands of years of intergenerational leadership in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest. Her grandfathers were chiefs. Her grandmothers were chiefs. Some of her ancestors were very prominent, like Chief Kamiakin of the Yakama-Palus Nation. In 1855, when the territorial governor of Washington forced Kamiakin to sign a treaty of land cessations, Kamiakin later banded together with 14 tribes and waged a three-year war against the U.S. government.
“They could lead as chiefs and fight as warrior chiefs,” Jordan said of her grandmothers, one of whom was tribal chair of Colville Confederated Tribes. “They taught me the way.”
But Jordan, 38, has her eye on a different kind of leadership role. She’s running for governor of Idaho, and if she wins, she would make history as the first female governor of the state and the first Native American governor in the nation.
That’s not even the most unusual aspect of Jordan’s candidacy. A two-term state legislator, she is running as a progressive Democrat in a deeply red state ― and doing remarkably well. Ahead of the May 15 primary, a March poll by Idaho Politics Weekly found Jordan leading multimillionaire and Boise school board member A.J. Balukoff, her Democratic opponent, 41 percent to 27 percent.
The same poll showed no clear front-runner in the general election. Among all voters, Jordan was backed by 15 percent, while top GOP candidates Raul Labrador and Tommy Ahlquist were at 16 percent and 15 percent, respectively. Balukoff was backed by 8 percent.
The obvious question is how a Democratic woman can win a governor’s race in Idaho, a state that’s never been led by a woman and one where Republicans control the state legislature, the governor’s office and all of the state’s seats in the U.S. House and Senate. The last time Idaho chose a Democratic governor was in 1990.
It’s a question Jordan gets over and over again. “Does it just baffle you that I’m running for office?” she said. “The world is asking.”

To this Idaho native, connecting with voters isn’t about party or gender. It’s about understanding the rural way of life. She talked about her grandfather’s pride in ranching 1.5 million acres across eastern Washington and teaching others how to ranch, effectively teaching people how to be independent and provide for their families. Idahoans are deeply rooted in this culture, she said, and she wants to preserve it.
“It’s more than just the process of ranching and being part of the ag community. It’s what it means to be a rancher or an agriculturalist,” Jordan said. “It’s sustainability. It’s defending your family and your way of life. When I talk about protecting my future generations, that resonates. When I talk about protecting the land, that resonates.”

Jordan grew up on her family’s timber and farmland in northern Idaho, where she now lives with her two sons. After graduating from the University of Washington, she came home and ran for a seat on the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Council in 2008. She won, becoming its youngest member, and went on to run for the Idaho Legislature in 2012. She lost that year, but ran again and won in 2014 and 2016. In the last election, she was the only Democrat in conservative north Idaho to win in a district that President Donald Trump won.
She announced her run for governor in December, vowing to tackle the state’s broken tax system and education system that she says doesn’t support teachers. Between the historic nature of her run and being a progressive in a GOP state, it wasn’t long before Jordan was in the national spotlight. She’s been endorsed by Planned Parenthood, Democracy for America, People for the American Way, Our Revolution and Indivisible. Locally, she has support from unions, community leaders and Add The Words, an Idaho LGBTQ group.
Cher ― yes, Cher ― is also a fan. The two crossed paths in January at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., and then met again at a Women’s March rally in Las Vegas. They chatted backstage about Jordan’s run and Cher was won over. Soon after, she tweeted to her 3.6 million Twitter followers that she was endorsing Jordan’s campaign.
“I did not expect the tweet,” Jordan said with a laugh. “I did not ask for anything.”
Local news stations went bananas, Jordan said, and some Idahoans were not sure what to make of it. Some were mad that Cher would try to influence a state race and vowed not to support Jordan because of it. Others, particularly younger people, thought it was amazing and pledged to support Jordan because of it. Jordan said she’s not sure if it hurt or helped her campaign overall, but she’s honored that Cher would try to help her out.
“My mom is one of her biggest fans,” she said. “It made her world to see us together in photos. ‘Cher is endorsing my daughter! This is so cool!’”

But Jordan has more pressing challenges than celebrity endorsements. A number of Democratic state legislators and former Idaho Democratic Party leaders are siding with her opponent, Balukoff. He ran for governor in 2014 and got crushed, after spending $3.6 million of his own money on his campaign. What’s different this time is that the governor’s seat is open, as current Gov. Butch Otter (R) is not running for re-election.

Balukoff, 72, shares some of Jordan’s policy views. They both support expanding Medicaid. They both say education is a top priority, despite having different stances on charter schools (she’s a fan; he’s not) and guns in schools (she’s opposed to arming teachers; he says local leaders should decide). But Jordan is clearly to the left of Balukoff. She supports legalizing marijuana. She is a forceful advocate for LGBTQ and women’s reproductive rights. Neither is true for Balukoff.
Their backgrounds are also vastly different. Jordan was raised Catholic and grew up in a rural community. Balukoff is Mormon, grew up in San Diego and used to be a Republican. He has donated thousands of dollars to GOP candidates over the years, including former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig (R) and former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
They are financing their campaigns differently, too. Jordan isn’t taking any PAC money and is relying on grassroots support; Balukoff is largely self-funding his campaign. Jordan has raised about $300,000 in total. Balukoff, who is worth as much as $50 million, has spent about $800,000 on TV ads alone.

