Monday, August 14, 2017

People for Peace Rally

For Immediate Release
August 13, 2017

People for Peace Rally: Monday, August 14
Guam Groups Organizing A Community Call for Peace

Hagåtña, Guåhan — In a call for peace amid dangerous talks of war, two Guam community groups are organizing a “People for Peace” rally at the Maga’låhi Kepuha loop in Hagåtña on Monday, August 14, 2017 at 5 p.m. Independent Guåhan and the Prutehi Litekyan/Save Ritidian organization are inviting the local community to join them with peaceful signs and positive messages they’d like to share with the world. 

This past week, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un exchanged aggressive threats of attack that included plans for a North Korean missile strike near Guam in mid-August. Historically, Guam has been forced in the middle of other nations’ conflicts, particularly as an unincorporated territory of the United States. As a result, many of Guam’s people know the painful and horrific effects of war as World II survivors and as veterans. Thus, the members of Independent Guåhan and Prutehi Litekyan, both organizations dedicated to the decolonization and demilitarization of Guam, feel it is imperative for the community to stand together in a call for peace.

“What’s happening in Guam is a global issue, because if our island is attacked, it could be the catalyst for a global catastrophe,” says Independent Guåhan spokesperson Kenneth Gofigan Kuper. “Peace on Guam means peace for the rest of the world.” 

“Peace also begins in our homelands,” says Prutehi Litekyan/Save/Ritidian spokesperson Sabina Flores Perez.

“The trajectory of US hyper-militarization of Guam and the ‘Pacific’ Ocean has largely gone unnoticed and is greatly responsible for the destabilization of our region. The world’s attention must be focused on demilitarizing our lands that includes immediately halting the construction, which can take place in a matter of days, of a live-fire training range complex near Ritidian, a sacred place where we can connect to our ancestors and the location of the Guam Wildlife Refuge established on stolen native lands.” 



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Independent Guåhan empowers the Chamoru people to reclaim our sovereignty as a nation. Inspired by the strength of our ancestors and with love for future generations, we educate and unify all who call our island home to build a sustainable and prosperous independent future.

Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian, a direct action group dedicated to the protection of natural and cultural resources in all sites identified for DOD live-fire training on Guam, opposes the establishment of any military firing range, stands in solidarity with Guardians of Gani’, PaganWatch, Tinian Women’s Association, and Alternative Zero Coalition by preventing environmental degradation and destruction on sacred and native lands, and promotes the continued pursuit for return of ancestral lands.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

2007 in Three Articles

I have been wracking my brain for the past few hours and also "tearing apart" at least digitally my computer looking for the source for a quote that I had included in my notes and now need to use in an article I'm completing for The Journal of Okinawan Studies. As of now I have yet to find it unfortunately and I'm hoping that this quote didn't come from a news article that I had photocopied years ago but had yet to scan or transcribe. If that is the case, I may never find the citation for it.

Part of the joy, but also the frustration of searches like this, is the random surprises and nostalgia bombs that end up crossing your path. While searching through more than a decade of research, I came across so many bits and pieces of things, some of which ended up being keystones in my academic cosmology, others I had completely forgotten.

One thing I came across that I wanted to share was these three articles below. They all come from August 2007, at a time when the infamous US military buildup to Guam was still almost completely notional and resistance to it was difficult to organize. This moment was important because Congresswoman Bordallo was on Guam and she had brought US Virgin Islands Congresswoman Donna Christensen with her for a series of meetings. It created a perfect moment at a time when everything was still very much up in the air, but everyone had incredibly unrealistically positive assumptions about the buildup, and it was difficult to even have a forum or meeting about it and get people to engage. The meetings with Christensen were ideal for both leaders, community figures and activists to come out and find a place to make their statements and have some legitimization of their critical points. This moment was no doubt one reason why Bordallo has been far more cautious when returning to Guam with buildup news, as she may expect crowds to celebrate her for the deals she brokers in DC, but sometimes they do quite the opposite.

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Feds asked to match Guam's allegiance
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Variety News Staff
August 17, 2007

MEMBERS of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs last night heard the Guam senators' chorus, stressing that the federal government should match the level of allegiance and patriotism of the people of Guam by treating them as equals.

They demanded that the federal government share the burden placed on Guam resulting from the impending military buildup.

Senators insisted that Guam desperately needs federal funding assistance as it scrambles to build new infrastructure, expand healthcare, and strengthen public safety to accommodate new residents who will come to Guam, along with the 8,000 Marines who will be relocated from Okinawa.

A long list of individuals has signed up to testify at the town hall meeting hosted by Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo and subcommittee chairwoman Rep. Donna Christensen, D-Virgin Islands, at the Hilton Resort and Spa.

The lawmakers were on the priority list. The meeting was ongoing as of press time.

Vice Speaker Eddie B. Calvo, R-Maite, requested that all information pertinent to the buildup must be open and accessible to all developers, including local investors. He also asked the federal government to increase federal support for the Guam Apprentice Program to enable the island to produce its own labor pool to pick up the construction projects.

Sen. Ben Pangelinan, D-Barrigada, said the $700 million in investment funds that retired General David Bice said would be poured into utility projects must be directed toward the civilian community. "The military shouldn't grab that entire $700 million for themselves. We depend on Congress to make sure that we get what we need," Pangelinan said.

Sen. James Espaldon, R-Tamuning, urged the federal government to look beyond the strategic importance of Guam and start showing respect for its citizens.

"The frustration we face, aside from the financial constraints, is that the quality of life of our island does not seem to be a part of the strategic vision that the Department of Defense has," Espaldon said. "Our quality of life seems to be only a footnote to their strategic plan."

Sen. Rory Respicio, D-Agana Heights, said the amount of money being requested by Guam is "miniscule," considering the huge amount that the Japanese government pledged to the U.S. for the Marine relocation.

Besides funding assistance, senators also presented a long list of issues that they said the federal government must look into.

Sen. Frank Ishizaki, R-Yona, requested that the military assist the Guam Police Department with the public safety aspect of increased population. He requested that joint military-police posts be built on both ends of the island.

Sen. Judith Guthertz, D-Mangilao, asked the federal government to revisit Guam's quest for self-determination.

Sen. Tina Muna Barnes, D-Mangilao, briefly discussed the Navy's decision to increase rates for water services provided by Fena. "This is the kind of unilateral action by the military that decreases the community's support for the military," she said.

Sen. Jesse Lujan, R-Tamuning, said if the federal government refuses to treat the people of Guam as equals, "then maybe independence is the way to go."

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Political status, war claims pushed
By Gerardo R. Partido
Variety News Staff
August 17, 2007

MINORITY Leader Judith T. Won Pat, D-Malojloj, has urged visiting Congresswoman Donna Christensen, D-Virgin Islands, to focus not just on the military buildup but also on Guam's quest for political status and war reparations.

According to Won Pat, political status and war reparations are two issues of
paramount importance to the people of Guam that have yet to be resolved.

"I won't belabor the issue but just to say that on political status, there is a need for Congress to support and fund the local effort for Chamorros to finally determine their own political destiny," the minority leader said.

On the issue of war reparations, Won Pat said many Chamorros are elated that the World War II Loyalty Recognition Act has made it to the U.S. Senate.

The Guam War Claims Review Commission established by Congress found that the U.S. has a moral obligation to pay proper compensation for war damages and that there is a lack of parity in war claims for Guam when compared to other war claims programs established by the U.S. Congress.

"I hope Congress will do the right thing and pass this very important legislation for the people of Guam and finally bring closure to this dark chapter in Guam's history," the senator said.

