Friday, July 29, 2005

List for the Labor Movement

Published on Monday, July 25, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
Top 10 List for the Labor Movement
by Ralph Nader

Rose Ann DeMoro is the Executive Director of the California Nurses Association (CNA) - the country's fastest growing union. Since 1992, union membership has grown from 13,000 to the present 63,000. And it was since 1992 that the nurses became more prominent in participating in and running their own unions. No coincidence.
Whether it is CNA getting patient protection bills through the state legislature or exposing the gouging pricing of health care while the HMO bosses each take away millions in executive pay every year, this is the standard-bearer for larger stagnant unions to look up to and emulate.
With Arnold Schwarzenegger riding high last year in the polls as Governor, the nurses took umbrage at his selective cuts for people programs while performing as a corporate cyborg for corporate greed and tax escapism. When he called them a "special interest", the nurses swung into action and Arnold's polls have not stopped dropping.
Now Rose Ann DeMoro has weighed in on the clash of large labor unions coming at the AFL-CIO's convention in Chicago that starts July 25, 2005. The "Change to Win" group of dissident unions led by SEIU and UNITE are making breakaway noises from the large labor federation if their demands about succession to AFL-CIO leader John Sweeney and budgets for organizing are not met. Ms. DeMoro thinks this is a power struggle with much ado about nothing very substantive.
Here is her succinct critique labeled "Top 10 Problems with the Current Debate in the Labor Movement".
There are no real ideological disputes, in part because the current AFL-CIO leadership and programs were, mostly, put in place by those now challenging them. It appears to be more about egos and an effort by specific unions to anoint themselves as the group who should control the AFL-CIO.
No workers or rank and file union members are involved, and it is their labor movement. Much of the discussion is based on recommendations of consultants and Madison Avenue approaches such as branding, polling and focus groups, and scripted blogs, rather than engaging the membership and the public on helping shape the future of the labor movement.
No issues affecting the majority of working Americans are being debated - declining real wages, the health care crisis, the continued erosion of democracy in the workplace, outsourcing of jobs across the skill and pay spectrum, a deteriorating social safety net, declining support for public education, environmental degradation, social justice and ongoing racial and gender inequality, alienation and disaffection from the political process.
No real solutions to these problems are being proposed - curbing corporate control of the political and economic system, single payer-universal health care, a progressive tax system that restores fair share taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals, taking corporate money out of politics, a new industrial trade policy, a peace, not war economy as well as a strategy for reforming repressive/crippling labor laws and enforcement bodies.
The specific proposals by the Change to Win group are structural and bureaucratic, not programmatic - rebating union dues, forcing unions to merge, limiting the executive council to the largest unions, and claiming sovereignty for unions by industry or sector based on a union's density in that area. There is no evidence any of these changes would solve labor's problems.
The notion that the salvation of the labor movement reduces to "density as manifest destiny" is historically false, and analytically shallow. Equally, for the unions that are proposing the monopolistic changes, seemingly self serving. Some unions that have achieved density have been decimated by corporate sponsored political, economic, and social policies. Besides, forced mergers are anti-democratic.
If the issue of organizing was simply dues rebates we could all rest easy. But that notion is painfully oversimplified. Some unions in and out of the Change to Win unions are organizing within the current structure, others have not organized for years. Even if the AFL-CIO paid per capita to some of these unions they still would not or could not organize. And forcing mergers is not synonymous with organizing and in fact could silence the voice of the most active and militant unions and union leaders who are fundamental in building this labor movement.
Perhaps because the corporate right is so extreme, some "progressive" analysts have been portraying the dues rebates and proposed forced mergers as core issues. But more troublesome are those pundits who write glowingly about the Change to Win group's greater expansion of labor-management partnerships with their corporate-friendly cost savings schemes, worker speed up programs, explicit endorsement of globalization, deskilling, outsourcing and privatization as Labor's salvation. These proposals can only serve to further alienate the American worker from the labor movement, further erode labor's power and harm the very society wide communities with which labor needs to align and nurture.
Limiting the executive council to the biggest unions would further reduce the influence and voice of women and people of color in labor leadership.
No discussion of non-bureaucratic strategies are on the table - including expanded coalitions with non-labor community, religious and environmental groups; active grassroots education and mobilization campaigns to challenge the corporate/far right agenda; building genuine political independence and holding the democratic party accountable to worker and public interests, and serious consideration of - imagine, a labor party for a labor movement."
For more information, visit www.calnurses.org.
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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Kattan taihinasso

For those truly interested in the future of Guam, one place to keep track of, is the letter to the editor pages of the Pacific Daily News. There are always several things at work here, and often times they operate at such a commonsensical hegemonic level that they just plain go unnoticed.

First off, as I wrote a few days ago, you can see the media in Guam, doing its work, which is actively articulating what is and is not "American" in Guam, thus certain things which are in the best interests of the paper and that which it represents (US strategic colonial interests) are proudly labelled American, while other things which might conflict or threaten American dominance (whether it be ideological or political) are deftly set aside as not American at all.

