Friday, June 30, 2006

Bush Loses Guantanamo Case

Published on Friday, June 30, 2006 by
Bush Loses Guantánamo Case
by Marjorie Cohn

In the most significant rebuff to George W. Bush's assertion of executive power since he declared his "war on terror," the Supreme Court called a halt to Bush's kangaroo courts at Guantánamo Bay.

Justice Stevens wrote for the 5-3 majority, "We conclude that the military commission convened to try Hamdan lacks power to proceed because its structure and procedures violate both the [Uniform Code of Military Justice] and the Geneva Conventions." Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Souter and Kennedy joined Stevens in the majority opinion.

One of Hamdan's lawyers, Georgetown University Law School Professor Neal Kayta, called the ruling a "rebuke" to a system of "fake courts."

Shafiq Rasul, speaking for himself and two other former Guantánamo detainees, said, "We are ecstatic at today's outcome. This is another step in our collective efforts to see that those we left behind are treated fairly under international law."

Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents nearly half of the Guantánamo detainees, was "thrilled" by the Court's decision. "What this says to the administration is that you can no longer decide arbitrarily what you want to do with people. It upheld the rule of law in this country and determined that the executive has gone beyond the constitution and international law."

In November 2001, Bush set up military commissions to try Guantánamo prisoners charged with crimes. Of the more than 700 men and boys who have been housed there in the last four and half years, only 10 have been charged with criminal offenses.

Bush charged Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's driver, with one count of conspiracy "to commit . . . offenses triable by military commission." Before yesterday's landmark ruling on his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, Hamdan was awaiting trial in a military commission.

The Bush administration filed a motion to dismiss Hamdan's challenge to the military commission after Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act on December 30, 2005. In the DTA, Congress purported to strip US federal courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions filed by Guantánamo detainees.

But the Court held Congress did not intend to deny federal court jurisdiction to detainees like Hamdan, whose cases were already pending on the date the DTA was enacted.

Although this is a narrow ruling, leaving open the door for Bush to argue that Congress effectively denied other detainees the right to file future challenges to their confinement, the Court clearly stated it was reserving any decision on whether Congress could constitutionally deny a prisoner the right to federal habeas corpus jurisdiction.

Unlike the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Bush's military commissions would allow a defendant to be convicted by evidence he never sees in a proceeding he cannot attend with evidence that does not meet federal evidentiary standards. This includes statements obtained by coercion. The majority held Bush failed to show it would be impracticable to furnish defendants in military commissions safeguards commensurate with those guaranteed by the UCMJ.

One of the most critical parts of the Court's decision was its ruling that Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions applies to al Qaeda. Common Article 3 prohibits "the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."

Article 3 Common requires that prisoners be treated humanely; it forbids outrages on personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment. The Pentagon had planned to eliminate any reference to Common Article 3's protections from its interrogation regulations.

But the Supreme Court has now affirmed that all prisoners, not just prisoners of war, must be treated humanely. This is bound to put a severe crimp in the Bush administration's cruel and torturous interrogations.

Arguing out of both sides of his mouth, Bush had maintained the Geneva Conventions didn't apply to al Qaeda because they weren't prisoners of war. But Bush also asserted that Common Article 3, which applies to conflicts "not of an international character," doesn't apply to al Qaeda.

The Court shot down that argument, holding that "the term 'not of an international character' is used in contradistinction to a conflict between nations.'" Bush can't have it both ways.
Justice Kennedy, in a separate concurrence joined by Justices Souter, Breyer and Ginsburg, noted that Common Article 3 "is part of a treaty the United States has ratified and thus accepted as binding law." The target of recent conservative attacks for his willingness to cite treaties, Justice Kennedy was spot on here. For while treaties are international law, they are also part of US law under the Supremacy Clause of our Constitution.

Significantly, even Justices Scalia and Alito, who filed separate dissents from the Court's decision, did not dispute the notion that Common Article 3 applies to al Qaeda, a proposition the Bush administration has strongly denied.

The Court also held that Congress's Authorization for the Use of Military Force, passed shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, did not expand Bush's authority to convene military commissions that do not comport with UCMJ safeguards. This is an important precedent that opponents of Bush's warrantless surveillance of Americans can cite in opposition to administration claims that the AUMF authorizes the spying program.

Four justices - Stevens, Souter, Breyer and Ginsburg - notably cited Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, Article 75. It incorporates trial protections, including the right to be tried in one's presence. Although the US has not ratified Protocol I, they wrote, "it appears that the Government 'regard[s] the provisions of Article 75 as an articulation of safeguards to which all persons in the hands of an enemy are entitled.'" Article 75, the four justices said, is "indisputably part of the customary international law."

The dissent by Justice Thomas shows that he continues to be the Bush administration's toady.

In Hamdi v. Rumsfeld two years ago, he said, "This detention falls squarely within the Federal Government's war powers, and we lack the expertise and capacity to second-guess that decision." Yesterday, Justice Thomas wrote in his Hamdan dissent that the Court's opinion "openly flouts our well-established duty to respect the Executive's judgment in matters of military operations and foreign affairs."

In contrast, Justice Breyer's concurrence harked back to the majority opinion in Hamdi, saying, "The [Hamdan] Court's conclusion ultimately rests upon a single ground: Congress has not issued the Executive a 'blank check.'"

Most importantly, the Supreme Court reiterated that, "Nobody in enemy hands can be outside the law." Now Bush can no longer deny the Guantánamo detainees basic due process. This decision is a significant victory for justice and the rule of law.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, president-elect of the National Lawyers Guild, and the US representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Premier Gala Exhibition July 14th at PTC

To All Art Patrons!!! There will be an Art Exhibition on July 14th, 2006... Please join us in celebrating our Culture Through the Arts.

The Guam Gallery of Art, The Chamorro Artists Association and PTC (Pacific Trading Club) in the Agana Shopping Center present...FAKMATA... "Just like the latte... We withstood the test of time... The Chamorro Artists Association Returns".

The Premeir gala event celebrating the opening of the exhibit and the return of The Chamorro Artists Association takes place on Friday July 14th and begins at 6 p.m. and continues to 9 p.m. After 9 p.m. open mic begins...

We are putting out a call for poets, writers, musicians, etc to participate in presenting their "spoken word" for this major art event.

If you are interested in performing please contact Filamore Palomo Alcon at The Guam Gallery of Art in the Chamorro Village.: Contact numbers: (Cell) 688-0320 (Gallery) 472-9659 or 472-1352.

Organizers and promoters for this cultural event are: Filamore Palomo Alcon, Jay Baza Pascua and Monica Dolores Baza... For All who read please repost.......

Monday, June 26, 2006

Everyday Future Fighting

In a presentation I made earlier this year, I made the interesting claim that the film X-Files: Fight the Future is a better film to identify with for conceiving and articulating indigenous resistance in the Pacific than the film Whale Rider. Naturally to alot of people, this was a wild and outlandish claim, that most wrapped their minds around, by guessing that the humans are the indigenous people and the aliens are the colonizers.

In this guess however, people tended to forget that when I make strange claims such as this, I am usually situating myself within a Lacanian psychoanalytical framework. The incredible popular emphasis today on interpreting dreams and water cooler dreamwork stems from Freud's work in shifting the meaning of dreams away from both divinity and meaningless to become a link with something internal (or it could be argued depending on how you conceive of the unconscious as external) to man, a bewildering clue to his processes.

Most take this as a cue to delve into dreams as if they are worlds of meaning to be searched out, to be engaged with, to be interogated until a clear meaning emerges. In structuralist language, what this cue amounts to is that they signifier, the surface image, is only an access point through which we can experience and interpret the far more important signified, the conceptual portrait that the signified only hints at, but is secondary to.

For Lacan however (via Zizek), the search through the signified can be misleading in searching for the productive meaning of a dream. Instead what is most important in dreamwork is the signifier, the bare surface of the dream.

If we extrapolate this point to The X-Files: Fight the Future, we could mark the title itself as the signifier, and the film, story, plot, imagery, dialogue and everything else the signified. If we emphasis the signified, we take a journey through the film and look for indigenous clues. Who does Scully represent? Is she the resurgent Maga'Haga' of Chamorro culture? Is Mulder Maga'lahi Hurao? Or is he Maga'lahi Kephua? Are the aliens the Spanish? The Japanese? The Americans?

Obviously this exercise is productive, as a huge number of connections and happy accidents can take place, but from the standpoint from which Zizek articulates Lacan's form of psychoanalysis, all of this is fundamentally misleading, as it is the surface, the seemingly empty and vapid vessel that stimulates this texture, that seems to merely bring it to us, that holds the truth of the dream.

Zizek makes this point via a dream of Alexander the Great. While waging war on the city of Tyre, Alexander dreamed of himself chasing a satyr, which he eventually caught. Rather than delving into the symbolic meaning of the satyr and the potentcy of its representative potentialities, Alexander instead discerned the meaning at the level of the word "satyr" itself. If you break up satyr into "sa" and "tyros" it means "Tyre is yours." Alexander pressed on the attack, escalating it and eventually won.

For me it is a similar superficial dynamic when I say that the film X-Files: Fight the Future has something to do with indigenous struggles. While I could entertain a very vivid and lively discussion which would form analogous points between let's say Chamorro struggles on Guam in resisting American colonialism and the plight of Scully and Mulder in resisting, huge conspiracies and government coverups and alien colonization, that is not where I see the power of X-Files and attempting to articulate some relevance.

For most, the everyday extinction and obvious death of indigenous peoples is something which is part of the fabric of reality. Most recently on a KUAM sounding board, the question dealt with how to more effectively teach Chamorro language in schools and protect it. While a number of people gave helpful points, almost everyone of these concerned comments was accompanied by a disdain for the survival of Chamorros. "Kill it!" or "Let it die!" some respondents wrote simply, their words, weighted with the commonsense notion that future of Guam, as we all know and feel everyday, lies with English and the United States.