Balukoff boasts about the endorsements he’s picked up from state Democratic leaders ― including from some of Jordan’s colleagues in the House, which is a slight to Jordan. He has said he thinks Jordan is a fine candidate but needs to wait her turn.
“I think I bring more experience this time around and had leadership roles that Paulette hasn’t had,” Balukoff said in March. “I think people should stay with me this time around. She may be what we need the next time.”
That sentiment did not go over well with Jordan, who fumed about the “older establishment” biases at play in her state party.
“People just aren’t used to thinking that a woman of color, or a woman period, can win,” she said. “Even people in the Democratic Party, they aren’t used to envisioning a woman at the top. Yet there are Republican women who know we can get there. There are progressive women in our state who know we can get there. Being young and vibrant and fresh, that plays into a new, bold vision and strong leadership.”

Jordan’s candidacy comes amid an explosion of progressive grassroots activism in response to Trump’s presidency. Democrats, many of whom are women and people of color, have been running for local and state offices at record-breaking levels all over the country. And many are winning, even in GOP strongholds. Jordan’s platform is a natural extension of a Democratic base that’s been demanding change and taken to marching in the streets ― and right past their party’s establishment.

In Idaho, the establishment is clearly siding with Balukoff. What’s weird is that lawmakers typically avoid making primary endorsements ― and if they do endorse, it’s usually to throw support to a colleague. It’s hard to overlook the influence of Balukoff’s money.
HuffPost reviewed Balukoff’s Federal Election Commission reports, along with state campaign finance data, and found that many of the Democratic officials endorsing him have gotten money from him.
Take, for example, the 12 Democratic state legislators that Balukoff touts on his campaign site as supporters. Eight of them have received campaign money from him.
“AJ Balukoff has the smarts, the common sense, and the know-how to be a great champion as governor,” says state Sen. Mark Nye, who has received $4,000 from Balukoff since 2014.
“When A.J. reached out to me for my support, I didn’t hesitate,” says state Sen. Maryanne Jordan, who got $1,000 from Balukoff in the 2016 election cycle.
“Idaho students and teachers could not ask for a better candidate,” says state Rep. Hy Kloc, who got $950 from Balukoff between 2013 and 2016. ”That candidate is undoubtedly AJ Balukoff and I wholeheartedly endorse him in May and in November.”

Balukoff has given more than $551,000 to the Idaho Democratic Party since 2009, including $11,000 that he and his wife donated after Nov. 2 ― the day he announced his run for governor. That means he’s been financing the party at a time when it’s supposed to stay neutral in his campaign. And that’s on top of the $3.6 million of his own money he poured into the 2014 gubernatorial race. A year after that, he became the party’s treasurer.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with Democratic officials taking lots of money from a wealthy donor. Jordan herself got $500 from Balukoff in 2014. (She said she’s donating it to charity.) But when you look at the spread of Balukoff’s donations over the years between local and state leaders, and to the party itself, he’s had an outsized influence on the system that he’s now leaning on to help him become governor.

Shelby Scott, political director of the Idaho Democratic Party, emphasized that “a large amount” of the money Balukoff has donated to the party went toward his 2014 campaign’s payroll and making sure campaign workers had access to health care.
“We want to make sure that we’re living our values,” she said.
Scott acknowledged that Balukoff has been “important to helping elect Idaho Dems” in a state where Republicans have a financial advantage. She referenced the $500 he gave Jordan’s campaign in 2014.
Balukoff’s campaign dismissed the idea that Democratic legislators are endorsing Balukoff in the primary because they get money from him.
“A.J. is proud of the support he’s received from people and organizations that care about boosting Idaho’s education system, making sure all Idahoans have access to health care, protecting public lands, and ensuring equality in the workplace,” said Balukoff spokesman Andy Bixler. “He’s racking up endorsements because it’s become very clear to voters that A.J. is the right pick to lead Idaho.”
Jordan stopped short of saying Balukoff is trying to buy the election, but lamented the effect money is having on Idaho’s democratic process.
“It displaces young people and people of color from being able to rise into the party in Idaho, and then people who are poor, and all the rural communities,” she said. “This is why the Idaho Democratic Party is really hurting. Everyone should have a voice at the table. They don’t.”

A week out from the primary, Jordan said she’s been thinking a lot about her great-great-grandfather, Chief Kamiakin, and what he would make of her working for the U.S. government. He spent his life fighting the government’s efforts to wipe out his community, take its land and exploit its resources.

“I always wonder if he would be proud of me,” she said. “He defended me and my existence from a government that was encroaching on the freedom of the people here, for their own manifest destiny and because of greed. It was pretty tragic.”
But for all the wars he waged, Kamiakin was trying to make peace, she said. And he didn’t give up, even when U.S. military leaders repeatedly killed the people he sent over to broker a peace deal. That’s where Jordan sees herself following in his footsteps.
“My grandmother always said, ‘You will always fight. The next generation will have to hold the line and fight for the same things,’” she said. “I am always going to continue that legacy of fighting for freedom, peace and justice. I think it’s a good thing for me to work internally to try to make things better.”
Jordan paused. “I know he’s proud of me.”

 

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