She is also hopeful that Christensen's visit will convey to Congress the frustration and anxiousness that Guamanians feel about the coming military buildup and to recognize the need to include Guam and their leaders in the full scope of any discussion regarding the buildup.

"I commend Chairwoman Christensen for holding her hearing on Guam and I hope this will be the first of many congressional oversight field hearings that will be conducted on Guam regarding the buildup," Won Pat said

There have been many discussions about Guam being the "tip of the spear" and
that Guam is of the highest strategic value and of great importance to the mission of the United States in regional security and national defense.

But as a U.S. territory so far removed from the mainland, Won Pat said Guam issues and concerns often fall on deaf ears.

"This is why this oversight hearing on Guam means so much to the future of our island. It will be decisions made in Washington, D.C., and not on Guam, that will determine the direction of Guam for decades to come," the senator pointed out.

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Residents speak on buildup
Town hall meeting presents local views to U.S. Congress
By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News
gdumat-ol@guampdn.com
August 17, 2007

With Guam's future at stake, many Guam residents spoke before a Congressional panel at last night's town hall meeting on the looming military buildup.

The buildup's $14 billion to $15 billion price tag -- a scale about four times the size of Guam's economy -- generated a mix of positive and negative comments about what the military's increased presence would do to the island.

For some of the residents who spoke out, their concerns were related to money.

Others voiced hope that as the buildup preparations progress, the military and officials of the federal government treat Guam as a partner rather than a subordinate.

"We need to sit at the table as equals and talk about it," said Democratic Sen. Tina Muna Barnes, who added that her husband and oldest son serve in the U.S. military.

But while Guam has generally voiced support for increased military presence on island, a new issue, according to Barnes, could erode local support for the buildup.

Rising water price

The Navy's recent confirmation that it would double the price of the local water agency's purchase of water from the military-held Fena water treatment plant, Barnes said, "makes our local people very angry."

The Navy earlier this week confirmed it would increase the Guam Waterworks Authority's purchase price of water from Fena from about $3 million to $6 million a year because of increased cost to operate the water treatment plant.

The increase, which the Navy plans to implement in about two months, would equate to a 6 percent increase in what GWA customers pay for water, said Simon Sanchez, chairman of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities.

The plant is the primary source of water for Nimitz, Santa Rita, Agat and other southern Guam areas.

"This increase in water cost, this unilateral action, ... jeopardizes local support," Muna Barnes said.

A major part of the Guam buildup involves the relocation from Okinawa of about 8,000 members of the U.S. Marines and about 9,000 of their relatives. The buildup's construction activities also are expected to cause an influx of about 15,000 construction workers.

With more civilian and military residents on Guam, the local population, last counted in a federal census at close to 160,000, would surge.

Becoming San Diego

Retired Marine Adolf Sgambelluri, a longtime Guam resident, commented that he expects Guam's quality of life to improve.

"I don't have a problem with Guam becoming like Oahu or San Diego," Sgambelluri said.

One benefit of the economic and population boom, Sgambelluri said, is that prices of consumer goods would drop because the local economy becomes bigger.

Another retired Marine, John Gerber, said he's disappointed that even some of Guam's elected officials have made comments that the Marines are "big, ... bad men."

The Marines built Marine Corps Drive and more than 300 miles of Guam roads after World War II, Gerber said. "When I heard about the Marines returning to Guam, I was very happy. It's a windfall," he said.

The military buildup has the support of "the silent majority of our people on Guam," Gerber said, citing surveys such as the Guam Chamber of Commerce's.

Those who cast the reputation of the Marines and the rest of the military in a bad light have no respect, he said, for American troops fighting in Iraq and deployed foreign missions such as Afghanistan.

"It really bothers me to hear my corps being trashed as they are in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting as we speak. This is not about the Marine Corps, this is a national defense issue," Gerber said. "I don't like people saying Marines are big, bad men ... that is not the Marines of today at all," Gerber said.

On record

The comments voiced at the town hall meeting, which were heard by congressional Delegates Donna Christensen of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Madeleine Bordallo of Guam and Rep. Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa, were recorded and will become a part of congressional records.

Local officials asked the congressional delegates to be advocates for Guam's local community.

The meeting started around 6 p.m. at the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa and still continued past 9 last night.

The local community's voices will help to shape what the military's actions will be, said Christensen, chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs.

"Guam is now at a very, very critical point," Faleomavaega said.

Bordallo emphasized that the military's buildup plans for Guam are not final.

Money issue

Guam needs the federal government to provide Guam with the money to host the military buildup, rather than expect the local government to use "non-existent" local funds, said Sen. Eddie Calvo, the Guam Legislature's vice speaker and Finance Committee chairman.

Without federal money to help Guam host the buildup, Calvo offered the analogy of a rich brother visiting his poor brother's home and asking the poor brother to pay for the rich brother's stay.

Democratic Sen. Ben Pangelinan said rather than listing all of Guam's wishes for more money associated with the buildup, he gave the congressional panel his assessment of local sentiment.

"Some wholeheartedly welcome the military, some halfheartedly welcome the military, and some don't like the military," Pangelinan said.

He noted that the military in one meeting said it would not conduct live-ammunition exercises on Guam; and in another meeting said it would do so.

David Bice, executive director of the Joint Program Office, said he understands the local community's frustration about not getting more detailed information from the military.

But Bice said the buildup still is in a phase where "homework" is being done toward putting together more firm plans.

To emphasize the complexity of the "homework" and other preparations related to the buildup, Bice mentioned that the Japanese government's money contributions toward relocating U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam are a first for the country in terms for a foreign government financially supporting a move of American troops to U.S. soil.

Pangelinan also called for more military openness on what its plans are for
Guam.

"If you want to come to Guam, say you want to come to Guam, ... otherwise, we have this adversarial relationship, ... this big brother coming to us," Pangelinan said.

"We need to be told the truth of what the military needs, ... and what they offer to Guam," Pangelinan said.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Solidarity and Self-Determination


As Guam is making international headlines once again, it is imperative that we use this moment in order to try to change the minute media frame that is used to give Guam meaning in moments like this. Guam is more than a military base and more than an island with a snake crisis. It is a contemporary colony in need of assistance in decolonizing and encouraging the United States to fulfill its obligation as a UN member to help make decolonization a reality. My last two columns for The Pacific Daily News focused on a letter that Governor Calvo, as the head of the Guam Commission on Decolonization sent recently to the Committee of 24 at the United Nations.

The letter provided some small details on the situation in Guam, in particular impediments that have been put in place by the United States and its courts. But more than anything it represented a request for the UN to send a visiting mission to Guam to help bring attention to our quest for decolonization. It remains to be seen if the UN will indeed send a visiting mission, like they did in 1979 on the eve of the draft constitution for the island being voted on. Time will tell, but in the meantime, my two columns give some of the context for international solidarity on the issue.

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Solidarity Will Help With Self-Determination
by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Pacific Daily News
August 4, 2017


The US flag can be found all over Guam, and because of this it can be easy to forget that just because this well-known configuration of red, white and blue colors flies over Guam, doesn’t mean that Guam is a part of the United States. We know this because there is over a century of court cases that reinforce this. We know this because even in the recent ruling of the Davis case, Justice Tydingco Gatewood argued that while some of the Constitution should apply to Guam, other parts shouldn’t. We also know this because as more than one non-voting delegate has reminded me interviews, their role in Congress is often to remind the US Congress about the territories and that it has control over them.

We know that our relationship to the United States and the rest of the world is defined by a broad grey sea of inclusions and exclusions. Sometimes Guam is allowed to participate in international or regional forums, sometimes it isn’t. The same ambiguity persists at the national level as well.