Second of all, you can see very powerful sites where common sense is maintained and produced. Commonsense notions connect us to each other, and provides common frames through which we can interact and understand each other. The problem however is that commonsense isn't common in any neutral beautiful shared sense. It is hammered out at different levels with different institutions holding more power than others in its creation. The media itself plays a huge role in this construction. The letters that generally make it onto the editorial page are those which are blessed with the approval of hegemony safe. How can you tell? Well, they are usually those without an argument, without any evidence (other then, a phatic phrase like "you know its true" or "we all know this."). The other day, I saw one such letter. It was written by a haole who claimed in about two or three sentences that Guam had the worst roads he had ever seen. He recounted how he had lived in several places throughout his life and travelled throughout Asia, but never seen any place with roads as bad as Guam's. Then he chastised the people of Guam for their terrible roads. Wanna see how common sense is created? The thing without evidence, is used as evidence and the title of the article, which is made at the discretion of the PDN is the common sense point, which in this instance said "Guam roads worst in the world."

Third, you can see the ways in which authority is vested in a colonial space, with certain voices or figures. Who are the people who's letters become editorials, at what point does a hack letter writer suddenly become a regular contributor or an columnist? Joe Murphy, as the aged, wizened, dorky haole who can't help but (oh how pathetically lame) "tell it like it is." Then there is someone like Tony Sanchez, who merely reproduces things out of his father's texts or just scratches tiny pieces of culture for folks and then passes them off as deep tantric journies. Norman Analista, who represents the model Filipino, who is proud to be Guamanian American, which I could probably spend the next three hours typing about how strange such a construction is. God forbid the PDN should ever get someone in the editorial columns who is not a cheap Americanized version of what they are claiming to be. Let's see, you've got the model minority, the old "greatest generation" fart, the cultural guru.

Of the half of dozen letters I've had published in the PDN, only one of them has been called an "editorial." That one was on the military draft, and I guess it matched the interests of the PDN enough so that they vested it with the authority of an editorial, as opposed to putting it next to a letter that says that Guam as the worst roads in the world. The reason why that one was chosen? Most likely because it could be read as one of those disappointed love letters that Chamorros (in particular those who have served in the military, would write, speak or live, to the United States). Something along the lines of, "we are the most patriotic people in the world, yet we can't vote, and look, despite our patriotism, we aren't equal and can be drafted. That's wrong, we should be treated like real Americans!"

That of course was not the intention of my letter, but that is what happens with most of the radical tinige' I put out there. If the damage to the psyche of the reader is just too much. Then it can easily be repressed and read in such a way.

Theory of D'oh

For those familiar with my work (I'm sure there are a few of you) as well as those who frequent my blog ramblings, you know how important movies are to my analysis and rants. Alot of times they lighten the mood, other times they can help illustrate a densely theoretical point. Most of the time its just because I want to be a punk.

After giving a presentation at a conference where I used several films to make theoretical points, which to most people probably didn't make sense (such as Weekend at Bernie's and images of fallen soldiers), someone asked me what theory of film interpretation I'm using when I analyze films. I thought about that for a moment, because I'd never really thought about it before. I don't really know any film interpretation styles, having never taken any film classes, but always just made shit up about movies, or used stuff from other disciplines to analyze.

One thing that passed through my mind was saying Zizekian style (lana, ti ya-hu este na palabra). I do use Zizek alot, but does he have a film interpretation style, not really, and besides I don't really follow his lead in analyzing films, I just cite his insights.

Not wanting to use Zizek and not really knowing what else to say, I decided to just be a punk about it. I told the guy that the theory of interpretation I use, is Homer Simpson Style of Analysis.

The look on the guy's face was priceless. Of course he knew who Homer Simpson was, but where was I going with that statement? Did that mean I watched and analyzed films drunk? Did it mean that I, like Hegel and his dialectics, always returned to the same conceptual framework, the doughnut?

I asked the guy if he had ever watched the episode where Homer joins a religious cult. He said no. So I explained to him the plot: all the Simpson regulars end up being brainwashed by this religious cult, giving up all their possessions and living and working on this farm. During the indoctrination stages however, Homer Simpson proves to be a tough nut to crack and resists all their attempts to brainwash him (although eventually they do break him down, by using the old Batman theme).

At one point they show Homer and a bunch of others a film which gives them the background on the leader of the cult and at the same time is meant to brainwash them. At the end of the film, two of the cultists ask Homer what he thought about the film. Homer's response is classic and gets me laughing everytime.

"Wait, wait. So the cops knew that internal affairs was on to them?"

The cultists respond, what? That wasn't in the movie!

Homer says apologetically. Well when I get bored I make up my own movies, I have a pretty short attention - and then rushes out of the room to chase a bird flying outside.

I don't think that this response impressed the guy, but at least it was fun for me, and it got me thinking about the theoretical implications of my choice of theories. I'm still thinking, its pretty silly.

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In my seminar last year I read several theories of freedom, by authors such as Zizek, Nancy, Ardent and so on. I look forward to someone asking me what my choice theory of freedom is. Guess what my punk-ass answer would be?

George Michael's. hehehehe.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

aras

I came across this on ebay. A haole lady selling her wedding rings. Check out her saga:

