Saturday, August 30, 2008

DNC Day 5 - Some Quotes from the Week

"When I first sat in the Armed Services Committee, my first meeting. They said now, the question you ask, I was on the lower tier, the first row, now I'm on the second row. They said the question should be kind of generic and not too specific. So I had this question written out.Then I heard the rest of them, "my base" and "my state." I says, "Hey!" So when it came down to me, I said, "I want a carrier sent to Guam."
Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo in an interview on the Convention Floor, Wednesday

"John McCain may pay hundred of dollars for his shoes, but we're the ones who will pay for his flip-flops."
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson during his speech on Thursday.

"We can't simply drill our way to energy independence if you drilled everywhere, if you drilled in all of John McCain's backyards, even the ones he doesn't know he has."
Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer from his speech on energy independence.

"For every American who is trying to do the right thing, for all those people in government who are honoring the pledge to uphold the law and honor the Constitution, no longer will you hear the eight most dreaded words in the English language: The Vice President's Office is on the phone."
Delaware Senator Joe Biden from his acceptance speech.

"The last election was deicded by a fraction of a percentage. We are that percentage."
California Congressman Mike Honda at the "APA Power Hour"

"We need to organize and make the difference. In the 6th district of Illinois, Asian American Pacific Islanders and Latinos make up 8 percent of the vote. I lost by 1.2 % of the vote. Think if we were able to get more people registered to vote, if we were able to get more people turned out to the polls."
Tammy Duckworth, at the Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus Meeting

"Brothers don't fight with brothers in public. When you do that's when they can tear you apart."
California Congressman Mike Honda at the "APA Power Hour" on the need for Democrats to unite behind Barack Obama.

"[Ashwin Madia] He needs our help...I have good news and bad news...The bad news is that he needs a million dollars. The good news is that he already has it. Its in each of your pockets.
California Congressman Mike Honda at the "APA Power Hour"

"We have staff in Alaska, and I am not kidding you."
Betsy Kim, Obama Campaign surrogate at the "APA Power Hour" (this was before Sarah Palin was chosen as McCain's VP)
"Women voting for John McCain are like chickens voting for Colonel Sanders."
"Insurance companies cover Viagra, but not birth control."
"We need a candidate that will not legislate a woman's body."
Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood president and daughter of former Texas Governor Ann Richards

Voting gets you a "D." Donating money gets you a "C." Working or volunteering for a campaign gets you a "B." And running for office gets you an "A."
Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean at the Tailgate '08 meeting for bloggers at the DNC.

[Robert Underwood] had a bill that he introduced saying "Don't Forget About the Territories Whenever You're Doing Anything,"...it was some name like that. Alot of it is reminding them that the territories exist. But also to tell them about the unique challenges that we have, so legislation isn't just automatically applied to us if it can be hurtful, or that it be automatically applied to us if it can be helpful."
Virgin Islands Congresswomen Donna Christensen on Federal ignorance of the territories.

"This is our election to win or to lose. Americans want change, Barack Obama and Joe Biden are change. But we need to allow Americans to voice and speak their minds. And the way to do that is to vote. We need you. This is a group of people who have worked hard, understand the process, you've got yourself elected, spent money, showed up in Denver. We're going to have a great four days. Then we get home, we all need to take a thiry minute nap, and they we're gonna head right out to vote."
Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean at the Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus Meeting

"People the world around have always been impressed by the power of our example, not the example of our power."
Former President Bill Clinton during his speech.

When I first came into the [Foreign Affairs] Committee, no one wanted to be on the Asia-Pacific subcommittee, it was the pits! Everyone wanted to be on the Middle East and Europe subcommittees. I'm serious. Its only been in the last three or four years, that our whole economic, social, and strategic interests as being tied to the Asia-Pacific.
American Samoa Congressman Eni Faleomavaega, on the strategic importance of Guam, from the floor of the Convention Wednesday

"Ask her if she wants to make a statement to the hostages in Columbia."
A South American TV journalist, speaking from the floor of Invesco field to people in the crowd sitting next to actress Susan Sarandon.

"Look! Jimmy Carter!"
A random person, pointing at former Democratic Candidate for President George McGovern

"Say it. Speak the truth. Ask'em to sacrifice. Ask'em!"
A New York delegate cheering on Senator Obama during his acceptance speech.

"I know you, you're from Guam!"
Former President Bill Clinton to Guam Congressman Madeleine Bordallo, just minutes before he spoke on Wednesday. After saying this he leaned over and gave her a hug and a kiss.


"I love Guam!"
Former Democratic Party Chairman Terry Mcauliffe to the Guam delegation.
"Guam? Isn't that part of Hawai'i?"
Statement made to Guam delegates, multiple times over the week.