Because of this lack of a formal or stable place within the international or national systems of governance and recognition, the concept of solidarity is of critical importance. Without a formal place, you are invisible and without direct power over the structure around you. There was ways that you can fight for power, that you can seize it, but solidarity is an important part of changing your invisibility or your lack of visibility and therefore lack of relevance of standing, into something different, something more strategic, something from which a campaign to change the political structure can be launched.

As the movement for decolonization and independence grows in Guam, it is important that we find ways to connect it to other potentially similar movements, which can offer lessons or inspirations on the way forward. This was the case in the past, where members of Nasion Chamoru or OPI-R achieved a greater sense of their place in the world through interacting with people who were members of Black, Brown and Red Power movements in the US. It was also true in general from Chamorros who traveled to the US in the postwar years and felt affinity with African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans after seeing them struggle against segregation, racism and land displacement.

My last three appearances at the United Nations to testify before the Committee of 24 at its regional seminar have all reminded me of the importance of solidarity. For those of us who remain colonies, non-self-governing territories, the pieces that still don’t quite fit in the global order, we are often forgotten about or ignored by much of the world, including our own colonizers. Solidarity can be difficult as our experiences are so diverse and the geographic distance mirrors historical, cultural and political differences between these 17 colonies spread across the Pacific, the Caribbean and the Atlantic. But those colonies that come to the United Nations and build alliances with nations willing to support their cause can make progress. Those who don’t remain stuck.

This week Governor Calvo and the Commission on Decolonization approved a formal letter to the UN, requesting that they send a visiting mission to Guam in order to ascertain the status of our quest for decolonization and also make clear what impediments the administering power is placing before us. Next week I will discuss more about what a UN visiting mission might mean, but in the meantime, I offer my thanks to the Commission and Governor Calvo for taking this important step in helping building greater international solidarity to support our efforts.


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UN Visit Could Help Decolonization Effort
by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Pacific Daily News
August 11, 2017

The United Nations is an institution that is meant to represent the bright future of humanity, the uniting of diverse peoples and countries under common causes for our collective betterment. But in contrast to conservative elements in certain countries that see the UN as floating above the world, infringing on national sovereignty, in truth the UN is simply a reflection of it. It can be no better and no worse than individual countries allow. As one US politician once noted, the purpose of the UN is not to take the world to heaven, but rather prevent the world from dragging itself down to hell.

As such, in terms of Guam’s continuing colonial status, blaming the UN, the Government of Guam or the people of Guam doesn’t make sense. We do not, thankfully live in the days where hundreds of millions of people around the world are fighting in bloody wars for their independence and decolonization. We live in the age after that, where given the harsh and tragic lessons of the past, all colonizers are now supposed to give up their colonies and faithfully support their aspirations for decolonization.

But this is the way the world should be, but not the way it is. The US has fallen far short of its obligation to assist Guam and its colonized people in moving a head on a process of decolonization. This is due to a mixture of imperial apathy, colonial ignorance and military strategic self-interest. For smaller countries, the UN and the international community has clear options to try to compel a recalcitrant nation to adhere to its commitments. But for larger countries, especially those with large militaries and permanent seats on the UN Security Council, the UN as a body is usually powerless.

As I wrote last week, for a place like Guam, international solidarity is key, as allies can advocate on your behalf and try to reason with countries like the US to stop their obstruction. But in terms of the UN infrastructure itself, one way that a long stagnant process of decolonization can hopefully be kick-started, is through the sending of visiting missions.

Since the 1960s several dozen UN visiting missions have been undertaken to visit various non-self-governing territories. These missions provide important on-the-ground information to the UN and draw international attention to issues that an administering power may want to keep hidden. One such mission visited Guam in 1979 in order to witness a vote on the proposed constitution for the island. The visiting mission consisted of three countries, Sierra Leone, Trinidad and Tobago and Syria. They spent eight days on the island meeting with government officials and community groups.

Much of what the community expressed to the visiting mission still persists today. The main issues of contention in Guam’s relationship to the US was lack of voting rights and democratic participation but also Guam’s inability to control the basics of its economy due to federal immigration control and federal policies such as The Jones Act. For a variety of reasons, the proposed constitution was rejected by a wide margin of voters.

A visiting mission will not solve our decolonization dilemmas, but it is a step in the right direction. We currently reside in a place of political invisibility. We have a great deal of military visibility, as we saw this past week in terms of North Korean threats to the island. But in political terms, as a place in need of assistance in moving to the next stage of our political development, we lack the allies and a presence in any international conversations. A visiting mission and the attention it might garner could help to fix that.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

North Korea Threatens Guam

The past few days have been quite hectic due to the threat to Guam by North Korea and President Trump's shocking response. I am trying to catch up on my posts on this blog, and so we'll see if I'll be able this month. Here are a few articles on the initial threat from North Korea to Guam. 

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North Korea Claims It’s Planning to Fire Missiles Near Guam
8/10/17

SEOUL/GUAM (Reuters) - North Korea said on Thursday it was completing plans to fire four intermediate-range missiles over Japan to land near the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam in an unusually detailed threat that further heightened tensions with the United States.

North Korea’s army will complete the plans in mid-August, when they will be ready for leader Kim Jong Un’s order, state-run KCNA news agency reported, citing General Kim Rak Gyom, commander of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army. The plans called for the missiles to land in the sea only 30-40 km (18-25 miles) from Guam.

The reclusive communist country, technically still at war with the United States and South Korea after the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce and not a peace treaty, is known for making bellicose threats.

But experts in the United States and South Korea said North Korea’s plans ratcheted up risks significantly, since Washington was likely to view any missile aimed at its territory as a provocation, even if launched as a test. North Korea has carried out a series of missile and nuclear bomb tests in defiance of the international community.

North Korea announced the plans following U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments on Tuesday that any threats by Pyongyang would be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” remarks that KCNA called “a load of nonsense.”

North Korea’s apparently rapid progress in developing nuclear weapons and missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland has fueled tensions that erupted into a war of words between Washington and Pyongyang this week, unnerving regional powers and global investors.
World stocks fell for a third day, with shares in Seoul slumping to a seven-week low.

The rising tensions between North Korea and the United States ― the biggest foreign policy crisis Trump has faced in his six-month-old presidency ― spurred a broad market sell-off in U.S. stocks. By midday, the benchmark S&P 500 stock index <.SPX> fell 1 percent. The index has had just two days so far this year where it has closed with losses of more than 1 percent.

If Pyongyang carries out its threat and launches missiles toward Guam, it would represent an unprecedented milestone in the already fraught relations between the United States and North Korea.

As announced by North Korea, which added detail to a plan first unveiled on Wednesday, the planned path of the missiles would cross some of the world’s busiest sea and air traffic routes.
Guam, a tropical island more than 3,000 km (2,000 miles) to the southeast of North Korea, is home to about 163,000 people and a U.S. air base, Navy installation that includes a submarine squadron, a Coast Guard group and roughly 6,000 U.S. military service members.

“The Hwasong-12 rockets to be launched by the KPA (Korean People’s Army) will cross the sky above Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi Prefectures of Japan,” the North Korean report said. “They will fly 3,356.7 km (2,085.8 miles) for 1,065 seconds and hit the waters 30 to 40 km away fromGuam.” The report did not mention any threat of the use of nuclear missiles near Guam.
“Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him,” KCNA said of Trump.