The Reason why my wedding ring(s) are for sale, besides to pay the mortgage............
It was 1998, I was living in Guam (a US Territory about 6-thousand miles off the coast of California) and working in Sales & Marketing for a US based airline’s Asian hub. It was a dream job, in a dream location at a dreamy time of life – 29 years old, single, no children with major debt to speak of. My job title was, “Representative of Corporate Communications & Community Relations, Asia/Pacific.” Simply stated, I handled public relations and advertising duties for the Asia/Pacific region, with the exception of Japan…not on my own, nor was I probably the best at it, but I did well enough to stay employed for six years when I decided I needed a change….not just from my job, but I needed to be gone from an apartment my former boyfriend (and future husband….you’ll understand later) and I shared before he returned from a trip to Switzerland, Spain and who knows where else! Before I move on, I must tell you that my six years with the airline brought me (either through work or by choice) to Australia, Thailand, Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong (China now), France, Germany, Italy, the Pacific islands of Fiji, Western Samoa, Yap, Palau, Pohnpei, Chuuk….and the list goes on! Life was GOOD…and I got paid to do it all! Now, before I get back to the main reason I am writing….my ex-husband, actually our short-lived marriage….a bit about Guam. The Island of Guam is the Western most territory of the United States and one of the leading tourist destinations in the Western Pacific. Although located in the Northern Pacific, Guam is truly a tropical island paradise. Approximately 30 miles long and 4 to 9 miles wide, it’s located in what some call, “typhoon-alley.” In my ten years there I weathered at least ten storms, many small ones, but two super typhoons, one with surface winds clocked as high as 150 miles per hour!!!! The result of mother nature’s fist was roughly one month without water and two months without power….that’s what I call roughing it! But I loved it, every minute I spent there, every friend I made, it was home, and I still miss it today! With that said, you now know I left paradise, and the apartment I shared with my ex, for the Southern city of Louisville, Kentucky, a far cry from the islands but definitely livable. To fully explain my journey to Kentucky I’ll need to jump back to that relationship….as unpleasant as it is to do. We met through friends, and then at a bar…typical for girls in their 20’s I suspect. He was 4 years my junior, a Navy stud who had a killer bod, chiseled jaw and the brains of Einstein…yes, it’s true, he was a replica of David….but self-centered and sneaky, I never knew what he had done, what he was doing or what he would do! No, he didn’t beat me, he just treated me like crap…you know the type…lies, cheats and then comes home and acts like nothing has happened. Remember, he was in the Navy, most of his crap was done away from home, far away, it’s lucky I ever learned of it! You must be getting bored, so let me wrap-up with a very brief history of our relationship and clue you in as to the reason why I’m selling my wedding ring and band to pay the power bill. We dated two years, he asked me to leave, I quit my job and went home for six months to Denver, he sent me a ticket to visit, asked me to marry him, I did, and then six months later he asked me to leave again, said he made a mistake and didn’t want responsibility for anyone other than himself….NO BIG SURPRISE! So I left, moved to California began to work for the federal government and just managed to move from the rat race to Louisville. My credit pretty much sucks, my heart wounded and my self-confidence all but gone….but it’s getting better. I bought my first house, a new car (because I was involved in a hit and run and totaled mine one week after my arrival here…only liability and no idea who the freak was), and have been dating fine Southern men with manners and ambition! It’s all good, but I’m absolutely broke, can’t pay a frapping $400 power bill, the mortgage, car and homeowners insurance, feed the dogs and my face on my salary….pretty much my mistake but what can I do now. A second job is in my very near future, just interviewed, should be hired, but between now and that first, second paycheck….if that makes sense….I need to give Louisville Gas & Electric some money before I’m unplugged. This really is the last thing I have of value that I’m willing to part with, what the heak, it really has no meaning to me anymore anyway.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

indigenous secrets

In one of my seminar classes a few months ago we were discussing the book Ojibawa Warrior by Dennis Banks. It tells the story about the American Indian Movement from the perspective of one of its leaders. I found many of the stories inspiring because of the extent that these men and women went to fight for their rights and their survival (such as armed resistance against the FBI and US military to occupying a Federal building in Washington D.C.). But at the same time the text was disheartening because of how little has changed in the lives of Native Americans, as their existences continue to be simultaneously erased and appropriated in very exploitative and simplistic ways.

Back to the seminar, one of the my classmates began to critique the book, saying that Banks didn't go into enough detail about how they organized. Their strategies. Their tactics. She wanted to know more of those things and felt like the text wasn't very good since Banks hadn't addressed those issues.

Upon hearing this, I recalled something Vince Diaz had said at the Sovereignty Matters conference earler in the year. Diaz had spoken about Chamorro surival and resistance against the colonization of Spanish and the United States forces, and how this resistance was predicated on the fact that Chamorros kept secrets. By holding things back, by never telling all or allowing themselves to be the ideal anthropological fodder, they were able to resist and able to maintain continuity. Thus Diaz said that if indigenous people want to keep their secrets, they should! Resistance is impossible or can only fail miserable without it.

The multicultural impulse is one of transparency. Since we are all in our little bounded bubbles of equal cultural diversity, we must all be representatives of our cultures and be honest and open with each other. We should be able to know everything about each other.

The idea upon which this runs however is that each of our cultures is meant to be useless, meant to be meaningless. Just a simple, easy facet of a more dominant culture (such as mainstream off-white American culture) or lack of culture (such as post-modern fundamentalist tendencies for belief in non-belief). People emeshed in this feel the ethical urge for transparency precisely because culture is supposed to be harmless here. We are all equal and wonderfull beautiful, why should we keep secrets from each other? Our cultures in this sense, become not that thing which we use to navigate reality, but something which gives us access to the culture that our culture is just a smaller part of.

Thus, for example in Chamorro culture in the United States, the things which are meant to make it distinct, which make Chamorro culture impossible or difficult within the US are cast aside, because they are seen as secrets. Secrets here should be read as difference which cannot be shared, difference which doesn't not connect us to the more universal culture, which is a mainstream national American identity. The multicultural urge for transparency is this a policing mechanism, a way of ensuring that the order which makes all the "beautiful" little cultural particularities in the US do not threaten, or complicate as little as possible, the dominant of a white mainstream American culture.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Editing

People often ask me why am I so averse to editing and feedback. Whenever I get feedback for a paper or an article, anything I've written, I nearly always go into a blind rage about how stupid, silly or confused the person is, how they don't understand what I'm trying to say, or how they are trying to soften or muffle what my intentions are. Sometimes I can argue my way out of making changes, other times I can't.