Throughout the Pacific as rational transculturative conversations take place amongst our leaders and our people, we should be keenly aware of how incredible skewed this conversation is. Last year, Deputy of Insular Affairs for Bush, David Cohen, made a remark which I always attribute to him, but can be found everywhere, whether in films such as Swades, or events like backyard graduation parties and World Social Forums. That remark is that Pacific Islanders need to take a good look at their cultures and get rid of what is holding them back from achieving success in the United States, or in other words what is preventing them from renting a moderately priced place within that much discussed American dream.

Here we find the gist of these "rational transculturative conversations." Far from being the neutral pragmatic discussions that they appear to be, they take place over a terrain which is already mapped out, a foundation which already points at the direction the conversation must go.

For more than a decade, the "Washington Consensus" was one such foundation. As newly developing countries began to enter the world economy and interact at the global level, the ground upon which discussions over what is the future of their countries, what directions they must move, was highly dictated by the dangerous neoliberal principles of the Washington Consensus. Through differing extranational organizations such as the WTO, these principles became the conditions of "the future" for many countries. But was development truly dependent solely on allowing multinational corporations to plunder your countries natural resources and by privatizing all your utilities and industries? Of course not, but we find in common with the case of indigenous people and the legacy of neoliberalism, is the witholding of the future itself. What I mean by this is that through economic restrictions, war, neocolonialism or whatever else, they make it clear that the future is not ours, it belongs to someone else, namely them, and that we must go to them to have it.

There is the hardly hidden bias of David Cohen's culturally encouraging remarks, there is no back there where you come from, where you are, the future is here, and your task is to figure out how to seize it, meaning get rid of whatever it is that is holding you back from getting it. I saw this several years ago, when one of the most vocal activists and teachers of the Chamorro language made the claim to me that our teaching and learning of Chamorro must never conflict or restrict the learning and teaching of English. There is an obvious commonsense pragmatism behind this statement, English is after all the language of global commerce right? But whenever you mix colonization and pragmatism, it tends to be a dangerous combo, which is why I often say that commonsense is my enemy.

The stance by this activist just parrots the older stance of "English only" that many Chamorros adopted in their homes and lives, which led to two generations which are largely either uncomfortable speaking Chamorro or just can't. But the stance is just a little different, whereas before this stance led Chamorros to not teach Chamorro, this "new" one just leads us to not really teach Chamorro, since English is always what must be emphasized, must be protected.

This stance of "English mostly" is built upon the idea that lies beneath so much bland rhetoric of cultural revitalization and preservation in Guam, namely that the future belongs to someone else, in this instance Uncle Sam and his English language. Because of this fact, I can lament the loss of my language or my land, I can make statements of it needing to be passed on or it needing to be protected, but I make these statements, and I make them very very loudly sometimes, because it is far far easier than actually backing them up, then working to make them happen. It is after all far far easier to say that "teaching our kids Chamorro is important," than actually teaching your kids Chamorro.

For people like these who talk about these things but refuse to live them, refuse to make them a part of their daily lives, their homes and their existence, these plantitudes of cultural preservation and revitalization end up sounding like diaster movie dialogue that accepts the inevitability and triumph of the diaster. In diaster films with asteroids colliding, earthquakes shattering or tidal waves approaching, is there any dialogue more empty and hollow than that from characters who have accepted that they are going to die, but yet try to say otherwise to reassure others? Do not their empty words say at the most basical level, that my words are nothing because the future lies with something else, that something else, an overwhelming catastrophe, a towering disaster owns it, and to its will I must bend?

The problem with those who ferociously imbibe this commonsense notion of the future, as well as those who accept it but pretend otherwise, is that the future becomes something already mapped out, already dictated by larger, richer, better countries, people far better equipped at the making of history, and therefore in essence it cannot be fought, it must be accepted. What grabs me about the film X-Files: Fight the Future, can be found in the title alone, but also in the film, a clear recognition that the future can and must be fought. The future is therefore neither an automatic unfolding of events which we can only follow, nor an organization whose mapping of a people's path cannot be changed.

As the arrival of 8,000 Marines to Guam from Okinawa takes on the aura of inevitablity, of a future which we can see clearly, yet have no control over, it is more important than ever to fight the future, and resist a passive acceptance of others controlling our safety and our lives.

One of the things that inspired this post, was of course, Street Fighting Man from the Rolling Stones:

Street Fighting Man (M. Jagger/K. Richards)

Ev'rywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy
'Cause summer's here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy
Well then what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock 'n' roll band
'Cause in sleepy London town
There's just no place for a street fighting man

Hey! Think the time is right for a palace revolution
'Cause where I live the game to play is compromise solution
Well then what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock 'n' roll band
'Cause in sleepy London town
There's no place for a street fighting man
Get down

Hey! Said my name is called disturbance
I'll shout and scream, I'll kill the king, I'll rail at all his servants
Well, what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock 'n' roll band
'Cause in sleepy London town
There's no place for a street fighting man
Get down

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Nihi Ta Fan Chat gi Fino' Chamoru Put Hindi Movies Part 6

Madonna: Buenas Miget, hafa na klasin kachidun Hindi na ta egga' pa'go?

Miget: Hu ayeki hao un gof interesante na kachidun Hindi, na'an-na Raja Hindustani.

Madonna: Ilek-mu gof interesante. Sa' hafa? Hafa fuma'sahnge este yan i otro na kachidun Hindi siha?

Miget: Ti sina kumuentos yu' put todu i kachidon Hindi, lao nu Guahu, gof interesante este sa' este i fine'nina na kachidun Hindi nai hu li'e i aktors siha umachiku.

Madonna: Guana?

Miget: Hunggan, estaba gi todu i kachido ti sina mana'fanannok chinikuku siha. Pi'ot gi i labios. Fihu ma fa'chiku gi i labios, lao mismo i lahi pau chiku i palao'an gi i fasu-na. Sesso lokkue, ma bira i ilu-niha, pues ti annok, ya ti un tungo' yanggen hunggan umachiku, pat ahe' ya mafa'bababa hao.

Madonna: Maolek este, sa' ti un na'lamas kontiempo i estoria, sa' sesso un cho'gue enao nai.

Miget: Ai adai, ti hu hasngon lai.

Madonna: Hafa na klasin chiniku este ni' gof likidu?

Miget: Well gi minagahet, ti gof likidu pat uniku pa'go. Yanggen un egga' Salaam Namaste, ma na annok i chinikun Saif Ali Khan yan Preity Zinta. Ya gi minagahet ma na'annok mas ki chiniku ha', guaha scenes nai kesnuda i dos gi i katre, gi i fano'makan.

Madonna: Kabales i hinasso-ku ginnen hafa un sangagani yu'. Hu hungok na gi i kachidun Hindi, ti ma fa'nu'i hit i pinachan guinaiya, ma usa symbolism instead.

Miget: Hunggan, para u ma baila i dos ni' umaguiaya, gi fields ni' mamflores, gi gof takhilo' yan bunitu na okso' siha. Para u ma afalulon i dos ni' magagu na'an-na "saris."

Madonna: Kao magahet na ya-niha bumaila yan lumiliko' gi trongko siha?

Miget: Hunggan, lao manridondeha otro na kosas lokkue. Lao sa' gi Raja Hindustani bumaila lumiliko' i trongko ya umachiku mientras uma'apo' i trongko lokkue na gof "scandalous" este. Lao sa' gaige i dos gi fi'on i trongko ya dururu i ichan, gof fotte i tinektok-niha lokkue. Fotte'na siempre i chiniku sa' masmai, fotgon.

Madonna: Ai adai, adahi sa' siempre guaha famagu'on ni' pau taitai este.

Miget: Mungga chathinasso umbre. Yanggen guaha famagu'on ni' pau taitai este gi fino' Chamoru, suette hit, ya' ti bai hu chathinasso yanggen fino' dalle' tinaitain-niha.

Madonna: Ai Miget, adahi i pachot-mu!

Miget: Otro fino'-ta, ti todu este na kachidu put kosas sinexy.

Madonna: Hafa kumekeilek-mu?

Miget: Guaha kosas romantiko lokkue!

Madonna: Mas maolek yanggen parehu no?

Miget: Siempre, ya sina un sodda' enao gi este na kachido. Put hemplo i "main" na kanta, Pardesi. Gof ya-hu i palabras-na este, put guinaiya siempre, lao guinaiya tinempla ni' triniste yan pinadesi. I kanta put un estrangheru, un taotao sanhiyong, ni' humalom gi i tano' i kakanta, ya humalom gui' lokkue i gi kerason-na.

Madonna: Pues hafa?

Miget: Sa' ginnen un otro na tano' este na lahi, siempre pau dingu i kakanta na palao'an ta'lo. Pues gi i chorus, sigi ha' gumagak gui', ya gi i kati-na ha kekena'hasso i nobiu-na, put i hafa ha prometi gui'.

Madonna: Wow, ti sina hu nangga esta ki ta egga' este.

Miget: Okay, bai hu tutuhuni hao ni' i DVD. Lao fine'nina, guess nai manu na kachidun Amerikanu hu hungok i kanta Pardesi?

Madonna: Kachidun Amerikanu? Siguru hao?

Miget: Hunggan, gi i finakpo'-na V for Vendetta, gaige un remix Pardesi. Gof manman yu' nai hu hungok.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Inner Beauty of I Trongkon Niyok

Before starting my post I want to urge everyone to head over to this website to sign the Petition for Peace and Justice for Guam and the Peace, which was drawn up in response to the United States military buildups and exercises currently taking place in Guam

For more information on these increases, head over to the petition's supplemental blog,

I have long called commonsense the enemy of Guam's future, but I only say this because of the current dominant forms that it takes. If a revolution in values and meaning, in the perceptions, perspectives and understandings of people on Guam were to take place, then I might be in a different position, commonsense might then be on my side, instead of something I constantly find looming over my head, listo para u u'tot i aga'ga-hu.

Answers as to how the current form of commonsense came to be on Guam today is something I have discussed in my academic work for the past few years. My first master's thesis, the one I did at the University of Guam first confronted that question in the form of "Why are Chamorros to visibly and enthusiastically patriotic to the United States, given their dubious position in relation to it?"

What I am interested in doing in Guam is simple, shifting things slightly so that the most natural gesture of identity or identification is not the crass patriotism and devotion towards the United States, but is something more locally or regionally directed. I have other grand plans, but at the core of everything I do and try to do, this is it.