Speaking to reporters in to New Jersey, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said that “certainly nothing has changed in the president’s thinking” on North Korea given the latest developments. The White House said Trump would receive a security briefing later in the day.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a key Republican voice on foreign policy, said that based on his conversations with Trump he believes the president would be willing to launch a pre-emptive strike to prevent Pyongyang from launching a nuclear attack on the U.S. homeland.

“If negotiations fail, he is willing to abandon ‘strategic patience’ and use pre-emption,” Graham said of Trump during an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt. “I think he’s there mentally. He has told me this.”

“So I’m 100 percent confident that if President Trump had to use military force to deny the North Koreans the capability to strike America with a nuclear-tipped missile, he would do that,” Graham added.

Korea expert and former CIA analyst Robert Carlin, a visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, said announcing a specific target was unusual for North Korea, although it had previously mentioned targeting specific South Korean military facilities.

“We’ve seen them talk in specific terms before, just not something as sensitive ... as an American military base,” Carlin said.

‘ENJOY THE BEACHES’

Visitors and residents on Guam appeared to be taking things in their stride. The main beach front on the island was packed with tourists dozing under trees or on the sun loungers of five-star hotels lined up before a calm sea.

Governor Eddie Calvo said Guam had experienced a Japanese invasion in World War Two and countless earthquakes and super-typhoons, and there was no U.S. community better prepared to meet the North Korean threat.

“We are concerned about these threats but at the same time we also want to make sure people don’t panic and go on with their lives. Enjoy the beaches,” Calvo said.

Major airlines that fly over the region said they had so far made no plans to change flight paths.
The U.S. Seventh Fleet currently has six Aegis ballistic missile defense ships in the region capable of targeting North Korean missiles, and Japan has a further four. Guam also has a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, similar to one recently installed in South Korea.

Japan could legally intercept a North Korean missile headed towards Guam, its defense minister said on Thursday, but experts believe Japan does not currently have the capability to do so.
Angered as the United States and its allies ignore Chinese calls to calm tensions over North Korea, and distracted by domestic concerns, China is largely sitting out the crisis.

Tension in the region has risen since North Korea carried out two nuclear bomb tests last year and the intercontinental missile tests, all in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. Trump has said he will not allow Pyongyang to develop a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the United States.

Washington has warned it is ready to use force if needed to stop North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs but that it prefers global diplomatic action. The U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Saturday.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Bases in New York, David Brunnstrom in Washington, Soyoung Kim in Seoul, William Mallard, Tim Kelly, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Linda Sieg in Tokyo, Ben Blanchard and Michael Martina in Beijing, Jamie Freed in Singapore and John Ruwitch in Shanghai; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Will Dunham; Editing by Nick Macfie and Alistair Bell)


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Why Trump’s North Korea warnings were ‘unnecessary, scary, irresponsible’
By Herman Wong
Washington Post
8/9/17

The warning was heard around the world.

Speaking from his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., President Trump told North Korea on Tuesday that it would be “met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before,” if the country did not stop threatening the United States.

“North Korea best not make any more threats,” Trump told reporters.

(In response, North Korean state media said the Hermit Kingdom is reviewing plans to strike U.S. military targets in Guam.)

The president's comments came after a report in The Washington Post that North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that could fit inside its ballistic missiles, crossing a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power.

Trump's harsh language against North Korea was interpreted by some foreign policy analysts as a break from the ineffective diplomatic language that has governed Washington-Pyongyang interactions for years.

One North Korea expert, Robert E. Kelly, called Trump's threats “unnecessary, scary, irresponsible.”

A professor at Pusan National University — who gained viral Internet fame in March when his young daughter crashed his televised interview with BBC — Kelly spoke to The Post about what he meant, and what to expect going forward.

POST: Let’s address Trump’s comments. Your tweet said they were “unnecessary, scary, irresponsible.” How so?

KELLY: “Unnecessary” in the sense that the North Koreans already know that we dislike them, that we want them to act differently and so on and so on. And just a few days before, Secretary Tillerson was on TV saying “we’re not your enemy” and Trump goes off and says this.
He just undercut his own secretary of state. So that’s what I meant by unnecessary.

“Scary” because what he said sounds like Old Testament-style rhetoric. “Fire and fury.” He’s like some prophet from the Old Testament talking about fire and brimstone.

And “irresponsible” because it sounds like Trump shooting his mouth off again. Maybe his national security team approved of that kind of language, but it sounds a lot like what Trump does on Twitter, which is shooting his mouth off and saying stuff and his national security people have to walk it back in the next couple of days.

Now the whole world is talking about it. People like you and me have been spending the last five or six hours trying to figure out if Donald Trump is trying to start a nuclear war. And that’s what people are asking me. People are calling me up: Oh this isn’t just a war, Donald Trump wants to use nuclear weapons, fire and fury.

POST: You’ve said before that “much of the overheated rhetoric coming from Trump administration about North Korea” is actually to pressure China. Who is the audience for Trump’s warnings?

KELLY: My sense is that there are two ways to read these things.

The optimistic one is that Trump got this cleared by his national security staff and he’s sounding a little unhinged or angry because he’s playing the madman role. And the point of this role — not that he’s actually a madman, but to pressure the Chinese into coming around.
He plays this sort of game and the Chinese are like: “Oh, my God, he might actually start a war and kill us all; let’s go pressure North Korea.”

This is a way of Trump signaling to China to get serious about North Korea — which, to defend the president, is not necessarily a bad idea because I do think China still has a lot of leverage over North Korea. The best way to resolve the North Korean issue peacefully is to get the Chinese to push the North Koreans harder. I know that’s pretty disputed today. A lot of people just don’t think the Chinese have that weight. But I do.

The negative interpretation is that Trump just shot his mouth off. And now the whole world is like: “Oh, my God, Trump is as unpredictable as Kim Jong Un, and we’re going to have nuclear conflict between these two schoolyard bullies who don’t know how to back down.”
North Koreans didn’t waste any time at all. One hour after that comment they were talking about nuking Guam.

This is just bickering. This is all rhetoric. This is not going to happen.

North Koreans are not going to nuke the Americans out of the blue. The North Koreans don’t have offensive intentions. Attacking the United States would be suicidal. The Americans would respond with so much force, North Korea would just be wiped off the map. We know this.

The North Koreans know this. They’re not apocalyptic ideologues like Osama bin Laden, willing to risk everything on some suicide gamble. The North Koreans are pretty rational. They are pretty tactical. They’ve been smart over the years. It would be very out of character for the North Koreans to suddenly launch a weapon at San Francisco. So I don’t buy that at all.

POST: Trump’s “fire and fury” statement echoes North Korea’s own threats, and some supporters have suggested that nuanced statements in the past have been ineffective and Trump is speaking in a way the North Koreans would understand. What do you make of that?

KELLY: The thing I don’t like about that though is that the United States isn’t some pesky, rogue country with a history of doing crazy stuff and dealing drugs and counterfeiting like North Korea.

North Korea has a reputation as a rogue. We don’t expect it to act any better and it’s a small part of the global economy that’s not really that relevant for global rules.

When the Americans act that way, when the Americans start talking like that, it sends signals to everybody. The center isn’t holding. The Americans are expected to be better than this. We don’t talk this way, in the same way we don’t expect the South Koreans to talk the same was as the North Koreans do. We expect more from democracies, we expect more from liberal countries.
I think it’s one of the reasons people like you and I are having this conversation, because it’s so uncharacteristic for American leaders to talk like this. Maybe it’s going to work. Honestly I haven’t thought that far. But it’s risky, it’s really risky. Because it sends a signal to everybody else out there that: Hey, you can’t trust the Americans, they might launch a nuclear war.