Today, while I was writing a letter to the editor of the Pacific Daily News, I came across another reason why I find feedback so horrifying. The size limits to the PDN letter to the editor page are 300 words for letters, 550 for editorials.

I wrote out the article that I would love for them to print. It was about 600 words long, too much. It was hard to cut but I started making some edits, here and there. Taking out some cool lines I had, some cool language, imagery, etc. The more I cut, the less exciting the letter was, the more academic it sounded.

What I've learned through my interactions with editors and newspapers is that newspapers are hardly the places for anyone to make arguments. You can take positions, but God forbid you should ever actually try to argue them, there's no room for that! Ever wonder why print journalism has declined so much? Because there's not enough room for real investigative journalism anymore, its far more space and cost efficient to just repeat press releases, or in the case of the PDN, just regurgitate colonial mandates (how many editorials can they print, without any evidence, which amount to "the more military the better!").

The letters to the editor that editors love are short and sweet. The take a position but don't take the time to prove it or explain it. "All politicians are corrupt!" is a great one, especially when they end with an admonishment that sounds like a Who song, "we won't be fooled again."

Returning to my letter. Alot of points that I was making were cut and set aside. All references to President Bush were soon gone. The evidence that I was making my point with, got thinner and thinner, until I almost felt uncertain about writing this letter, because someone could now say that I was just talking out of my ass (but then again, people can say this even if you have boatloads of evidence). What I used to compensate for this, was a call for action at the end. I erased three descrptive paragraphs, which saved me more than a hundred words and then re-used the evidence in a different style, an imperative style, incorporating it into my calls for future action!

When I was done with it, and had successfully trimmed about 150 words from it, I realized how genius the newspaper format is for maintaining status quo. When people who want to make a real argument, a sound and reasoned critique, they can't do it here. What the limits themselves will always force you to do is to either rely on common, general knowledge, "We all know that this is true..." or just through out pathetic points which are easily ignored, "Camacho is an idiot!"

I turned in my letter, and it was returned a few hours later, saying that it was too long and to trim it by another two hundred words! This, of course despite the fact that letters to the editor are regularly longer than 300 words, and in fact none of the five letters that I have published previously were ever under 450 words.

I decided to make a few more cuts, but go no lower than 400 words. And if they still ask for more, then forget about it. Although the form itself requires it and encourages it, I refuse to become just another person yelling out "colonialism is bad!" "why can't we vote for president?" "we're Americans too!" and so on.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Getting in touch with my inner and outer geek

I've noticed that its very shiek lately to be a pretend geek. When I say pretend geek, I mean amass a lot of knowledge or interest in something, BUT, maintain a careful distance to the subject. From the pretend geek point of view, the basic antagonism is whether or not the knowledge, the interest will control or affect you.

Let's make a few illustrative points here. For example, today James Doohan from Star Trek has passed away. Let's see, gi maneran Goofus yan Gallant, what a pretend geek, a real geek and a real psycho geek would do.

Pretend geek: Recall during a conversation that during the film Trekkies one of James Doohan's chairs was sold for like $375 dollars at a convention.

Real geek: Immediately start pre-production for Trekkies 3: Beam Me Up Scotty.

Real psycho geek: Start tracking down whoever bought that chair in order to finish the warp core that you have begun construction of down at Public Storage.

Pretend geek: Pepper your conversations with "I can't do it captain, I don't have the power" throughout the day.

Real geek: Rush out to buy the domain name for http://www.icantdoitcaptainidonthavethepower.com or buy http://www.ikindoicaptinidonhavethepower.net

Real psycho geek: Dress up as Worf (or another friendly neighborhood Klingon warrior) and go around scaring people on the street by yelling at them in Klingon "You can't do it, you don't have the power."

Pretend geek: Tell friends about your favorite scene or episode with Scotty.

Real geek: Force your friends to help you act out your favorite scene or episode with Scotty.

Real psycho geek: Turn the forced acting of your friends about your favorite scene or episode with Scotty into either an independet film or an theatrical production.

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My problem is that I have compromised on my desire too much and have slowly sunken into pretend geekdom. Now all my geek vices become fodder for conversation starters and conversation impressers. But I have so much respect for those who refuse to give way, for those who let their geek vices control them, who decide to tamper with their desire, to refuse to let it remain at a careful distance.

After attending a party a few weeks ago where several people were openly proclaiming their geek vices, I'm trying to get in touch with, which actually means letting out and running rampant my own geek within. For example, I dressed up to watch Revenge of the Sith the day it came out! I bought Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince the day it came out. So, in other words I'm making progress.

As part of this progress, I thought I'd list for everyone my current geek vices.

Harry Potter
Star Wars
Star Trek
Bollywood
Anything having to do with Guam
Slavoj Zizek

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Espeos

For those searching for some philosophy with their reflective objects, I suggest you move beyond Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone, which has all the philosophical finesse of a bunker buster bomb (oh I see, the philosophical insight behind this object is...), and try Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.

The film is full of mirrors, some easier to identify, others of course only a mirroring surfacing when they are reflecting or refracting points. In addition to the ontological explorations which take place throughout the film through the use of dolls, you can also find interesting tidbits here and there about what a mirror is or does, such as this, "the mirror offers a glimpse, but not scrutiny."