So long as the most dominant means of expressing oneself politically remains this silly patriotism, then little will change, because within this articulation, the only thing that can change Guam or improve Guam comes from the largesse of the United States, its benevolent care and concern.

In seeking to understand how this patriotic quagmire formed in Guam, I was led to statements, notions, even slogans, which on one hand might seem silly and meaningless, but on the other hand, have an incredible potentcy and power over eveyday speech and what we conceive of as impossible or possible. It is important to take stock of these ideas and statements because we say them everyday. They can be for example, tourist slogans, such as "Guam, Where America's Day Begins" which quickly becames a military slogan as well, and a justification for acceding to anything the military might want from us, because of the obligation we have as being where America begins its day. Or how about Guam as "America in Asia," which takes on so many meanings, all of which basically assure the dominance of "America in Guam." America in Asia, is a testament to the greatness of American liberal democracy and its latest multiculturalist twist. It is also the reason why Guam is so important militarily, another everyday protection of the American value in/of Guam. It is also another way of erasing the Chamorro, by emphasizing the Asianess and the Americaness of Guam, and implying that it is this interplay of strategic value and cross cultural contact that makes Guam visible, knowable and not its indigenous people.

But even the notion of the United States as a liberator has particular roots, with particular groups of Chamorros who set out to form a relationship to the United States, which basically built itself off of the colonial citizen to "Mother Country" dynamic that the elite Chamorros of pre-war Guam had with the United States and its Navy. As these manakhilo' set about concretizing a specific relationship with the United States and therefore a public/political position for the Chamorro in its empire, the rhetorical strategies that a postwar letter tendered by six elite Chamorros become the norm, become hegemonic. In that letter, the survival, the continued existence of Chamorros is predicated on the United States, on its awesomeness first in military might and second in concern for its colonial citizens. While one might argue that this gratitude was meant only with regards to the war, and was in fact a thank you note for that liberation, the two positions of the Chamorro as the suffering victim with nothing and the United States soldier/military as the strong, powerful liberator become generalized to everything after the war. We still live in that moment to this day. In a paper I wrote earlier this year titled The Scene of Liberation, I described this process and how it came about, and what it looks like.

I posted a section of it on my blog a few months ago, click here to check it out

So long, as this ugly patriotism remains hegemonic, meaning the dominant means of conceiving of reality and possibility, then this following statement will be the gist of what is Guam (especially the prospect of Guam apart from the United States):

I AGREE! Get our military out of GUAM! Make them Free and on their own! WE NEED TO STOP giving them our hard earned TAX DOLLARS! Stop the Pell Grants, Fedral Loans and ALL Financial Aid programs for Education, Revoke all Scholorships and have them pay non-u.s. tuition, Stop giving them Food Stamp, WIC, Compact Impact Aid, FEMA and Stop ALL assistance when natural disasters hit. RECOVER ALL FEDERAL MONEY "WASTED" on that Island. Remove the USA label so tourist can come back to HAWAII and spend their money there because we all know they go to guam only cause it's U.S. soil. Let them have what they want...REMOVE ALL U.S. support and let them go to the UN to get their aid so they can end up back where they started. They will make their MILLIONS selling COCONUT JUICE since thats all they have on that island. I hope we give them what they want so they can finally see what happends when you bite the hand that feeds you! FREE GUAM!!!!!!!!!!

The interesting thing is that although this sounds so familar to me, it is not from Guam. From growing up on Guam and working as a decolonization activist for Guam, I encounter this type of nasty and vapid rhetoric all the time from Chamorros, but this particular statement is from someone from the United States (buente apa'ka).

Earlier today on the online petition which I mentioned earlier, "Jodi Miller" from Washington D.C. claiming to represent the organization, "Movement to Stop Wasting American Dollars" posted the above statement.

The fact that Chamorros themselves, on Guam, take up this position as their own, when speaking about Guam, shows how the possibility for identities there are disciplined along certain lines, to work within certain parameters of understanding. Note carefully, how EVERYTHING imagineable is attributed to the United States, the stripping away of these things is meant to be death, life is not meant to be possible without all these things. The Chamorro and Guam without the United States is left with nothing, an almost sarcastic nothing, coconuts.

Interestingly enough, people who take this position act as if the decolonization activist is the strongest force in the world, and can, by merely speaking out against the colonial sins of the United States, kick the them off of Guam. Oh, how much I would love such power and authority, but the reality is very very different. First, if decolonization proceedings did begin in earnest, meaning if the United States did not stall or sabotage them as it always does, then it would be a negotiated transfer, with time tables for autonomy, whether it be political or economic.

Let me say this very very clearly for all the morons who argue against decolonization based on the "vanishing overnight colonizer" delusion: Not even the United States has the power to make itself disappear overnight. Even if Dumbledore and Voldemort combined their powers komo Captain Planet and the Planeteers, they probably couldn't make the United States disappear overnight. And this frame of thinking doesn't even address that fact that the idea of "America" and all its wonders disappearing overnight makes no sense! Does America own electricity? Does America own progress? Does America own education?

Second: The value of Guam strategically to the United States means that even if Guam did become "free" the United States, at least until a suitable alternative base could be found and the infrastructure created, would not relinquish their bases on Guam. This value is of course the reason why the United States military and establishment in Washington D.C. continues to deny this possibility, even when they are discussing it, or denying the existence of any problem with Guam.

Returning to my earlier point, what Jodi Miller's idiotic tirade builds off of, in very intimate ways, which sadly we don't seem to pick up on very often, is the very slogans I mentioned earlier.

I posted several months ago about a bumper sticker I hate so much on Guam, because it bears that deadly slogan "Guam: Where America's Day Begins." The reason why I hate it is because it maintains in a very simple everyday way colonization, and the means by which the Chamorro enthusiastically occupies the position of Jodi Miller when speaking on and about Guam. What "Guam: Where America's Day Begins" and "Guam: America in Asia" both imply is that what makes Guam Guam, what gives Guam life, value, what makes it possible for us to see it, appreciate it, know it and enjoy it as a place has nothing to do with Guam, but everything to do with the United States, or America in Guam.

If you don't believe me or need to encounter this on your own, merely have a discussion with a random Chamorro or other person on Guam about decolonizing Guam and wait for the colonizing commonsense which will most likely ravage you. I'll re-quote the intrepid Jodi Miller to give you a taste, "Remove the USA label so tourist can come back to HAWAII and spend their money there because we all know they go to guam only cause it's U.S. soil." This logic will extend to nearly everything about Guam, whether or not it might make sense. Government? Society? Economy? Health? Happiness? Prosperity? Fish? I've heard this logic extrapolated to cover just about everything, all told to me in harsh and nasty tones working to make me think similarly that anything and everything on Guam is possible only because of the United States.

Here, in this place of negativity or subjective destitution, we find a choice in our colonization. Do we Chamorros, or others on Guam accept this second class existence? Do we follow the Liberation Day lead and rejoice enthusiastically over the ways we have been forced into not just economic and political dependency, but emotional dependency on the United States as well? Or, do we reject this status and push for something more equitable? Is the first step on that path, not a demand directed to the United States, but one directed to ourselves, to each other on Guam?

Retuning one last time to this Jodi Miller's poorly reasoned and astronomically dense message, if we reject the United States and its overwhelming awesomeness, then we are stuck with less than nothing, we are stuck with coconuts.

Other than the obvious stupidity of Miller to use coconuts as the example of uselessness when they are the most incredibly useful and resourceful tree in the Pacific, I was reminded of a section from David Halon's incredible book Remaking Micronesia: Discourses over Development in a Pacific Territory. In his text Halon discusses the brazen stupidity of American planners and developers in Micronesia, in that they printed and released posters and flyers for Micronesians on how to "properly" and effectively use the coconut tree. Part of the general cultural knowledge of Micronesians, in particular those living on atolls, was several dozen uses for the different parts of i trongkon niyok. But this obvious fact meant nothing to those who were planning and intent on dictating Micronesia's future. For them, the coconut tree had no value until they are incorporated it, or whatever value it had was pitiful or meaningless, until they are articulated it in such a way that would bring out its "true" value, its true use.

When I say that in decolonization we must demand something from ourselves first, I am rejecting this notion that the United States is the only one who can create and understand value. Without movements towards everyday decolonization, Miller's argument that "Guam has nothing" and that "Guam is nothing" especially without the United States, remain the ideological foundation for what we can and cannot be done in Guam.

An act or an instance of everyday decolonization, is that revolution in meaning I mentioned at this post's beginning. When that moment happens, the niyok no longer is seen as "nothing," or a something which is so laughable as a "something," that it might as well as "nothing." Instead i niyok begins to signify something, else an important strength and becomes attached to a different history, both of these points conflicting with the monopoly that so many think America has on everything fantastic and positive in the universe.

The position that Miller is speaking from states that Guam has nothing without the United States and can do nothing but cease to exist without its benevolence. When confronted with crap like this, it is instructive to remember a quiet truth from Jesus Sablan Leon Guerrero's autobiography Jesus in Little America. A prominent figure in the history of postwar economic and political development in Guam, and therefore most commonly associated with the interests of the economic elite in Guam, who are insufferably pro-military and anti-government of Guam, in his text Leon Guerrero nonetheless points out at several points, what those interests refuse to admit to, namely that the United States has actually barely given us anything, and whatever successes we've had, belong to us and not them.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Decolonize Guam

Just giving everyone (ni' tumaitaitai este) a head's up that I started a new blog last week to support a petition that will be going out this week, which decries the latest military increases in Guam.

Here's the link:

Mungga en fanatge! It is a very important issue, especially in light of all the posturing recently between the US, Japan, North Korea and China. We are right in the middle of all the nuclear build ups and threats, both grave and empty. Sure, in the United States press we read about the dangers of North Korea and the missile test that they are planning, but what we should be more concerned about is the current clear leader of the nuclear and military arms race, and the one whose nuclear attack body count is by far the highest, the United States.