POST: How do you think Trump’s comments will be received in North Korea? How about in Japan or South Korea?

KELLY: We already know how North Koreans are going to take it. An hour or two later they threatened Guam. That’s how North Koreans always respond to threats. They always reach for the most outlandish rhetoric: Really aggressive, personal insults against the president of South Korea and the United States, the racism and all that.

It doesn’t surprise me at all that the North Koreans immediately went over the top by threatening a nuclear strike on American territory. That’s why we shouldn’t get into these kinds of war of words with the North Koreans. It’s not going to work. It’s not going to lead us anywhere.

The South Koreans and the Japanese will sort of roll their eyes and say “what is going on over there.” This is just Trump the unhinged. That’s what I’m really worried about — that our allies in Asia are increasingly thinking we are unreliable because the president’s kind of off his rocker.

POST: You tweeted Tuesday, in all-caps, “WE DON'T HAVE TO BOMB NORTH KOREA.” What are America’s options? How likely are China and Russia to stick to sanctions?

KELLY: Sanctions are the most likely, peaceful way to resolve this. Chinese economic pressure through sanctions, enforcement that leads to pressure on the elite bottom line in North Korea, not the popular bottom line. When you get factions in North Korea to start fighting over diminishing resources, that’s the kind of pressure we’re looking for. That can only come around if China plays ball.

If that doesn’t happen, and that hasn’t happened for 15 years, then my sense is missile defense. But you get a lot of push back on this, too. A lot of tech people say missile defense is a boondoggle, it doesn’t work, THAAD is overrated. My own sense from the briefings I’ve seen over the years about missile defense is that THAAD is at least reasonably effective. It’s a start.

POST: What next?

KELLY: I think the North Koreans will not stop the missile testing program. The Americans will slowly adapt to that in the same way it adapted to the Russia, China and Pakistani nuclear weapons. We’ve learned to adapt and live with those, and we’ll do the same with the North Korean ones as well. We will adapt even if Trump doesn’t admit it.

In the next three or four days, my guess is that the Trump national security staff will go out and clean up the remark and say we didn't exactly mean this. We want to have talks, go to the U.N. etc.

POST: What should people who are paying attention to the North Korea situation for the first time know?

KELLY: I would say two things.

Consider that for 70 years, North Korea has had the opportunity to do major damage to South Korea, later Japan, eventually the United States, both against American forces in the region and now against the American homeland. It’s had opportunities for a long time and has never gone after them.

North Korea now has a long history of restraint, actually. It has a long history of tactical provocation. But North Korea has never gone over the edge. It has always pulled back.

And that leads a lot of us in the analyst community to believe that the North Koreans do not intend to use nuclear weapons. So all of this hysteria, this “World War III is around the corner” kind of stuff, is highly unlikely because the North Koreans have had the opportunity for a while. Look at North Korea’s past behavior as a predictor of future behavior.

The second thing I would say is that if there really is war coming, the big reveal for that would be an evacuation or call for evacuation of Americans living in South Korea. That is the big red flag. So if you see the Americans are told to get on a ship at Busan and go to Japan, you know the American airstrike is coming.


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North Korea threatens strike on Guam
By Zachary Cohen and Euan McKirdy
CNN
8/10/17

(CNN) North Korea's military is "examining the operational plan" to strike areas around the US territory of Guam with medium-to-long-range strategic ballistic missiles, state-run news agency KCNA said early Wednesday local time.

Specifically, the statement mentioned a potential strike on Andersen Air Force Base designed "to send a serious warning signal to the US." 

The base is one of two on the Pacific island, which are the closest bases on US soil to North Korea, and represent the westernmost tip of the country's military might.

The North Korea comments were published after US President Donald Trump warned Pyongyang that if it continued to threaten the US, it would "face fire and fury like the world has never seen."

‘No threat to our island’

Guam's governor, Eddie Baza Calvo, released a video address Wednesday, reassuring the island's residents that there was no change in the threat level resulting from North Korea.

"I want to reassure the people of Guam that currently there is no threat to our island or the Marianas," he said.

"I also want to remind national media that Guam is American soil and we have 200,000 Americans in Guam and the Marianas. We are not just a military installation," he added.

Speaking from Guam, journalist Robert Santos said local reaction to the threats was mixed.

"Some people are who are confident we are safe with the US bases here and others who are not so sure," he said.

"Some people believe (Trump and Kim) are clashing personalities and they speak recklessly. But here are some people who believe... that we are completely safe regardless of what happens."

However, he added that an attack on Guam "won't just be against the US military, it will be against the people."


“Key Military Installation”

Dubbed the "tip of the spear," Guam is a key to the US military's forward deployed presence in the Pacific and is home to thousands of American service members and their families.

Its importance has declined since the Second World War, given the creation of military bases in Japan and South Korea, says Carl Schuster, a Hawaii Pacific University professor and former director of operations at the US Pacific Command's Joint Intelligence Center. Now it is essentially a staging area, which sees rotations of bomber groups coming through.

"Guam is the western most US territory that has major military bases. If you (were to) pull (the US) out of Japan and South Korea it's the next best location in the Pacific," says Schuster.

While it is around 1,500 miles further out from the Korean peninsula than its next closest base in Japan, it's "still strategic because of its location" and its ability to host long-range bombers.

There are, however, political complications in launching attacks from US bases hosted by allies closer to Pyongyang, should the US retaliate to Kim's latest threats.
Should US allies refuse to let the military to launch strikes from their territory, Guam would be the most likely place from which to launch airstrikes on North Korea, Schuster says, adding that this is how Kim will regard it.

A US attack using its bases on Japan's main islands or Okinawa, for example, would bring Japan into any conflict, says Schuster.

However, "Guam's importance is reliant on the behavior of our allies. If South Korea and Japan say we could (launch attacks) out of there, taking out Guam becomes almost meaningless."

Defensive Shield

Guam's Homeland Security Advisor George Charfauros told CNN that despite Guam's strategic importance and the North Korean threats to strike it, he remains confident of the island's defenses.

"They've slowly developed their capabilities but we stand in high confidence with the US (Defense Department's) ability to not only defend Guam and the surrounding areas but also the continental US... There are several layers of ballistic missile defense."

One of these systems, he said, is THAAD, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, which is designed to shoot down short, medium and intermediate ballistic missiles.

"Two years ago a permanent deployment of that missile system was placed on Guam," he said.

He added that the US "routinely uses" Aegis-equipped warships around the island chain of the Marianas, of which Guam is the largest.

The US Department of Defense reiterated its capability to counter North Korean aggression.

"We always maintain a high state of readiness and have the capabilities to counter any threat, to include those from North Korea," spokesman Johnny Michael told CNN.

Escalating Tensions

North Korea ramped up the rhetoric in a new statement issued Wednesday, sourced to a spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People's Army (KPA), which said a "preemptive strike is no longer the monopoly of the US."

Pyongyang's initial threat to Guam came after the US flew two B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula on Tuesday local time.

The bombers flew out of Andersen Air Force Base in Guam as part of the US Air Force's "continuous bomber presence," according to an Pacific Air Forces spokesman. The bombers were joined by Japanese and South Korean aircraft during their mission.

"In the morning of August 8 the air pirates of Guam again appeared in the sky above South Korea to stage a mad-cap drill simulating an actual war," the KCNA statement read.

Pyongyang did not develop its nuclear capability to be the aggressor in a war with the US, says CNN Military Analyst Rick Francona.

However, its most recent statements suggest that North Korea is taking a more aggressive stance -- suggesting that it might attack before the US has a chance to strike.