Monday, July 18, 2005

Published on Friday, July 15, 2005 by The Nation
Aristide in Exile
by Naomi Klein

This article will appear in the August 2005 issue of The Nation.

When United Nations troops kill residents of the Haitian slum Cité Soleil, friends and family often place photographs of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on their bodies. The photographs silently insist that there is a method to the madness raging in Port-au-Prince. Poor Haitians are being slaughtered not for being "violent," as we so often hear, but for being militant; for daring to demand the return of their elected president.

It was only ten years ago that President Clinton celebrated Aristide's return to power as "the triumph of freedom over fear." So what changed? Corruption? Violence? Fraud? Aristide is certainly no saint. But even if the worst of the allegations are true, they pale next to the rap sheets of the convicted killers, drug smugglers and arms traders who ousted Aristide and continue to enjoy free rein, with full support from the Bush Administration and the UN. Turning Haiti over to this underworld gang out of concern for Aristide's lack of "good governance" is like escaping an annoying date by accepting a lift home from Charles Manson.

A few weeks ago I visited Aristide in Pretoria, South Africa, where he lives in forced exile. I asked him what was really behind his dramatic falling-out with Washington. He offered an explanation rarely heard in discussions of Haitian politics--actually, he offered three: "privatization, privatization and privatization." The dispute dates back to a series of meetings in early 1994, a pivotal moment in Haiti's history that Aristide has rarely discussed. Haitians were living under the barbaric rule of Raoul Cédras, who overthrew Aristide in a 1991 US-backed coup. Aristide was in Washington and despite popular calls for his return, there was no way he could face down the junta without military back-up. Increasingly embarrassed by Cédras's abuses, the Clinton Administration offered Aristide a deal: US troops would take him back to Haiti--but only after he agreed to a sweeping economic program with the stated goal to "substantially transform the nature of the Haitian state."

Aristide agreed to pay the debts accumulated under the kleptocratic Duvalier dictatorships, slash the civil service, open up Haiti to "free trade" and cut import tariffs on rice and corn in half. It was a lousy deal but, Aristide says, he had little choice. "I was out of my country and my country was the poorest in the Western hemisphere, so what kind of power did I have at that time?"

But Washington's negotiators made one demand that Aristide could not accept: the immediate sell-off of Haiti's state-owned enterprises, including phones and electricity. Aristide argued that unregulated privatization would transform state monopolies into private oligarchies, increasing the riches of Haiti's elite and stripping the poor of their national wealth. He says the proposal simply didn't add up: "Being honest means saying two plus two equals four. They wanted us to sing two plus two equals five."

Aristide proposed a compromise: Rather than sell off the firms outright, he would "democratize" them. He defined this as writing antitrust legislation, insuring that proceeds from the sales were redistributed to the poor and allowing workers to become shareholders. Washington backed down, and the final text of the agreement--accepted by the United States and by a meeting of donor nations in Paris--called for the "democratization" of state companies.
But when Aristide began to implement the plan, it turned out that the financiers in Washington thought his democratization talk was just public relations. When Aristide announced that no sales could take place until Parliament had approved the new laws, Washington cried foul. Aristide says he realized then that what was being attempted was an "economic coup." "The hidden agenda was to tie my hands once I was back and make me give for nothing all the state public enterprises." He threatened to arrest anyone who went ahead with privatizations. "Washington was very angry at me. They said I didn't respect my word, when they were the ones who didn't respect our common economic policy."

Aristide's relationship with Washington has been deteriorating ever since: While more than $500 million in promised loans and aid were cut off, starving his government, USAID poured millions into the coffers of opposition groups, culminating ultimately in the February 2004 armed coup.

And the war continues. On June 23 Roger Noriega, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, called on UN troops to take a more "proactive role" in going after armed pro-Aristide gangs. In practice, this has meant a wave of Falluja-like collective punishment inflicted on neighborhoods known for supporting Aristide. On July 6, for instance, 300 UN troops stormed Cité Soleil, blocking off exits and firing from armored vehicles. The UN admits that five were killed, but residents put the number of dead at no fewer than twenty. Reuters correspondent Joseph Guyler Delva says he "saw seven bodies in one house alone, including two babies and one older woman in her 60s." Ali Besnaci, head of Médecins Sans Frontières in Haiti, confirmed that on the day of the siege twenty-seven people came to the MSF clinic with gunshot wounds, three-quarters of them women and children.

Yet despite these attacks, Haitians are still on the streets--rejecting the planned sham elections, opposing privatization and holding up photographs of their president. And just as Washington's experts could not fathom the possibility that Aristide would reject their advice a decade ago, today they cannot accept that his poor supporters could be acting of their own accord--surely Aristide must be controlling them through some mysterious voodoo arts. "We believe that his people are receiving instructions directly from his voice and indirectly through his acolytes that communicate with him personally in South Africa," Noriega said.

Aristide claims no such powers. "The people are bright, the people are intelligent, the people are courageous," he says. They know that two plus two does not equal five.

Naomi Klein is the author of No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (Picador) and, most recently, Fences and Windows: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (Picador).