On The Daily Show recently, one of their fake correspondents discussed the World Cup and why Americans just don't seem to care about it. The telling response was that the World Cup is where nations go to war, its an arena like metaphor where nations and nationalisms do battle. The United States simply doesn't need a metaphor for war, it has war.

When polls everywhere else in the world indicate that the greatest threat to freedom and democracy is not terrorists, but the United States (hmmm, same thing I guess), they are not just jealous and angry over their yearnings for "American" freedom, they are absolutely right. But unlike those in the United States who have an eager cadre of pundits and historical gatekeepers who offer an ever expanding array drugs for inducing imperialist amnesia and imperialist nostalgia, those who receive the collateral damage for the defense of the narrow interests of the United States, it military and its corporate elite, have no such illusory comfort.

In his speech on the "Emerging Framework of World Power," Noam Chomsky quotes a number of people from around the world who respond to the 9/11 attacks, first by agreeing that it is a catastrophe, but second by noting dryly that we are already familiar with catastrophe. As a religious leader in Central America put it, the September 11th attack was like Armageddon, but we too have had our own Armageddon. The most recent Armageddon he was referring to was the United States funded one in the 1980's.

A common saying of manamko' who experienced the Tiempon Chapones or the World War II period on Guam, is that "ai mohon ti un susedi hafa i sinesedi-hu gi i gera..." or "no one should experience what we did."

I do not find my fidelity, my loyalty, my truth in the articulations or the versions of Chamorro history and Chamorro culture that say that war is our way, that find we can exist only within the structure of the US military and what it wants (a few days ago I posted something from someone who argued this exact point). What this logic does is ultimately reproduce the Chamorro as the eternal victim, the eternal dependent, whatever we get we should be grateful for, because we have nothing.

Instead I find fidelity in the Chamorro who does understand war. Who understands the meaning of this statement, from Nikita Kruschev sent to John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis:

We and you out not to pull on the ends of a rope which you have tied the knots of war. Because the more the two of us pull, the tighter the knot will be tied. And then it will be neccessary to cut that knot. And what that would mean is not for me to explain to you. I have participated in two wars and know that war ends when it has rolled through cities and villages everywhere sowing death and destruction. For such is the logic of war. If people do not display wisdom, they will clash like blind moles and then mutual annihilation will commence.

I find truth in the Chamorro who is confronted with two empires clashing and crashing against each other upon her land, in his family, through her very body, and sees the the truth implications of war and rejects the ambitions of both. Who doesn't accept the lies of the Japanese and their Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, but neither accepts the benevolence of the United States and its claims to war in the name of liberty and freedom. The Chamorro who doesn't just know war, but understands Empire, and sets about to make that truth, that no one should experience this, their truth, their life, their goal.


In an Honolulu Advertiser article about the military exercises that will be taking place in the Pacific this summer, intended to provide a show of strength to China and anyone else, the writer notes that the Navy is taking special percuations to protect life during their operations. According to the article, "the Navy for the first time applied for a federal permit to "harass" marine mammals when it uses mid-frequency sonar in the war games."

Since Chamorros and everyone else on Guam falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Interior (home to Indians, Animals and the Colonials), this sets a perfect precedent. Perhaps in the future when the United States intends to attack North Korea because of their role in 9/11 and connections to Al Qaeda, and it needs to sacrifice Guam and everyone on it for war, they will just have to apply for a Federal permit.

I guess this will be an improvement, since in 1941 it could just sacrifice Guam if it wanted to. We've come along way though, if now at least they have to apply for a permit to throw us into another one of their wars.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Chinatminagahet yan Minagahet

Taitai este siha na punto siha, sa' gof impottante nu i mina'gasin isla-ta. Si Sabina Flores Perez tumuge' este, ya malate' gui' sa' ha komprende yan ha ekslipakyi hit sa' hafa na fihu taibali yan ti guailayi i fina'privatization i utilities giya Guahan. I CCU yan i Chamber of Commerce ya-niha fuma'privatize todu giya Guahan sa' ayugue i minalagon i Militat United States. Yanggen un atan i estorian privatization gi todu i tano' siha, gof baba para i meggaina na taotao (pi'ot i ti manriku na taotao siha), lao sen maolek para i didide' na taotao gi i tinakhilo'. Ya-niha i estrukturan i militat este ginefsaga' na "gap" ginnen i manakpappa' yan i manakhilo', sa' manmapepedde' i lugat siha i eriyan i bases. Put hemplo, este na fact mampos impottante na matungo' put i manmamaila na Marines siha, lao taya' sumasangan. Kao un tungo' na achokka' i mas militat gi todu Hapon gaige giya Okinawa, Guiya i mas popble na lugat giya Hapon? Kada nai hu taitai este, hinasso-ku, mangge' i magic i salapen i Militat ni' todu i tiempo ma promemeti? Lao para i militat, este maolek ha', in fact mas ki maolek ha', sa' i militat i mas metgot gi ayu na lugat, ya taya' mas sina chumanda.

Giya Guahan, este na estoria put "dependency," hunggan i United States todu tiempo pau ayuda i taotao Guahan, lao ti para u na'metgot Guahan para mo'na, mismo para u na'hihot todu tiempo Guahan para mo'na. Hihot gi dependency.

The Myths and Truths of the Proposed GWA Performance Management Contract (PMC)

Myth: Privatization through the PMC will save the ratepayers money/
1. The PMC will increase the rates due to the “hidden” fees. Moreover, the PMC and the Revenue Bond legislation (Bill 220) is structured to allow the private manager to recover GRT and incurred and potential costs for operation and maintenance and capital improvements, that will be passed on to the ratepayers.
2. The PMC will divert interest bearing dollars from required capital improvement projects to pay high-priced management consultants. Thus, we will be increasing the debt to burden our children (30 year loan), because we need to borrow more money for the upgrades not covered by the first round of borrowing.

Myth: The PMC is necessary to fix the utility.
1. GWA has made significant improvements without privatization. In just three years, GWA has come under compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Ugum treatment plant and many of GWA’s stations are operating at 100%. GWA has undergone major cost-cutting measures by reducing the workforce from 400 to 235 employees, and it has become more financially sound, which allowed the agency to float $103 million worth of revenue bonds.
2. With the influx of $103 million, projects, that were once stalled can and are now proceeding. Construction projects to upgrade the Northern and Agana outfalls are already in place. Distribution lines are being replaced to reduce the water loss, originally pegged close to 50%.
3. There is nothing that the PMC is supposed to do that the utility cannot do either by hiring more qualified personnel or by continuing to reform the system in place. Moreover, the PMC will creates redundancy at the management level, and does not address the shortage of critical position, DRCs, which serve as on-site managers.
4. The PMC does not also address the design flaws of the system and is not a panacea.

Myth: The PMC protects the public interest by holding the company accountable.
1. According to IRS Proc. 97-13, the company can have built-in increases of various fees that is not linked to the output or efficiency of a facility, such as the Consumer Price Index and other external standards.
2. The company can charge an additional 20% to protect against catastrophic loss.

Myth: The PMC was promoted with the public interest in mind.
Truth: The CCU, who is bent on privatizing GWA, upon selling tax-exempt revenue bonds, became limited in its privatization options i.e. management contract privatization, under IRS Proc. 97-13.

Myth: The PMC will work for GWA, as it has had for GPA.
1. GPA has several PMC contracts with different power producers. Hence, it can choose the cheapest energy producer, while saving the most expensive producer for back-up purposes. GWA has only one distributions system from source to the use, hence, consumers are stuck with one provider.
2. Water is vital to life, unlike power (for the most part). Disconnections due to delinquencies can have greater public health impacts.

Myth: Our water rights are ensured under a performance contract, in which companies have targets.
1. Companies are less transparent than government, because they can be exempty from the Sunshine Law.
2. Due to the complexity of the system, a higher risk exists for companies to subcontract out function in order to meet targets. The potential ensuing array of contracts, which are not guarantees can be counterproductive in ensuring the efficiency of the system, and it can create barriers to ensuring the quality and service to the people.
3. The higher cost of water will burden those economically challenged and potentially limit their access to water.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Bush's Bold New Plan for Iraq

Published on Friday, June 16, 2006 by the Los Angeles Times
A Man, a Plan … Baghdad
The president's secret trip to Iraq yielded a new strategy:
Let the Iraqis figure it out
by Rosa Brooks

FINALLY! The Bush administration has a plan for Iraq.

A new one, I mean. The old plan — accept flowers from grateful Iraqis, locate WMD, create democracy and the rule of law, depart in five months — had definite appeal, but it didn't work out.

The new plan is that we're going to get the Iraqis to come up with a plan.

That's why the president paid a surprise visit to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki this week. Perhaps sensing that Maliki's response to a cheery "See you shortly!" from George W. Bush might be something along the lines of "Not if I see you first," Bush dropped in on Baghdad's Green Zone unannounced, giving Maliki only five minutes' notice of his arrival.

That's leadership for you. As the president explained: "One reason I went to Iraq yesterday, no matter how secretive the trip was, was to get a firsthand feel for how those people are thinking over there…. I understand leadership…. You've got to have a plan. And that's what I found in Iraq."

In fact, he found that the Iraqis have a "plan to succeed," "a robust plan" and "a plan to improve security." They also have a "plan to bring militias and other armed groups under government control," a plan a "plan … to improve the Iraqi judicial system," "a plan to revitalize the Iraqi economy" and "plans on electricity and energy."

The president may have mentioned other nifty Iraqi plans too, but after I got past 20 references to the word "plan" in the transcript of Bush's post-Baghdad news conference, I lost count. (The president also managed to use some form of the word "success" 33 times.)

But let's not get distracted here. The bottom line, for you doubters, is that Bush really does have a new Iraq plan. It consists of making it "clear to the government there that … it's really up to them to put a plan in place and execute it." Now is that a plan or what?

The Republican congressional leadership also has an Iraq plan. In a confidential (oops!) memo, for instance, House Majority Leader John A. Boehner instructed Republicans planning for this week's floor debates on Iraq to just … change the subject.