"The North Koreans did not develop their nuclear weapons to drop on the US," Francona told CNN. "They developed these weapons to prevent an attack from the US. Or at least that's the rhetoric coming from Pyongyang.

"Now you're looking at a possible strike on American territory (like) Guam, and also the mainland of the US."


Saturday, August 05, 2017

Setbisio Para I Publiko #36: Tuleti

In more than a month the 7th Guam International Film Festival will be taking place at the Guam Museum. I received word this week that my latest Chamorro language nerd collaboration with Kenneth Gofigan Kuper will screened. It's title is "I Sengsong Arkham" and follows in the vein of our previous film "Påkto: I Hinekka" in that it features us playing a game that few would ever associate with the Chamorro language or culture, in the Chamorro language. The game itself is called "Arkham Horror" and is a Dungeons and Dragons style game based on the works of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. There are several other Guam and Micronesian based short films and documentary that will also be featured. Thinking about this has put me in the mood for some Guam movies, of which there aren't many, and most of them are not very good. 

The first generation of Guam films, meaning films that were made on Guam in the 1960s and 1970s, didn't feature Guam as Guam, but rather used it as a location for some stereotypical exotic island paradise. The most famous example of this was the first Guam-produced film Noon Sunday. 

In later films, Guam is mentioned but only in passing. It is usually invoked as a military base, and scenes set in Guam, such as the one in the recent flick Pixels, aren't actually filmed in Guam. 

Almost a decade ago, Shiro's Head, which is usually named as the first Guam film, that is meant to represent Guam was released, and while some did not like its artistic and violent take on culture and history in Guam, most agreed that its soundtrack was very enjoyable and effective. When I showed Shiro's Head recently to some of my Chamorro language students, one of them remarked, "is this the first film to use a Chamorro song in it?" As you can hear Joe Mcarrel's covers of his father J.D. Crutch's songs in different scenes. 

My response was no, definitely not. Other films that were made on Guam, because they were meant to be an entirely different place, did not feature Chamorros or the Chamorro language. But a film made prior to Shiro's Head, which made quite a stir in Guam went it first started filming, but later descended into chaos and lawsuits, was Max Havoc: The Curse of the Dragon. 

I have written elsewhere about this film, which was a miserable failure commercially and is barely watchable. It was proposed to be a film that would put Guam on the map, and ended up getting Guam sent straight to the DVD bargain bin of Walmart. Although much of the music in the film is supposed to be generically Pacific or Hawaiian, there is one scene, meant to take place in the Guam Museum, which features the chant Tuleti from the group Pa'a Taotao Tåno'. The scene actually features some Taotao Tåno' dancers in the background, while the two main stars walk through some makeshift artifact stands and displays. 

As a service to the community, the lyrics to the song are pasted below:

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

Tuleti
Tinige' as David Tedtaotao Gofigan

Tuleti, tuleti, 
Kulan i paluma yanggen gumupu gi langet. 
I tasi yan i tano’, i hatden giya para’isu.
Puntan yan Fu’una esgaihon ham mo’na,
In enra i na’ån-mu nå’i hami ni’ animu.

Para ta tulos, para ta tulos, mo’na i galaide’. 
Kulan i paluma yanggen gumupu hulo’ gi langet. I tasi yan i tano’, i hatden giya para’isu.
Maila’ mañe’lu-ta ya ta onra i anti-ta. Sa’ siha fuma’tinas este i guinahå-ta. Para ta tulos, para ta tulos, mo’na i galaide’.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Poor Students

While watching the health care drama unfold for Republicans over the past few weeks and months, I kept thinking, who does this remind me of? Today it finally hit me, the Republican party, with their years of whining about Obamacare and promises to repeal and replace as soon as they were put in power, are like some of my worst students. For years they promised this, they knew that eventually it would happen and they would face a real test. But instead of studying, instead of preparing, they just kept procrastinating and accomplishing nothing helpful. Now, even their best efforts are laughable in the face of the fact that they had so much time to work something out, and can only resort of the dirtiest tricks now to try to get something, anything passed.

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

How Republicans Got Stuck on Repeal
by Jennifer Haberkorn
Politico
7/31/17

Republicans openly speculated in November whether they could fast-track an Obamacare repeal bill to Donald Trump's desk by Inauguration Day or whether they might need just a few days longer.
But Congress got stuck. Its last-ditch attempt to pass a "skinny" bill to kill a few pieces of the health care law — many of which the president could have abolished himself with an executive order — collapsed.

In the intervening six months, Republicans were bedeviled by an enormous backlash from a public that suddenly decided it likes the health care law, cold feet over stripping health care coverage from millions of Americans, damaging intraparty squabbling and a White House that threw bombs at their efforts. Ultimately, an old truth held: Once politicians bestow social benefits, it's almost impossible to take them away.

Now that Republicans have failed to repeal former President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy achievement, the GOP faces an existential Obamacare problem with no immediate answer. Do they keep trying to undermine it, as they've promised for seven years? Or do they try to make it work better — even if that means compromise with Democrats?

Trump pressed the GOP all weekend to keep at it. "Unless the Republican Senators are total quitters, Repeal & Replace is not dead!" he tweeted. "Demand another vote before voting on any other bill!" He even taunted lawmakers by threatening to take away their health care benefits if they don't deliver. On Sunday, his health secretary, Tom Price, refused to rule out a move to stop enforcing the requirement that people get covered.

But if these six months have taught Republicans anything, it's that their party's divisions over how to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act are deep and systemic.

Repeatedly through the arduous process of passing legislation in the House and getting tantalizingly close in the Senate, the same problems kept reemerging — including public resistance to gutting protections for pre-existing conditions or rolling back Medicaid. They show no signs of resolution as the GOP seeks a path forward.

"It's complicated," said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), one of several Republicans who echoed Trump when asked why the GOP can't come together on Obamacare. A pragmatic Midwesterner, Portman was among the Republicans caught between their campaign pledges to undo Obamacare and governors who don't want their Medicaid expansion funds wiped out. "It's tough to get to a solution," he said.

At the start of the year, Republicans planned to spend no more than a few weeks on repeal, maybe even having legislation ready for Trump's signature when he took office on Jan. 20. They would use a bill that was crafted by conservatives in 2015, passed by both the House and Senate — and vetoed, as expected, by Obama

That vote wasn't just symbolic. It was a test run for this very moment when a Republican occupied the White House. The bill would repeal Obamacare's most unpopular provisions, like the individual mandate, but had a two-year delay built in, giving Congress time to develop a replacement.

But the once-steely resolve to undo Obamacare "root and branch" eroded fast. Rank-and-file lawmakers refused to do repeal without an immediate replacement. They couldn't agree on how much to repeal — or what to replace it with.

"I don't think the American people will understand it if we say we're going to cancel your insurance and just trust us in the Congress to come up with a replacement," said Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, one of six Republicans who supported the repeal bill in 2015 but opposed it last week. "Most pilots like to know where they're landing before they take off."

With a new goal to get a bill to Trump's desk by his 100-day mark, House Republicans tried to craft a plan that killed enough of the law to satisfy conservatives but not so much to drive away an unusually assertive bloc of moderates.

The rift was too great. Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill in April and declared Obamacare the "law of the land," echoing the comments his predecessor John Boehner made after Obama's reelection, words that in retrospect signaled the beginning of the end for Boehner's speakership.

That first taste of defeat on Obamacare repeal was powerful. The bad headlines and fear of backlash from their base drove moderates and conservatives back to negotiations. Some now wonder whether history could repeat itself in the Senate.