© 2005 The Nation

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Redecorating

For those that care, I've made some changes to the blog. Along the right side, in addition the usual links and ads, I've added some new categories. First is a section on my insane love writings, from a few months ago. The second is for all the poems that I've posted on here over the past year. It was alot of fun going back through all my posts, lana, todu i tiempo linemlem yu' ni' Guahu.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Don't phunk with my Asha

I heard "Don't Phunk with my Heart" by the Black Eyed Peas on the radio the other day. I started freaking out, not just because its a good song (gof maolek bumaila), but because I recognized the old Bollywood song they sampled to make it. It was an Asha Bhosle song from a movie I haven't seen, but I have seen the video. I was freaking out, I kept telling people, this is an Asha Bhosle song, this is an Asha Bhosle song. Despite the majority of people that I told not caring, it was nonetheless very exciting to have made that connection.

The song got so into my head that I decided to go out and buy the CD today. I popped it in and decided to check out if they credited Asha Bhosle with the song. They did, but I was surprised because I was actually only half right.

I had thought it was just the song "aye naujawan hai sab kuch" from Apradh, but what Black Eyed Peas actually credited was this as well as another Asha Bhosle song, "yeh mera dil yaar ka diwana" from the film Don.

Gof paire umbee, ya-hu dandan Indian! Ya para siha ni' sina kumomprende fino' Chamorro yan kosas Bollywood, ga'na'-ku Asha kinu i che'lu-na Si Lata. Achokka' Si Lata mas matungo', ya-hu mas i kanta-na Si Asha.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

I Guinayan Dandan

Fine'nina, I am not a musically inclined person at all. Ti maolek yu' kumanta. Ti maolek yu' dumandan, maseha na instrument. Ti maolek yu' mangge' kanta. But despite having all of this against me, I still dream of being a musician. I dream constantly of starting up a Chamorro band. There have been a couple of times in my life where I have been fortunate enough to be a part of a 'backyard jam' session, and each time it was ridiculously fun. Singing along to familiar songs, or making up new lyrics to familiar tunes.

What I enjoyed the most was singing with everyone, the English verses and then during the bridges making up my own lyrics in Chamorro to match the tune. Sometimes I would just translate one of the verses from English into Chamorro off the top of my head, other times it would be a completely new unrelated verse, and other times what I would imagine a third verse to the song would sound like.

Masangan na gaige gi halom kada na korason Chamorro, i guinaiyan dandan! Ginnen i minalago'-hu, sina hu sangan na, hunggan! Dinanche este!

So anyways, back to my band. The latest incarnation of my weird desire, is that I make like a Chamorro ska band. This is a big shift in my fantasies, because a few months ago and for a few years before that, it was to form an acoustic guitar band (this fantasy was maintained by one of my cousins who had a similar fantasy).

The trick will be however, finding people who are willing to admit to this fantasy that all Chamorros have, and then willing to take the plunge and actually do it. One of my brothers wants to start an anime soundtrack band (playing stuff like Lupin the Badhaircutted or Cowboy Bopeep). Another brother wants to start like a free style Hip Hop group. One of my friends wants to start a "real" Chamorro band, which will create sounds which are more indigenous then just translating English lyrics into Chamorro. One of my cousins wants an acoustic guitar band, and I actually know a lot of Chamorros who are pushing for that sort of music.

With all this raw, untapped talent out there, the difficulty will be finding people who can share or compromise their fantasies in order to form actually bands, as opposed to isolated and separate dreams. I would totally be willing to compromise my fantasy. I would absolutely join up with my brothers and form a freestyle, ska, anime soundtrack tribute band with songs in Chamorro.

Finding an audience for that might be difficult outside of Mental Health on Guam, but we should all remember what Jacques Lacan said, Mungga mahinalang i minalago', never give away to your desire.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

taya' salape'-ku

Taya' salape'-ku, sopues ti bai hu hulat humanao para Guahan este na summer. Gof triste yu' put este, gof makkat. Este na sakkan na taigue yu' ginnen Guahan, gof mappot luma'la'. Kada na ha'ani hu gof hasso i isla-ku, yan kana' tumanges yu' put i umachago'-mami.

Nai esta siguru yu' na ti bai hu hanao para Guahan, tumuge' yu' ni' este na betsu put i minahalang-hu. Kao annok giya Guiya i minahalang-hu?



In the time it took me to drive to work today
To drive twenty miles
Through thick sick smelling smog
Over overcrowded concrete lanes

I could have driven down to my great grandfather’s old farm, seen the piece of land they call Bubulao, which they say is haunted by some of the nastiest taotaomo’nas around, and where the soil is so rich it smells like a new moon, guiding a thousand more plantings and harvests.

I could have driven down to Si Ben Meno’s house and watched him fix his nets, or tunu I kinenne’-na. Talk to him about the strength of the Chamorro people during the war, facing off against Japanese bayonets and American bombs, having no one to rely on except themselves and their faith.

I could have driven down to Hagat and gone to visit Mr. Palacios. I could have sat with him and his guitar, and he could have played chords that Chamorros put together three generations ago, in order to endure the hardship of war. They strummed tunes and songs to make known their strength, their survival to all who would doubt it. And in the semi-still waves and the rippling splashing light of the setting sun I would feel alive, the only way one truly can, through the lives, the voices, the music of my ancestors.

In the time it took me to get to work, so much time was lost. So much life went up and turned into the smog that clouded my nose, clung to my lungs and threatens to turn my mind into little more than an idling engine, waiting stuck, stopped and going on a freeway.

Into the Mouth of Madness

After having a beautiful six year relationship that ended last year, I've spent the last year single, and its been a strange experience.