It's "imperative" to shift the focus to "the dangers we face as a nation in a post-9/11 world," Boehner's memo advised. And when in doubt, Republicans can always fall back on vilifying the Democrats. "We must conduct this debate as a portrait of contrasts," Boehner urged, painting "a clear choice between a Republican Party aware of the stakes and dedicated to victory, versus a Democrat Party without a coherent national security policy that sheepishly dismisses the challenges America faces in a post-9/11 world."

The House Republican plan to change the subject and blame the Democrats is almost as good as the Bush plan to get the Iraqis to come up with an Iraq plan. After all, Sun Tzu famously said that "all warfare is deception," and "divert and distract" is a tried and true method of warfare.

They don't call the Republicans the national security party for nothing!

What's that? Diversion and distraction tactics are supposed to be used against the enemy on the battlefield, not against the American electorate? Hey, whose side are you on here?

About those Democrats. Naturally, they have a few Iraq plans too. And though the various Democratic plans differ in their details, they're all built on the common-sense recognition that the Iraq war has been a disaster for Iraqis and for U.S. efforts to combat global terrorism; that our ongoing, open-ended presence in Iraq is part of the problem; that we need to begin a phased drawdown of troops — now.

The funny thing is, if Bush had spent more than a few hours in Baghdad on Tuesday, he might have realized that the Democratic plans for Iraq are remarkably in sync with Iraqi aspirations for Iraq.

For instance, Maliki has said he wants Iraqis to take over security from the U.S.-led coalition in 18 months, and a recent poll found that 87% of ordinary Iraqis want a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. If Bush were really serious about helping the Iraqis determine their own destiny, he would do what his critics have long urged: Develop a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Now, that would be a plan.

Rosa Brooks is a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. Her experience includes service as a senior advisor at the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, as a consultant for the Open Society Institute and Human Rights Watch, as a board member of Amnesty International USA, and as a lecturer at Yale Law School. Brooks has authored articles on international law, human rights, and the law of war, and her book, "Can Might Make Rights? The Rule of Law After Military Interventions" (with Jane Stromseth and David Wippman), will be published in 2006 by Cambridge University Press.

© 2006 The Los Angeles Times


Friday, June 16, 2006

Warmly Welcoming the War on Terror into Our Hospitable Homes

Ever since the Famoksaiyan meeting in April I've been living in a beautiful reality bubble. A sort of insulated sphere where my ideas are not radical, not maladjusted, not insane, but rather commonsense, important and vital to thinking about the place of Chamorros past, present or future. Famoksaiyan has in a way functioned for me the way San Francisco has functioned for the American left over the past few years, a sort of fannuhong'an, a haven where commonsense is structured slightly different, where people seem to be thinking at least a little bit more than usual about human life, human freedom, dignity and justice.

As I prepare to go back to Guam this summer, I am also preparing for this bubble to be rudely broken. Of course, what I believe and what I may think about Guam's past, present or future may be shared by many people on Guam, but the gap between what we feel and know and what we can say is huge.

In my master's thesis in Micronesia Studies for example, I did more than 100 interviews with Chamorros who lived through World War II. Nearly all these interviews began with your typical war narrative. Where I was when the war broke out, what our family did, broad strokes about how we survived, not a day to day account, but broad generalizations. Finally, the bombing begins, and days later liberation happens.

I don't want to discount these stories, but I do want to point out that because of the prompting that takes place each year around particular celebrations (most notably July 21st) these stories tend take the same truncated feeling. They come out in a very particular form, some things talked about, other things absolutely not talked about.

After doing a number of interviews, I began to sense that people were actively self editing in their storytelling. That they were actively working to omit certain feelings, certain events from their narratives of the war. I can understand this of course, because the war was painfual, todu mamadesi, but this self-editing wasn't just related to the harshness of war, it was most closely linked to how these manamko' connected themselves to the United States, not through a public connection, but at the personal level. When I say this, I'm discussing how difficult they found it at times to narrate a relationship to the United States when the landscape of memory and history they found themselves in didn't offer an easy structure of feeling to operate through. What I mean by this is, the breaks in their narrative appeared when the public history of the war didn't cover or didn't connect to their personal memories or experiences, or where the common phrases such as "liberator" or "patriotism" didn't fulfill the scope of emotion in the memory that demanded to be told.

Chamorros that were telling me their war stories felt compelled when this conflict arose between what is publicly common or acceptable for speaking about the war and the United States and what they felt far beneath all of that, to edit themselves out of their own story. It created a far different portrait of anguish to see this take place, where un bihu pat biha stands on the edge of their memory, and feel prodded forward by something from their past that demands to be told, yet nothing waits before them to catch this memory, this feeling, this opinion. All that seems to stretch before them is a desolate empty gap, which stuffed full with overwhelmingly entrenched notions of "liberation" and "patriotism" can only appear empty and frightening to someone who is clinging to a memory or to a feeling of anger or loathing against the thing (United States) that these feelings of liberation and patriotism feed into. It is clear to me that after the war, so many Chamorros feeling that their less than patriotic thoughts of the United States were unwelcome or impossible given the new patriotic public sphere that is formed, silenced themselves, and continue to silence themselves today.

Some of my interviews lasted for several hours, trying to find a way around/behind this resistance, trying to get at this kernel of discontent which was so present gi i kuentos-mami because of the war it was always being talked around.

The moment that I found the most resistance, the most discomfort over speaking, over putting themselves into their own narrative, was when the war begins, when as one amko' put it, "Uncle Sam lies to us and abandons us." At this point, the loving rhetoric for the United States that sprouts and blossoms publicly after the war tends to crash brutally with the actions of the United States prior to World War II, when it refuses to defend Guam, refuses to let Chamorros leave the island, and refuses to even tell Chamorros the truth about American geopolitical machinations that soon led to war.

My thesis committee for my Micronesian Studies' Master's Thesis didn't quite get why I had an entire chapter on this moment, when the United States abandons Guam. But it was because of the crucial role it played in creating this forces of self editing, meaning the way Chamorros seeing this contradiction between the stories of the pre-war indifferent colonial United States and post-war Uncle Sam who came back as a liberator stories, are forced to basically chose the United States as a liberator if they are to speak publicly without being shouted down or disavowed, thus leaving any discontent their private burden to bear and never speak of.

Over the hundreds of hours that I interviewed manamko' I was given the honor and responsibility of sharing these burdens that they had kept with them for so long. The anger they felt towards the United States, for taking lands, for their racism, for their abandoning Guam, for their destroying Guam, it was a picture far different then what we tell ourselves daily or what we are given to consume each July 21st or December 8th.

But after nearly each of these interviews, the discontent that I had found was once again reburied. So many people I interviewed asked to be made anonymous once the interview was over, or asked that I not use their story at all. It was interesting, most did not even feel the need to explain why they should ask this, they knew that I would understand. In some way we all understand, that's why we don't speak of these things.

It is along this rift, this gap between what people feel and think privately and what people feel they can say publicly that I constantly find work to be done in building a better future for Guam and for Chamorros. For those familiar with hegemony, this should be a familiar tale, the interests of some become the interests of a wider group, through particular phrasings of articulations of culture or value. For example, in the United States, general polls on issues of social and governmental policies tend to prove Michael Moore right when he states that Americans tend to be more liberal. Up until 9/11 at least, when Americans were asked about whether they felt more money should go to social spending or military spending, the majority always stated that more should go for social spending. In fact many felt that taxes could even be raised to improve social spending.

Government policies however move in an entirely different direction and tend to follow completely differente principles. This was most obvious under Reagan who was able to push through programs which were according to polls incredibly unpopular, meaning Americans when just asked generally about them, said they would oppose them. How was he able to do so then? Rhetorically, Reagan was able to make the particular interests of the military industry and the richest class of Americans seem like they were the interests of everyone else. We find a very clear example of this in Bush II's administration, where in a "populist" furor, he has vowed to get rid of the "death tax." A number of Americans see themselves as the potential victims of this tax, despite the fact that the tax clearly affects only the richest Americans. To rescind this tax would have little to no affect on the savings of the majority of Americans, but for those who have taxable estates between $10 - 20 million in value, they will save more than $3 million.

Returning to the gap between what people "really think or feel" and what can be said, it is not nearly enough for me to just found out these things, to learn them and then to publish them. The space must be made for them to be spoken. A revolution in values, a radical shift in commonsense must happen, so that these things can be understood, can be heard as something other than "noise."

At the Famoksaiyan follow-up meeting in May at Oakland and Berkeley, we decided that although we aren't an official organization yet, the massive increase of Marines is something that nonetheless must be addressed. The momentum and lack of public critique over it is almost appalling.

In the next fear years 8,000 Marines and 9,000 dependents and Si Yu'us tumungo' hafa otro will be coming into Guam, and can anyone who is actually thinking about this increase meet it with the near orgasmic joy that so many elected officials and patriotic Chamorros are doing so?

The pathetic public watchdog, limp fourth estate status of The Pacific Daily News is being proven over and over as the lack of leadership by the Government on this increase is being eagerily parroted by the paper. If anything, The Pacific Daily News will occassionally seem to berate the Government for not being sufficiently useless enough in not doing anything but cheer for this increase.

I came across the commonsense that so frightens me and waits to welcome me back on Guam on another Chamorro blog, Auntie Charo's soapbox, Lao adahi yanggen pon bisita gui', sa' i "colonzing commonsense" gof atdet, mampos atdet guihi, mas ki malamana.

I hate to reproduce her words her since they are pretty vapid yan taibali, heavily invested in keeping everything the same. For that reason though they are very helpful in getting at how the colonization continues, how it is protected, rearticulated and defended in daily life, through everyday speech, emails, political rhetoric and media representations. I've numbered a few of my numerous objections to this post and you can read more on them below.

I'm embarrassed that I live on an island that can't handle hundreds of thousands of dollars that Uncle Sam gives this government (1) and we still keep our hands out asking for more and groups such as yours continue to yap at the moon whining about the land that you have no idea how to use. And if you don't know what I mean....look around, How much land do you see being used to grow produce?

Lady, you should be thanking your lucky stars Guam's in a strategic location...cuz the only thing we've got going for us is the very fragile tourist industry and we've got that by pure luck! (2)

I suggest you plant some plumeria trees so that you can make some leis for them Marines when they get here.....that's what'll save this island!