By early May, the House passed a bill in part because of a last-minute moderate-conservative compromise, and partly because of an unorthodox pitch to squeamish lawmakers: Just vote to advance the bill one step closer to Trump's desk. The Senate will fix it.

But Republicans never really liked the policy they were voting on, and everyone knew it would land with a thud in the Senate.

"There is no constituency for the bill," said one Republican senator who was deeply skeptical of the repeal effort. His constituents still liked the idea of repealing Obamacare and supporting the president — but they weren't calling his office to say they liked the bill.

At first, it looked like Senate Republicans might have a chance at doing better. Alexander, a moderate who chairs one of the key Senate health committees, teamed up with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the conservative firebrand who had shut down the government in a failed bid to stop Obamacare in 2013. They assembled a group of 13 senators — originally all men, but later expanded to all Republicans — who might be able to find the formula that could get 50 of the 52 Republican senators needed for passage. Vice President Mike Pence could break a tie.

But two key policy issues divided the GOP in both the House and Senate — and still exist today: Obamacare insurance market regulations, including those protecting pre-existing conditions. And Medicaid.

Conservatives were adamant that to reduce premiums, they had to eliminate Obamacare's rule that insurers cannot deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. But moderates worried about the political price of undoing one of the ACA's most popular provisions.

Medicaid was also a sticking point, particularly in the Senate. Part of the problem was conservative overreach; the repeal bills went beyond Obamacare Medicaid expansion, fundamentally changing federal financing of a health care program for the poor that's been in place for 52 years. Governors in both parties were alarmed.

And even the Obamacare part of Medicaid pitted lawmakers from states that had taken billions of federal dollars to expand coverage against those that had not. The Senate was never truly able to come up with a solution that satisfied senators or their governors.

"I'm very frustrated," Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) said shortly before the Senate vote. "There are some people here who are ... holding out for their little piece of [a policy win], and that's not serving the national interest." Georgia had not expanded Medicaid, and it didn't want to pay for that decision for years to come.

In the end, Republicans weren't able to agree on much other than ending the individual and employer mandates, defunding Planned Parenthood for a single year and giving states more flexibility — some of which Trump and his Department of Health and Human Services can grant without legislation.
At 1:30 a.m. Friday, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — longtime critics of the repeal effort — and John McCain (R-Ariz.) — a surprise — voted with Democrats. For now, at least, the effort is dead.

Democrats won't back down in their defense of the health care law. It has endured life-or-death Supreme Court cases, a catastrophic rollout in 2014 and, until last year, several election cycles that only sharpened the public divide. The dark-of-night showdown in the Senate may have been its most serious brush with death.

But the Republican repeal effort hasn't died, either. It, too, has been resuscitated time and again, despite the court defeats and Obama's reelection. It's not clear what comes next — but something will.

"This health care bill," Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) pointed out when the Senate managed to get debate started last week, "has nine lives."

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Clinging to Culture

One of the aspects of Chamorro life that has frequently haunted me and frustrated me is the division between Chamorros in the Marianas and those who come from the diaspora, primarily the United States. It is a division that so much is made about in everyday conversation, which amounts to very little when you interrogate it. There is often times a perception that those from the diaspora are stuck-up, more Americanized and are completely disconnected from their culture and their identity. There is some truth to this, because much of what we get in terms of our identity has more to do with proximity and frequently than actual choices. You feel a certain way about yourself or you struggle with your identity in certain ways based on what you see around you, although there is always some element of personal agency or choice. Because of this, if you are born in Guam or the CNMI, chances are good you will generally know more Chamorro words or slang. You may know more Catholic songs. You may have a certain heavy or slight accent. You may be more familiar with general Chamorro knowledge. But in truth, for every Chamorro I have met from the states who meets the criteria for being stuck up and disconnected, I can match you with someone from Guam who has scarcely left the island, but is the exact same person, just with a Chamorro accent. Even the notion that Chamorros in the states are more Americanized falls flat quite quickly. For every stateside Chamorro that someone might call a "coconut" or "colonized" I can show you a local Chamorro would parrot the same colonized talking points, just with a chåd accent.

This is one of the ways that people in the homeland gain identity, and gain a positive sense of identity, even if they lack the knowledge or the commitment for what they are asserting. Because those in the diaspora are considered to be so empty, so vapid, and cling to whatever culture they can get, it means by default whatever minute amount of Chamorro or identity your average Chamorro on Guam holds, it glows brighter with cultural power. This does not mean that there aren't differences, but just that they are often over-stated for self-aggrandizing or self-mystifying effect.

It has been heartening to see Chamorros in the states doing more to openly and explicitly celebrate their culture, whether it be Liberation Day celebrations, t-shirts, dance groups or ethnic restaurants. What I am most interested in not any questions of authenticity or superiority, but the way that this cultural turn can help more Chamorros become critical of the colonial status of their islands and develop stronger commitments and connections in the name of helping them.

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

Guam' Imahe: Finding Identity Through Dance, Song and Chant
by Mindy Aguon
The Guam Daily Post
July 30, 2017

With the crowd settled in their seats, the lights dim and music fills the Star Center auditorium in Tacoma, Washington.

He sits back in amazement as he analyzes every dancers’ movement and spoken word. Normally he is back stage among the chaos, with dancers scrambling to change costumes, fix their hair and perfect their makeup between numbers.

For the first time since teaching dance, Joel Larimer is sitting in the crowd watching his teaching come to life.

Five years ago, Larimer had an idea to pursue his passion of dance and start what he calls a “backyard group.” Twenty-four dancers signed up and showed up to his sister’s three-car garage expecting to learn hula, something Larimer had studied while raised in Guam.

But as he began to interact with his students, Larimer felt something was missing.
He yearned for something more and felt drawn to research his roots.

“I was telling people our CHamoru culture is dying, yet I was contributing to that,” Larimer said.
And so began his journey to find his identity. “Something kicked me in the butt and told me 'Wake up.' I knew that in order for the culture to survive, I had to do what I had to do,” the dance instructor said.

Learning from a master

For the next year, Larimer would become the student, learning from Master Frank Rabon, Pa’a Taotao Tano and others, finding his identity through CHamoru dance, chant and song.
He had found his calling and that was when Guma Imahe was born.

“Guma Imahe – it is everything we see, from the manåmko', the famagu’on, the land, water, air – these are all treasures. These images are what will be held as a great value to us culturally as a people,” he explained.

The group’s slogan is imahe – images of the past, present and future – and Larimer teaches the values of inafa’maolek along with the language, singing and dancing.

Growing up in Guam, Larimer recalls visiting places around the island when he was a kid, wishing he could go back in time and experience life in the old days.

Inspired by latte stones and the Lenten antigu in Inarajan and the Plaza de España, Larimer felt drawn to know more, and watched as the CHamoru culture and language was slowly fading away, he said.
Life swept him away from the island and to the U.S. mainland where he took up a job in the airline industry and moved around before settling in Seattle, Washington five years ago.

What started as a “backyard group” practicing in a three-car garage has transformed into a full-fledged cultural dance group of 80 members who travel the state of Washington to perform for events throughout the year.

‘The bridge’

Guma Imahe is the only CHamoru group in Washington state, which allowed them to partner with the Asia Pacific Cultural Center in Tacoma, Washington. The partnership allowed them access to an auditorium and breakout rooms to practice.

“It was a blessing, because we were trying to figure out how are we going to fit these dancers in a three-car garage,” Larimer said. “We were the bridge that connects Guam and CNMI with the cultural center.”