I don't understand dating. I really don't at all. I understand the rules for it, the expectations confuse me and paralyze me. There are expectations of actions and statements, (at this point, he should be saying this. at this point she should be doing this.) There are expectations of roles, (he is the one who is supposed to make the first move.) There are temporal/ chronological expectations (now that this stage has passed, this action is now allowed). But even the idea that a date is a contained experience, with knowable easily identified boundaries is difficult. I've been on several dates that weren't dates, and been out several times on what apparently, much to my surprise, were dates!

Its weird though, thinking about this doesn't save you from the madness. If anything, if makes the experience all the more harrowing. It makes you unable to formulate even the most basic certainty, instead always trapped/wrapped up in hysterical anxiety. The curse and blessing of the hysteric is the position that he or she gets to occupy, through their active non-acting. The discussing of the thing, keeps it in stasis, keeps it both from happening and from not happening. It keeps it in a strange place where it can be viewed and turned around from all angles, but never really touched or thrown away. It instead haunts in a very constrictive way. For example in games such as Soul Caliber 2 or Super Smash Brothers Melee you have access to a feature where the trophies you gain or the characters you open up are viewable in a somewhat 3-D form. Using your control pad you can move the "camera" or your gaze around the object, zooming in and out. But as one moves around the image, you constantly bump up against or fight invisible walls, which restrict how the image can be viewed. When one imagines the space, its difficult to understand why these walls are there. Why can't I just move freely around the object?

This is of course what the hysteric cannot understand cannot know. This distance is all that can be known. This viewing of the object, not one with it, not apart from it, but trapped within the hysterical gaze. It is from here that the object can be known in some way, but always at a distance which always feels irrational, stupid, silly.

I got an inkling of this the other day, while spending a day with an intelligent, beautiful and charming girl. Whether or not the day was a date or not I had no idea, but all I know is that I did enjoy very much spending time with her and would have loved to see her again. But throughout the day, I was constantly confronted with statements by her, actions by her and forced to think, is she coming on to me, how should I respond? Should I hit on her back? What the hell am I supposed to do? I like her, but do I like her that much?

Strangely enough, my predicament reminded me of a scene (which I probably shouldn't have been reminded of) from the film The End of Evangelion. In Eva 02, with her internal power depleted, Asuka is pierced through the eye by a fake Lance of Longinus. Along the lance through her head, she slowly slides to the ground, her legs locked keeping her back arched slightly and off the ground. Despite the Eva having no power, she reaches up towards the sun and the sky, yelling that she will kill her attackers (the new Eva Series). Within Eva 02, she is reaching up, trying to get her unit to go berserker. Instead another lance is thrown from high above, at her arm, cutting it in two right before her eyes. That's what hysteria feels like. In the midst of an act, on the verge of certainty, one finds themselves split yet again, split back into paralyzing uncertainty.



Back to the day with that wonderful girl, whenever I would say finally, okay that's it, you're going to act on this, from out of nowhere, I would find that certainty split and sink back uncertain yet again. Second guessing myself doesn't quite explain this, because second guessing is like thinking it over before you do it or you don't. It's more like having something precious stolen from you, and not knowing who took it or where it was taken too, but all the while knowing deep down, but unable to reconcile it, that it was probably you all along.

Lana, gof na'ma'ase yu' no? I guess the trick will be ultimately finding somewho is communicates their hysteria just as bad as I do.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The bliss which can only be for me!

It is both funny and sad to read Zizek writing on freedom. Far from the George W. Bush and liberal democratic mantras on freedom, which make it a positive certainty, so positive it is a thing which must be ruthlessly defended or strategically shared, Zizek's sense of freedom is not rooted in certainty, but an certain, wild, excited uncertainty, or rather a jubliant misrecognition. Far from something static that clings to us, so long as we wave flags or respect troops, freedom is something which rarely comes around, it is as Rosa Luxemberg said, for those who think differently. It is for those whose excitement or whose fidelity allow them to mistake the world around them, and sometimes remake it, by changing the possibilities.

For example, for Kant the French Revolution wasn't so much an exercise in freedom, as was people's jubliant, estatic responses to it. The way people reacted to proclaimed outburst of freedom, that reaching of the end limit of imagination and then riding a radical, excited burst to cross it, and traverse into something else possible, that was the freedom of the age. Zizek begins his book Organs Without Bodies with a story about the filming of Doctor Zhivago. In preparation for a scene of workers in a mass demonstration, David Lean had a group of Spanish workers sing the song Internationale. The actors sang the song so well and with such passion, that it wasn't long before the Francoist police arrived to suppress what they thought was a real demonstration. That night when the scene was being filmed, the song was heard throughout Madrid and upon hearing it, people in the neighborhood began to open champagne bottles and dance in the streets, thinking that Franco has died and the Socialists had taken power.

Why am I writing this? Because a mistake fell into my lap the other day, which when I came across it, felt it could only be for me.

While searching ebay for Guam stuff (something I do regularly) I came across something interesting. Someone was selling a DVD for the Hindi film Khabie Kushi Khabie Gham, which has got to be one of the archetypal Hindi films of recent years (meaning it has all the characteristics which make up that prototypical Hindi film). It showed up in a Guam search not because the item was on Guam, or because someone from Guam was selling it, but because the seller had mispelled Gham or Triniste, as Guam.

Just another one of those beautiful mistakes where freedom might be.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Nasion Chamoru

Writing about colonization in action can be a hysterical albeit terrifying experience. It reminds me of a Dilbert comic, where the pointy haired boss tells a worker that the collar he is putting on him comes with an electric shock which will buzz him if he leaves the area of his "office" or a circle drawn on the carpet. Later in the week the worker is still there and we learn that he has been taught to beg for food.