In the meantime, I'd choose my friends more carefully. The activists from Korea, the PI and Japan? They're a radical bunch.......sure wouldn't want to be known as one of the birds that flew with that flock! (3)

Note to the U.S. Forces....there aren't many activists and they don't speak for the majority of us. We welcome you and look forward to making you a part of our world. Most of us are hospitable and warm, honest! (4)

(1). Isn't this an interesting slip? I'm pretty sure she meant to say millions of dollars, since if Uncle Sam only gives us "hundreds of thousand" of dollars it actually isn't that much of our economy, and her whole argument is pretty meaningless because it touches the history of intentional American underdevelopment in Guam and Micronesia which you can find discussed in texts such as Remaking Micronesia by David Hanlon, The Colonies in Question Surina Khan or The Secret Guam Study. Of course, you can find it in these scattered places, but never the places where it needs to be discussed the most, Guam and Washington D.C.

(2). Why is this thinking useless for Guam and its future? Becuase, as I've written many times before, she refuses to recognize a possibility for Guam as being anything other than something attached to or dependent upon the United States. She reiterates the rhetoric of former Governor of Guam Joseph Flores, who in his inagural speech made the same point, which can be paraphrased as, "all that matters is that we matter to the United States." Colonization at its most tragic form is the position where the colonized understands themselves brutally fortunate that their colonizer wants them, that they have something that makes them important to the colonizer. This thinking will ultimately lead to Guam's destruction whether by the bombs stored there by the United States, or as in the days prior to its entrance into World War II, by aggressive posturing that pushes the island into war. Why? Because according to this logic, we have no needs other than what we can find through the United States, what they are willing to recognize and give us. Its hegemony in such a horrifically distilled form, since we don't think of ourselves as having any needs or interests independent of the United States, whatever they want from us, or want for us, we should just be grateful for it!

(3). The everyday mission of The Pacific Daily News and the desire of the United States military is accomplished as Guam's relationship to anywhere else in the world must first be filtered through its colonial status to the United States. The relationships and political/economic/social connections that we make to other nations must always be secondary to the American hand that feeds us just as often as it slaps us in the face.

(4). This statement is the reason why I wrote this post in the first place. Here we see the gap between public common sense and multiplicity of feelings and logics that people have. Of that multitude of opinions and feelings on this issue, this singular sentence, that we welcome and want you, makes it out to be the thing that we must all match up and articulate ourselves in step with or in conflict with. Are the majority of Chamorros and others on Guam really ready for this increase? Perhaps they might say they are, or it might seem like they are simply because commonsense says we are all just fine with it. The military history of Guam and our familiarity with it comes full force here in making this seem just fine and dandy. In a radio interview in Australia Robert Underwood said that the majority of people on Guam are fine with this move, since we've seen the island just as militarized before, like when he was growing up. Therefore commonsense would seem to indicate nothing is really happening, when Auntie Charo ludicrously states, that we on Guam are "look[ing] forward to making you a part of our world." Its an easy ass statement because you already are a part of our world right! You are the Marines that saved us in World War II, you are the military whose largesse we live off of. You are the military that gives us democracy, education, politics, everything good in life!

But this simple shortcircuit of weight and potential impact is too too easy when you have the Governor of Guam speaking of the Marines as if he is a love sick teen, and the military are Farah Fawcett-like posters of them on the walls of his room (do I see a billion dollar nipple peaking through the 10 billion dollar bathing suit?). Or the main critique that we get from the media is that we (Guam) suck at utilities and infrastructure so bad that we may not be able to handle as much military as we want to have.

What is not being discussed enough is how dramatic this increase is. Almost 20,000 more people on Guam, and not just any people, but military people, currently fighting the War on Terror. In 2001 people spoke out against the possibility of "enemy combatants" being incarcerated on Guam, because they feared the War on Terror being brought to Guam. With these Marines we find the exact same possibility, the War on Terror bringing brought into Guam, this time split into a number of ways. Yes the Marines will make us more of a target. Yes they will have an incredibly negative effect on everything from social fabric, politics, to environment. Yes, they will subordinate us even more to the interests of the military and hitch our fate to whatever militaristic designs and drives for global hegemony the United States military has.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Farmers in South Central Evicted

From the Los Angeles Times
L.A. Garden Shut Down; 40 Arrested
Protesters are forcibly taken from the site that had flourished for years in a poor area. The owner refuses the city's $16-million offer.

By Hector Becerra, Megan Garvey and Steve Hymon
Times Staff Writers

June 14, 2006
Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies shut down a 14-acre urban farm in South Los Angeles on Tuesday, arresting more than 40 protesters as they cleared a plot of land that has been the source of discord and controversy in the community for two decades.

The evictions occurred during a frenzied morning both at the farm and at City Hall. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other city leaders continued negotiations with the landowner even as deputies used bolt cutters and power tools to remove protesters who had attached themselves to concrete-filled drums and mature trees.

In an afternoon news conference, Villaraigosa said owner Ralph Horowitz turned down $16 million an offer that met the asking price. Talks broke down, the mayor said, in large part because Horowitz wanted the farmers evicted.

"Today's events are disheartening and unnecessary," Villaraigosa said. "After years of disagreement over this property, we had all hoped for a better outcome."

For his part, Horowitz said he had no intention of rewarding a group that included people he said had made anti-Semitic remarks about him even as they squatted rent-free on land that was costing him more than $25,000 a month to maintain in addition to massive legal bills fighting their efforts to remain."If the farmers got a donation and said, 'We got $50 million, would you sell it to us?' I would say no. Not a chance," Horowitz said. "It's not about the money."

It took authorities nearly eight hours to forcibly clear protesters from the farm. Officials bulldozed vegetable gardens and chopped down an avocado tree to clear the way for a towering Fire Department ladder truck so the final four protesters could be plucked from a massive walnut tree. Among those aloft: protest organizer John Quigley and actress Daryl Hannah, who waved and smiled as supporters cheered her on from across the street.

The farm site and the story of how after the 1992 riots residents turned the vacant land into patches of fruits and vegetables has become a symbol of hope and self-sufficiency to many, attracting support from celebrities including Martin Sheen, Danny Glover and Laura Dern.

For more then a week, those camping at the site had waited for the end, running evacuation drills, attending seminars on their legal rights and orchestrating ways to impede any eviction effort.

The evictions began before the sun was even up. A warning cry went out shortly before 5 a.m. Quigley, serving as a lookout, spotted motorcycle police and a phalanx of cruisers approaching the corner of Long Beach Avenue and 41st Street and shouted from his perch.

"I heard John yell: Get up. This is real! Not a joke," Hannah said in an interview before deputies took her from the tree.

As they had practiced, protesters took their positions some chained to the concrete drums, others locking arms though pre-erected pipes. Hannah scrambled to her place on a tree branch near Quigley.

In just minutes, sheriff's deputies cut through the chain-link fence perimeter and ordered protesters out. Soon the perimeter was heavily fortified. About 250 LAPD officers secured the area, many in riot gear, as about 65 sheriff's deputies evacuated the farm. Many streets leading into the area were blocked, snarling traffic in one of the area's busiest commercial districts.

Seferino Hurtado, 70, an immigrant from the Mexican state of Michoacan, said he was not shocked that the farm was finally taken. He had tilled at the garden about 10 years.

"We thought it could happen one day. But I'm disappointed," Hurtado said. "I'm older now, and when I spend time there it serves as therapy."

The land, along an industrial corridor in an economically struggling area, has long been a source of headaches for city officials. It was seized from Horowitz in 1986 after the city used eminent domain in an effort to build an incinerator at the site. Community activists defeated that proposal, and residents turned the land into garden plots where low-income families could grow their own produce.

Horowitz, however, sued to get the land back, eventually winning. Three years ago, he paid $5 million close to the price he'd gotten for the land 17 years earlier to reacquire the parcels.

But the farmers refused to leave.

As the fight continued and got increasingly contentious, some longtime supporters were alienated and dozens of longtime farming families left their plots.

Printouts of a Spanish-language Internet site that accused Horowitz of being part of a "Jewish Mafia" controlling Los Angeles were circulated at City Hall.

Hard feelings continued at Tuesday's protests.

Some protesters screamed obscenities at law enforcement officers in English, Spanish and even indigenous dialects. At one point, Mark Williams, whose mother, Juanita Tate, was one of the leaders of the group that blocked the incinerator project, was shouted down by farm leaders when he tried to speak to reporters.

"You let this happen! You let this happen, and now you're blaming the sheriff. You're a sick woman," Williams yelled at farm organizer Rufina Juarez.

A Juarez supporter splashed water in Williams face as he spoke.

Williams said he blamed farm organizers for refusing outside help in their efforts to preserve the land.

Another battle was going on at City Hall, where a visibly annoyed Villaraigosa said a last-ditch effort to preserve the land fell apart when Horowitz said he thought it was worth an additional $2 million to $3 million. The rejected $16-million deal included a $10-million promise from the Annenberg Foundation, which sent a letter to Horowitz on June 6 affirming its intention to donate the funds.

"We met his price. He set the bar very high. Now the bar has been moved once again," said the mayor, who supported keeping the land as a public garden.

Horowitz said his 11:30 a.m. call with the mayor with evacuations in full swing wasn't very amicable.He said he felt that Villaraigosa was trying to blame him for the failure to save the garden.

As far as he was concerned, Horowitz said, the departure of many families from the farm had left only "the activists, the movie stars, the anarchists and the hard-nosed group the ones I disliked from the beginning.

"Until recently, he said, the group had insisted that he turn over the land without compensation."

Do you think they offered a nickel for rent? One nickel for insurance, one nickel for anything?" Horowitz asked. "No. They were demanding they be given the land for free. Fourteen years was not enough."

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who represents the area, said Tuesday that she still favors using some of the property to create jobs a proposal she said reflects the desire of many area residents.

Horowitz said Tuesday that he was not sure he would sell the land. There has been talk in the past of building warehouses on part of it.

Some still held out hope that the property could be preserved as a public garden despite Tuesday's drama. Lawyers for the farm's leaders are due in court next month in an effort to overturn the resale of the land to Horowitz, but the argument hinges on proving that the city wasted resources in selling the property a difficult proposition.