Over the years, Larimer has watched as his students have not just memorized dance steps or chants, but really taken the time to learn and embrace what they are taught, giving him confidence that it will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

“You see it in their eyes, their willingness to want to learn and proud to be part of their culture. That’s the thing that keeps me going,” Larimer said.

He expressed appreciation to the Guam Visitors Bureau for its support of the group as well as Pa’a Taotao Tano.

“There is a place for CHamorus to come and learn different things about the culture,” Larimer said.
He hopes to expand on the idea by developing a Sagan Kotturan CHamoru in Washington state. The CHamoru cultural center would offer CHamoru cooking, teaching the language, weaving and more.
Although they may be miles and oceans away from home, Larimer and the members of Guma Imahe couldn’t be more proud to be CHamoru.

“We have a small island with people all over the world with big hearts who are proud of who they are and where they come from,” Larimer stated. “I’m just adding to it with my dancers and giving them more of home in regards to CHamoru dancing and singing.”

As the curtain is drawn on the fifth-year dance recital, Larimer reflects on all of the sweat, tears and hard work that has gone into creating Guma Imahe. “It has been a journey finding my identity through dance, song and chant and I’m just so grateful to my parents, the dancers and their parents.”
While there’s no telling where Guma Imahe will be 10 or 20 years from now, Larimer said his love for the CHamoru culture and dance will continue.

“I’ll only stop when I take my last breath or I have no more dancers,” he said. “I’m very proud of what I do and I do it out of my heart.”

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Chamorros in diaspora cling to culture
by Jerick Sablan
Pacific Daily News
May 25, 2016

Chamorros living outside of Guam and the Marianas have the opportunity to be back home for the Festival of Pacific Arts.

And although they live far from home, many of them cling on to the Chamorro culture.
Vicente Diaz said some Chamorros in the U.S. mainland are really passionate about keeping Chamorro alive.

Diaz said the diaspora, or dispersal, of the Chamorro people has been happening for thousands of years since Austronesians made the long journey by canoe to inhabit the Pacific Islands.

He said some people assume that indigenous people not living in their land would mean they lose their culture, but it seems the exact opposite happens.

“Just because they left doesn’t mean they stop being who they are,” Diaz said.

Bernard Punzalan, who’s living in Washington, said Chamorros living in the mainland simply create another “village” wherever they may be, including in Washington, California or Maryland.
Both men were speaking at the University of Guam on Wednesday for a seminar on Chamorro diaspora for the ongoing Festival of Pacific Arts.

Punzalan said the feeling of community with the Chamorros in the mainland provides a great support system and a way to celebrate the culture away from home. They have funerals, fiestas and help fundraise for people in the hospital just like they do back home.

Punzalan said Chamorros living outside feel they need to keep the culture even more alive because they are so far from home.

“It’s a way we connect to people,” he said.

He said people of the same culture tend to come together, and Chamorros really do come together.
Many of the people attending the seminar shared how long they’ve been away from home and the feeling they had being back, with many becoming emotional.

Punzalan said it was great to be back home for FestPac and to be able to share their knowledge and their stories.

Mario Borja, from San Diego, who was one of the Chamorros who made the sakman Che’lu that is in Guam, also presented on his project.

Diaz said the canoes of the Austronesian people were very important in the first diaspora that filled the islands in the Pacific. He said the canoe is an important symbol for the diaspora and how, even though they left home, all Austronesians people in the Pacific are connected.


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The Chamorro Diaspora
by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
The Marianas Variety
April 23, 2017

I spent five years of my life in San Diego while I was attending graduate school there at UCSD. It was an interesting experience that truly helped to shape and deepen my understanding of Chamorros as a people today. 
 
We may see Chamorros as tied to home islands in the Marianas, but the reality is that more than half of the Chamorro people live in the United States in what scholars refer to as “the diaspora.”

For most of my life, I have moved back and forth between Guam and this diaspora — spending a few years in Guam and then a few years in Hawai’i, a few more years in Guam, a few more years in California and so on. Although people tend to conceive of Chamorros as being either the “from the island” or “from the states” variety, there has, since the revoking of the military’s postwar security clearance, been a constant back and forth migration of Chamorros. Individuals and families travel east for education, military service, seeking new opportunities, and they also move back west into the Pacific, because of homesickness, family obligations and even for new opportunities.

In the formation of a diaspora, people can settle anywhere they choose but tend to follow particular patterns. The Chamorro diaspora to the United States began in a limited way with bayineru siha, or whalers who left during the late Spanish and early American colonial periods. They settled primarily in Hawai’i, the West Coast and even New England. During the 20th century the U.S. military, in particular the U.S. Navy became the next means of aiding in Chamorro migration. Chamorros began to settle in places where some whalers still retained a sense of being Chamorro, but more so they settled in areas with Navy bases. San Francisco, Virginia, Hawai’i and San Diego were all places where the Chamorro population was significant even before World War II.

After the passage of the Organic Act and the onset of the Korean War, more Chamorros began to join the U.S. Army and eventually the Air Force. This changed the Chamorro diaspora even more as Chamorro populations began to grow in areas like Texas and Washington. Chamorros traveling to the states who weren’t in the military would nonetheless follow these same routes, taking advantage of family members and friends who were already settled.

At present, the Chamorro diaspora still remains structured around these large populations, but Chamorros now migrate because of perceived economic opportunities, with people seeking places that are nice to live in, have affordable housing or possible job opportunities.

San Diego is the area with the largest diasporic Chamorro population and you could call it the ma’gas na sinahi of Chamorro diaspora communities. What makes San Diego different than other areas with large numbers of Chamorros is the amount of presence they have created for themselves and to represent themselves to others. San Diego has several different types of Guam clubs, the largest of which is the Sons and Daughters of Guam Club. This club is considered to be a central location in terms of the Chamorro diasporic landscape, because unlike many Guam clubs, it has a large permanent physical space. The clubhouse is used for all types of activities, from fundraisers to dinner dances to conferences. Chamorro language and cultural dances classes are also sometimes held there. The clubhouse is even rented sometimes by non-Chamorros for quinceañeras or debutante balls for young Latinas. The clubhouse also acts like a senior center where manåmko’ can hang out and play cards and also eat lunch. 

The San Diego Chamorro community has also come to a certain level of consciousness that through the nonprofit CHELU (Chamorro Hands in Education Links Unity) it now organizes an annual fair. This past March, they held their most recent “Chamorro Cultural Fair” that drew crowds of thousands. Chamorros from across the Western United States converged in San Diego to eat Chamorro food, buy Chamorro themed arts and crafts, listen to Chamorro music and watch Chamorro dance. A highlight of the festival was the display of a 47-foot replica of an ancient Chamorro canoe, or sakman. The canoe was carved by the group Sakman Chamorro, and not only is the canoe a sight to behold, it also does sail. Mario Borja, the main carver for the project, is promoting the idea of the sakman making a voyage to Guam in 2016 just in time for the Festival of the Pacific Arts.

It is often easy to dismiss Chamorros in the diaspora as being “po’asu” or “taimamahlao” because of their distance from the home islands of Chamorros. People sometimes think of them as being a lower type of Chamorro, possessing less knowledge, less respect and, in general, being less Chamorro. I would argue against these stereotypes. Chamorros everywhere are concerned about issues of language and cultural loss. Chamorros in the states don’t benefit from having easy access to a lot of the things that people in the Mariana Islands take for granted. On Guam, it is still easy to find a place where you can be surrounded by the Chamorro language, if you live in Nebraska that might be a bit more difficult. But it is exciting to see Chamorros in San Diego working to create more regular spaces for maintaining their heritage.


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