Seeing colonization in action is paying attention to those invisible walls. It is the experience of bumping into something you know does not exist. Finding the end limit of the person who is resigned to sit on the floor, trapped by something which may or may not trap them. It is being forced to confront something that this person takes as so incredibly concrete and real that whether it exists or not, whether it has effects or not, it will contain and confine that person within that designated zone.

Case in point, a recent exchange on one of the horrifying coconut Chamorro message boards out (my board on the other hand is heavy on niyok light on po'asu, Si Yu'us Ma'ase!). One thing you can never expect on these sorts of message boards are intelligent conversations or debate. People all assume the same limit points in their discussion, thus all conversation is merely rearticulations of their given limits, for example:

Taotao Unu: The military is good! (the rationalist perspective)

Taotao Dos: The military is great! (the patriotic perspective)

Taotao Tres: Both of your are wrong, the military is gof maolek! (the indigneous, Chamorro-American perspective)

Something which might appear to somehow displace or irritate this would never appear. And if it did, people probably wouldn't be able to respond to it, and probably just go into so shock and awe coma until the could receive an emergency dose of Fox News.

Back to the exchange, it had to do with I Nasion Chamoru and their recent round of protests on island. Apart from the expected and tiresome cliches about anti-americanism and radicalism, one poster said that while he understood the purpose of the I Nasion, they are pretty much useless because all they do is make noise, cause problems and then provide no solutions. And speaking with all the pragmatism and sage-like glory of an pathetically weakminded editorial writer he proclaimed that noise is the last thing we need now.

Obviously these people don't do much research on these things before they decide to yank a line of text out of their asses. If they did, they might recall several articles over the past three years in both the PDN and the Marianas Variety which outlined recommendations by I Nasion Chamoru and The Colonized Chamoru Coalition for economic and social improvement outside of bowing down before the military. Or perhaps they failed to receive the numerous press releases the Nasion and other groups circulate in Guam which offer alternatives to government policies ranging from the administration of GMH to the privatization of Guam's water.

But this type of intervention would be meaningless for most, because the point of that statement that they provide no solutions, is that it doesn't expect any solutions and will be in reality, impervious to any such evidence. Why? Here's where we see colonization in action, where the end limit, those invisible walls, become firmly and rigidly concrete. Trapping the speaker within them, but also preventing us from just ignoring them or going around them. The statement is made as such with the presupposition that because of what I Nasion Chamoru is and what it stands for, and the way it is publicly perceived, no matter what is recommends it will always be just noise. Even if it published a book, "how to fix Guam's economy in 12 easy steps" which sold a billion copies, unless that book paid the necessary homage to the pathological and infinite indebtedness to the United States and recognized and appreciated the endless dependency of Guam on the US (for the economic, historical, social, military, you name it, it belongs in these parentheses) it would be dismissed as noise. The way diverse, supposedly undifferentiaed speech gains the marker of rationality or being "not noise" is by being filtered through and being marked as compatible with a number of very basic and fundamental ideas on Guam. Much like in the Untied States, entrance into the intelligability of the mainstream depends upon for example, an agreement that although we may disagree on certain issues, the troops always have our support. This exists in Guam, but more specifically we find that entrance of voice to the mainstream depends upon admitting to and accepting the basic dependency of Guam on the US military and Federal Government. Any suggestions or voices which try to avoid this, counter it or work through it or around it, are dismissed as "noise."

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Fanhasso Si Angel Santos

Remembering Angel Santos
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Variety News Staff

CHAMORRO activists will join the family of the late Sen. Angel L. G. Santos tomorrow in commemorating the death of the most vocal advocate of Chamorro rights, credited for forcing the implementation of the Chamorro Land Trust Act in 1992.

Debbie Quinata, tribunal council member of I Nasion Chamoru, said the gathering at the Angel L.G. Santos Latte Stone Memorial Park in Hagatna, which starts 6 p.m. tomorrow, is open to “everyone who believes in what Angel had fought for.”

Quinata said the gathering will provide a venue for local community leaders and residents to reflect on Santos’s legacy to the Chamorro people.

Quinata remembers Santos’ passion and devotion to the causes he took up.

“People only saw him as an activist. What some didn’t see in him was the charismatic person who truly believed in protecting the inalienable rights of all Chamorros. He believed in freedom of speech,” Quinata said.“He felt that if we were complacent and if we quietly accept what was handed to us by the administrative power, then that’s all we will get, which is pretty much nothing,” she added.

Santos, a three-term senator, first shot to prominence when he took part in a month long campout in front of the governor’s office, a protest move that forced the implementation of the Chamorro Land Trust Act.

In 2000 Santos served six months in federal prison for violating a 1993 court order to stay off U.S. Air Force land he claimed belonged to his grandfather. He was elected to the Guam Legislature after his release.

On July 6, 2003, Santos succumbed to an illness that was later diagnosed as mad cow disease.

Quinata said tomorrow’s gathering will start with a rosary and will be followed by remarks from family members, community leaders and residents.

The 27th Legislature has name Latte Stone Park in memory of the late senator.

The Legislature noted that “many of the successes the Chamorro people have achieved in recent years have been the result of the activism and championing of the issues by the late Senator Santos, most especially those issues dealing with the return of excess federal land, and the disbursement of Chamorro Land Trust property to eligible Chamorros.”

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