Villaraigosa said the city would relocate the farmers to a 7.8-acre site at 111th Street and Avalon Boulevard that has the capacity to hold 200 garden plots.

Already, 30 farmers have been allowed to begin cultivating that land. The city has also identified 100 other plots around the city for community gardens, the mayor said.

On the garden's outskirts, as protesters gathered for a Tuesday evening vigil, one man took a more practical tack. Jason Keehn, 45, reached through the chain links of the fence and plucked mint, chamomile and cactuses from the earth to replant at his North Hollywood home."

It's a symbol of the spirit of this place," said Keehn, who arrived at the site about noon after hearing news reports of the evictions. "This is a model of what people should be doing everywhere. Why let it all get killed? Why not keep some remnants of it somewhere."


Times staff writers Lynn Doan and Duke Helfand contributed to this report.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Sorry I haven't been posting much lately. I'm defending my master's thesis in Ethnic Studies tomorrow. Here's the notice.


Ethnic Studies Department, University of California, San Diego

Somewhat proudly presents


"Everything you Wanted to Know About Guam But Were Afraid to Ask Zizek."

Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Sumasaga giya San Diego
Taotao Chumalamlam
Familian Kabesa yan Bittot

12:30 pm
June 12, 2006
Room 103
Social Sciences Building
University of California, San Diego

Please email for more information


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Phantasy Star Online Redux

I read in Electronic Gaming Monthly this week that a new version of Phantasy Star Online will be coming out soon titled Phantasy Star Universe.

For those of you know I was once a huge video game geek, lao strictly Nintendo, puru ha' fanboy with a iron tight allegaince to the house that Miyamoto built. NES, Super Nintendo, 64, Gamecube, Game Boys and most recently the DS, all of them have helped raise me and either enhanced or neutralized large tracts of brain cells. Since I started my current graduate program, Ethnic Studies at UCSD, I've had to swear off most video games in my life, to ensure that I actually do my readings instead of losing a couple days to an RPG. The only game that I'm currently devoted to is Killer 7 for the Gamecube, which for those interested plays like a dissociative disorder/schizophrenia. I will post something about it at some point.

My first and only forray in online gaming came through Phantasy Star Online on the Gamecube. I had played it offline with friends in the split screen mode, but given that i che'lu-hu Si Kuri was stateside at the time while I was on Guam, I used this diasporic distance as an excuse to try out gaming online.

Playing PSO online was a bit crunchy. Alot of times the timing would be off and enemy's smacked for a helluva lot more online. Playing online you'd also encounter a lot of professional punk asses. People who run off ahead of the group, or don't understand the concept of team, and get themselves killed and blame everyone else in the group for it.

There was fun involved of course. Meeting people from around the world. Going into European dominated servers and bashing Emporer Bush with people from France and the UK. Playing with players who didn't speak English, so I would speak Chamorro to them instead of English. Trading for rare items, that would take me 150 hours to find on my own.

One of the most fun parts about playing online though was really a simple stupid pleasure. PSO came with a feature where you could slowly type out messages to people. If you had a keyboard controller this was alot easier. But the majority of the time, you would communicate through preset messages assigned to hotkeys on your controller. Some of these were battle related, such as "HELP!" Others were commerce related, "Looking for ASUKA" For others they were antagonistic "EYE WILL KICK NEONES A$$"

I enjoyed finding interesting quotes to fill my hotkeys. After reading about the new Phantasy Star Universe game that's coming out I sifted through my notes to find some of the sinangan I used to use. Estague un tinamtam, they are a mix of stuff I made up and stuff I borrowed from famous people or martial arts movies:

"Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy!"
F. Scott Fitzgerald

"An injured friend is the bitterest of foes."
Thomas Jefferson

"The nearer the dawn, the darker the night."
Henry Longfellow

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
Eleanor Roosevelt

"I have access to good weapons, the way Christians had access to the lions."
Judge Earl Johnson Jr.

"A Hungry man is not a free man."
Adlai Stevenson

"Another massive intelligence failure."
Taken from a Doonesbury article about the War in Afghanistan

"True freedom is to share, all the chains our brothers wear."
James Russell Lowell

"Fear always springs from ignorance."
Ralph Emersson

'If there is no struggle, there is no progress."
Frederick Douglas

"PSO Diplomacy, easy on the brain, hell on the feet."

"To think , is to differ."
Clarence Darrow

"In matters of the heart, even the most consummate warrior, can be little more than a consummate idiot."

"Happiness is a warm gun."
Beatles lyric

"HELP! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!"

"Hmm. Anyone seen my spleen?"

"Time for my big fat greek a$$ whoopin."

"Enemies of reality will be ignored!"

"Strong and subtle will ride out the storm."

"Real skill comes without effort."
Taken from the English dub of Iron Monkey.

"Only when you let go, can you posess what is truly real."

"The innocent blood spilled must be avenged!"

"I have always let my actions speak for me."

"A Buddhist Monk Feels no pain."

Friday, June 09, 2006

Citizens 1, Corporations 0

Published on Wednesday, June 7 2006 by The Nation
Citizens 1, Corporations 0
by John Nichols

In states across the country Tuesday, primary elections named candidates for Congress, governorships and other important offices. But the most interesting, and perhaps significant, election did not involve an individual. Rather, it was about an idea.

In Northern California's Humboldt County, voters decided by a 55-45 margin that corporations do not have the same rights -- based on the supposed "personhood" of the combines -- as citizens when it comes to participating in local political campaigns.

Until Tuesday in Humboldt County, corporations were able to claim citizenship rights, as they do elsewhere in the United States. In the context of electoral politics, corporations that were not headquartered in the county took advantage of the same rules that allowed individuals who are not residents to make campaign contributions in order to influence local campaigns.

But, with the passage of Measure T, an initiative referendum that was placed on the ballot by Humboldt County residents, voters have signaled that they want out-of-town corporations barred from meddling in local elections.

Measure T was backed by the county's Green and Democratic parties, as well as labor unions and many elected officials in a region where politics are so progressive that the Greens -- whose 2004 presidential candidate, David Cobb, is a resident of the county and a active promotor of the challenges to corporate power mounted by Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County and the national Liberty Tree Foundation -- are a major force in local politics.

The "Yes on T" campaign was rooted in regard for the American experiment, from its slogan "Vote Yes for Local Control of Our Democracy," to the references to Tuesday's election as a modern-day "Boston Tea Party," to the quote from Thomas Jefferson that was highlighted in election materials: "I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

Just as Jefferson and his contemporaries were angered by dominance of the affairs of the American colonies by King George III and the British business combines that exploited the natural and human resources of what would become the United States, so Humboldt County residents were angered by the attempts of outside corporate interests to dominate local politics.

Wal-Mart spent $250,000 on a 1999 attempt to change the city of Eureka's zoning laws in order to clear the way for one of the retail giant's big-box stores. Five years later, MAXXAM Inc., a forest products company, got upset with the efforts of local District Attorney Paul Gallegos to enforce regulations on its operations in the county and spent $300,000 on a faked-up campaign to recall him from office. The same year saw outside corporations that were interested in exploiting the county's abundant natural resources meddling in its local election campaigns.

That was the last straw for a lot of Humboldt County residents. They organized to put Measure T on the ballot, declaring, "Our Founding Fathers never intended corporations to have this kind of power."

"Every person has the right to sign petition recalls and to contribute money to political campaigns. Measure T will not affect these individual rights," explained Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, a resident of Eureka who was one of the leaders of the Yes on T campaign. "But individuals hold these political rights by virtue of their status as humans in a democracy and, simply put, a corporation is not a person."

Despite the logic of that assessment, the electoral battle in Humboldt County was a heated one, and Measure T's passage will not end it. Now, the corporate campaign will move to the courts. So this is only a start. But what a monumental start it is!

Sopoci-Belknap was absolutely right when she portrayed Tuesday's vote as nothing less than the beginning of "the process of reclaiming our county" from the "tyranny" of concentrated economic and political power.

Surely Tom Paine would have agreed. It was Paine who suggested to the revolutionaries of 1776, as they dared challenge the most powerful empire on the planet, that: "We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation similar to the present hath not happened since the days of Noah until now. The birthday of the new world is at hand, and a race of men, perhaps as numerous as all Europe contains, are to receive their portion of freedom from the events of a few months."

It is time to renew the American experiment, to rebuild its battered institutions on the solid foundation of empowered citizens and regulated corporations. Let us hope that the spirit of '76 prevailed Tuesday in Humboldt County will spread until that day when American democracy is guided by the will of the people rather than the campaign contribution checks of the corporations that are the rampaging "empires" of our age.

John Nichols, The Nation's Washington correspondent, has covered progressive politics and activism in the United States and abroad for more than a decade. He is currently the editor of the editorial page of Madison, Wisconsin's Capital Times. Nichols is the author of two books: It's the Media, Stupid and Jews for Buchanan.

© 2006 The Nation

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Banning Gay Marriage is Apparently a Civil Right

My brain almost caved in when I read this, it shows the type of meaning manipulation that Republicans wish they could get away with and unfortunately do tend to get away with.

Bush press secretary says gay marriage amendment civil rights measure;
Stumbles when asked to define civil rights
Published: Monday June 5, 2006

At the White House press briefing today, Bush press secretary Tony Snow signaled that Bush considers an amendment barring same-sex marriage a "civil rights" matter, then stumbled when asked to define civil rights, RAW STORY has found.

A video of the comments can be found here.

Relevant transcript from White House press briefing follows, followed by full transcript relating to all questions about the Federal Marriage Amendment.
WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY TONY SNOW: Whether it passes or not, as you know, Terry, there have been a number of cases where civil rights matters have risen on a number of occasions, and they've been brought up for repeated consideration by the United States Senate and other legislative bodies...

Q You mentioned civil rights. Are you comparing this to various civil rights measures which have come to the Congress over the years?

MR. SNOW: Not -- well, these -- it --

Q Is this a civil right?

MR. SNOW: Marriage? It actually -- what we're really talking about here is an attempt to try to maintain the traditional meaning of an institution that has maintained one meeting for -- meaning for a period of centuries. And furthermore --

Q And you would equate that with civil rights?

MR. SNOW: No, I'm just saying that I think -- well, I don't know. How do you define civil rights?

Q It's not up to me. Up to you.

MR. SNOW: Okay. Well, no, it's your question. So I -- if I --

Q (Chuckles.)

MR. SNOW: I need to get a more precise definition.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Empty and Untalented Mr. Camacho

Since the political season is starting in Guam, I thought I'd write about politics for the next few days. Last week the Camacho/Cruz camp started advertising on website and so I've been seriously thinking about the upcoming election and how we can see so many of the things wrong with Guam at play. I figure today I'll give a background on stuff and then later write specifically about the campaign that Camacho ran in 2002 and why he has a good shot at winning again, much to the detriment of most that is good and sacred on Guam.

Few people know this but when I was in the Micronesian Studies Program at the University of Guam in 2002 and searching for a thesis topic, my first inclination was to do research on the 2002 gubernatorial campaigns. I had attended more than a dozen fundraisers for Underwood with family members and friends, partially because he is my relative, but also because I felt that he was the best candidate for the job. I have never hid my love for the work that Robert Underwood has done over the past few decades. Hunggan, I'm not that estatic about how he has shifted his views since working in Washington D.C., but then I'm sure if I spent 10 years living and working in the belly of the colonial beast, without even a vote to pretend I had some power, I'm sure I would shift too.

I had high hopes for Underwood/Ada even though it was obvious that he was being outspent and outsold by the mind-numbingly stupid campaign of Felix and Kaleo. When Underwood lost, I realized that a big shift had taken place in politics on Guam. Of course when any shift takes place, there are signs indicating its rumblings, but its always in relation to something in your immediate world that makes the shift earthshattering.

Therefore my first plan for my Micronesian Studies thesis would be an analysis of the changes in campaigning that had taken place in 2002. To this end I interviewed several dozen people in the four gubenetorial camps, such as Paul Calvo, Tony Unpingco, the former Dededo Mayor Joe Rivera, Cathy Gault, John Rossa, Frank Blas Sr and even the First Lady Joanne Camacho.

I gleaned a number of points from my interviews and observations. Aside from the fact that Underwood/Ada was obviously outspent by Camacho/Moylan or that Camacho's message was kalang nudu todu tiempo, almost always devoid of some real content, or that any real content seemed to get in the way of the real intent of his messages "God Bless You God Bless Guam," there were two main reasons why Camacho was able to so thoroughly trounce Underwood at the polls.

(I should point out here that according to official numbers Camacho/Moylan supposedly spent less on its campaign than Underwood/Ada did. During my interviews with people from Camacho's campaign everyone seemed to ready and to willing to quote a recent article by the PDN, so that it became clear to me that the opposite was most likely true. When four of your interviews each tell you more than five times each to read it in the PDN, then you know they are probably hiding something. This is especially so when I didn't ask them five times about it.)

The first reason why Camacho won was due to the shift in the political terrain in Guam, most notably the emergence of a huge swath of "undecided" votes who don't belong to either Democrats or Republicans, Popular or Territorial, and therefore aren't included in the usual political circles. Each candidate has their "base" which is a core group of clan, family or business networks that provide the everyday conversational, financial or labor support for running a campaign. A generation ago, this was the lifeblood of any campaign, how well energized and organized your base was to help bring in the few undeicded voters who would make all the difference. In this time, kids would be brought up within a political family, and would become socialized within this world of reciprocity and obligation, they would become adults attached to a particular party or candidate or set of candidates.

As the Chamorro family structure becomes looser and the presence of more non-Chamorros on Guam increases, we see candidate bases' becoming smaller and smaller in this traditional sense. A poll may indicate that 80% of Guam will vote for Jofis, but that is not his base. Nowadays that number of people who will vote for a candidate depends upon how well his base can reach out to those who float around Guam, their lives governed by a distance to politics, rather than an intimacy.

Robert Underwood once said to me that "politics is the favorite pastime for those on Guam." This is true for those who grow up within political families, but for those outside of that world, who don't grow up with an intimacy or an existing attachment, their favorite pastime is complaining about politics. It is these people who make up the huge numbers of undecided voters on Guam, for which Camacho and the emptiness of himself and his campaign were perfect.

For these voters, their entrance into voting is covered by an almost sickening liberal rhetoric. Why are so many of the conversations over whom to vote for in an election reduced to silly things such as "he's not nice" or "he talks funny" or "he has bad hair" or "he's stuck up." Perhaps these are grounded in some fact or history, such as the time when the candidate snubbed you, or gossip that you heard somewhere, but the truth of the matter is, that you're dislike for this candidate most likely has more to do with you, then the candidate. This is why I call it sickening liberal rhetoric, because in a liberal democracy the emphasis is always on me who votes. History and rational inquiry are important sure, but what truly matters in this choice is that I chose. Through this spoiling of the democratic subject we get ridiculous reasons for votes, but which appear to be fine because what matters is not that my vote made any real sense or that it was attached to anything I might even consider important in my life, but more so that I chose.

In 2002 I experienced the horror of taking a political science class with Robert Statham at UOG. In one of the early meetings of the semester, prior to the election in November, he told the class the story of one of his students, who had taken a stand for democracy in Guam against his family. Here is the gist of what he said, pieced together from my notes:

Now I know that some may see this sort of thing as racist, but its not, it boils down to simple freedom. Family is the bedrock of American life, so it’s not family that I’m against. But here in Guam things are different, family here can be [pause] dangerous…No one in an American democracy should be told who they are supposed to vote for. But here in Guam we have parents and families telling their children whom they have to vote for. That is just plain wrong…In one of my other classes a young Chamorro stood up in front of everyone and told us that he would not vote for whom his mother told him to next election and not vote for just his relatives. He would vote for whomever he wanted! I was so proud of him.

To me the idea that I would vote for a candidate because of my relation to him or because of some debt that we are owed him or her is a far stronger reason to vote than the simple justification that I am free to vote for whomever I want. In the family vote at least there is something concrete about your vote, something meaningful in terms of your history and your family that goes beyond a stupid assertion of an overated freedom. To push this even further though, a family connection or participation in a political base isn't the only way to be engaged, but if one votes based on an understanding of my investment in the process, how I am affected by it at least, how I have interests beyond this simple choice, then one remains concretely connected to the process. One remains engaged in the process beyond the crass individualism that sparks voting choices based on hair, "friendliness" and "down to earth personality" while ignoring the fact that the politics of this politician might be completely at odds with mine or the interests that are mine whether I know it or not. To surpass that ridiculous individualism means to recognize oneself within a community, more so than simply I vote my interests, but also with an understanding that my vote affects everyone else as well. Therefore I am not saying that undecided voters are "bad," but more so those who narrate away their indecision through these superficial forms and do not touch the political beyond "he looks creepy" or "he looks religious" and thus never connect themselves to politics, to the processes or candidates, or the impacts and consequences.

The emptiness of Camacho's campaign however played perfectly with those who don't see themselves as politically connected, who understand themselves as outsiders to the political arena. For those who don't feel they have a concrete connection or history linked to politics or the governing of Guam, don't worry, in 2002 Felix Camacho made no attempt to forge one for you or bring one to you.

In contrast to Underwood and Guiterrez who are for better or worse household names on Guam, highly visible figures in both positive and negative lights, Camacho was a relative nobody to the undecides, the political outsiders.

If for example you called Underwood a racist, then memories would be unearthed across the island of his radicalism in the seventies or the fact that he speaks Chamorro and teaches Guam History and of course calling him a racist would make perfect sense. Underwood has a history, a lengthy litany of stances and statements, he has a very real and concrete connection to Guam's history and to its political landscape.

Camacho on the otherhand has no such history. He may have been there, but he did not resonate as readily as Underwood and Guiterrez did or do. The only real claim to fame that Camacho came with, was his father's trips to Vietnam to visit the Chamorro troops there.

A formidable opponent, since you can't call him on his record, because he basically didn't have one, and you can't try to paint him differently in the public's eyes because no one has any residual image of him anyway.

Therefore Camacho appealed very strongly to undecided voters precisely because of the empty approach he took to campaigning and empty position from which he could appear from, meaning providing very little in the way of content or plans, but primarily relying on the phrases which would seduce in the most simplistic ways possible. Within the world of your typical unattached, undecided, disdainfully apolitical voter, there is nothing more confusing or dehabilitating than providing them with content, with plans, with statements to connect them to the political world. To appeal to these voters you must respect their disengagement, you must protect that distance that creates their identity, and campaign to them across that divide, in a way that brings them into the political world, through emotions, through American flag type images, but never knowledge.

It is for these reasons that I refer to Felix Camacho as empty and untalented. That is part of his lure, is the fact that is operates in the vein of Reagan and both Bushes as fairly empty vessels, indistinction and unobvious, upon which we can impose and transpose an seemingly infinite number of trace memories, half memories and bull shit political rationalizations. It is because of this that I refer to Camacho as untalented also, he cannot have any talents, his power lies in his ablity to function as an indistinct signifier for so many things, that talents would only dampen his appeal, his authority. If Camacho appeared to be capable of anything it would only hurt his chances at re-election, so long as he appears to be capable of nothing he has a great shot again with undecided voters.

This was made clear to me when a recent editorial from Senator Jesse Anderson Lujan that chastised Governor Camacho on his lack of leadership over the transfer of the 8,000 Marines over the next few years. If Camacho had any talents, like for example "leadership" then he might actually admit to the possibility that whatever the hell the United States military wants might not always be the best thing for the people of Guam.

Camacho seems to forget and the people of Guam seem unable to demand that he remember that he is Guam's Governor first and foremost and the cheerleader and fluffer for United States Military apparatus second or hopefully never. But as we have seen over the past year, Camacho seems incapable of this simple talent, this simple task of leadership.

Earlier in this post I mentioned two reasons for Camacho's win, but so far only really discussed one. The second will have to wait for tomorrow sa' esta gof chatangmak guini ya guaha klas-hu agupa'.


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