DNC Day 5 - Breaking News - Sarah Palin as VP

I'm still a bit groggy from all the energy and excitement from yesterday's events at the Democratic National Convention.

I'm watching CNN right now and it seems that the Republicans have decided to make major history this election, by not just picking a woman for Vice President, but bringing together the first Father -Daughter Ticket in History!!!! (joke via Rashne)

The media was right, John McCain did pick someone younger than him. Although given all the possible names out there on the national scene, there weren't many people whom he could pick who aren't younger than he is, and in fact three of those names come from either Alaska or Alaska's biggest ally in the Senate, Hawai'i, Senator Ted Stevens, Senator Daniel Innouye and Senator Daniel Akaka. McCain had to pick someone younger than him, unless he was planning to exhume Ronald Reagan and create some elaborate Weekend at Bernie's farce over the next few months.

I'm looking at McCain and Governor Palin on stage right now, and they could be a Grandfather - Granddaughter ticket.

My first insights into this choice, without knowing too much about the Alaska Governor are that this will be first an attempt to split the Democratic party. I just heard Republican pundit Amy Holmes talk about Palin's economic executive experience as Governor of Alaska, but if they really wanted someone with those credentials, then they should have picked someone who really surpassed Obama in that regard, instead of barely beat. People complain about Obama's limited experience in the Senate, but Palin has only been a Governor for two years. That's about as weak an argument as you can make. Obviously, the choice is meant to draw away some of white women voters out there who heavily favored Clinton, and might eventually gravitate towards Obama.

The second insight is the race issue. Some of the pundits have speculated on a debate between Biden and Palin. Earlier in the week, Biden was heavily favored to "win" any debate, but now there is apprehension, because by throwing a woman into the mix (regardless of how good or articulate a speaker she is), just by defualt you have an easy arrangement for creating Biden as a bully and Palin as the victim. I don't know who will talk about this first, but this plays perfectly into Charles Barkley's statement the other night, that this election will come down to how racist white people are.

Nearly everyone will make themselves more inclusive, or less racist when they are polled or interviewed, but what this race will come down to is whether or not white people can "open their hearts" up to "trust a black man." By throwing a white woman into the final four people who will be fighting over the Presidency, McCain can now hope that the racist history of the United States, the racial hatred, discomfort, distrust and loathing that has animated the country for centuries will be activated. This history can be found in attacks on black men, Native Americans and Asian Americans, Latin Americans, to protect white women's sexuality.

We saw a small shred of this in the 2006 elections where an attack ad on Harold Ford Jr. featured a sexualized white woman who was telling him to "call her." The ad created a massive uproar, and Ford lost the election for Senator of Tennessee.

For those of you who think that those days of white lynch mobs killed black men for looking at a white woman the wrong way, you should be "shocked" to hear that just last month, a Latino man in Shenandoah, Pennslyvania was beaten to death by four white teenagers just for walking around with his wife's sister, a white woman.

For a country which lives to deny its violent and racist history, it takes so little to activate that racism, that legacy of repression, displacement, colonization and exploitation. I sincerely hope, but wouldn't bet on it, that McCain's campaign is not counting on this racism that is hardwired into white Americans, to help their campaign of making America distrust and fear Barack Obama. I should note that, although John McCain may not directly make these sorts of comments, he can still profit from them and help create the conditions so that it does take place, so that this racial animus is "fired up and ready to go." It is in a similar way that Obama profits, through some of the stuff he says, but more so the language he uses in his rhetoric to paint his vision of America as one which is beyond its violent racist history. Obama has been propelled onto the national scene, by that desire to get past that history, without really dealing with it, by simply resolving it by the casting of a vote.

DNC Day 5 - The War We Fight

Guestblogged by Victoria Leon Guerrero

My first cousin and pare’ recently left his wife and three boys for boot camp. His wife stares at the doorway every night hoping that he will walk through it. But he is gone. Gone to the idea that now their lives will be made easier, now that he is in the Army. He will make enough money for them to finally have their own home after raising their family in a small bedroom at his in-law’s house for almost a decade.

I want to be hopeful, to believe that this is a good thing for him, but I know better. I know my cousin and how much he loves our island and our family. Now he will be farther away from Guam than he’s ever been, and for a very long time. And in that time the chances are great that he may fight in a war – another country’s war.

There is no hope in fighting another country’s war.

There are some, who believe that Guam is a part of the United States, and that fighting a war in Iraq gives us freedom on our island, but that is simply not true. U.S. law states that Guam is a possession of, but not a part of, the United States. Our political status does not enable our island to seek the compensation we deserve for sacrificing our land and our lives to the United States. What this means for my cousin is that if he survives deployment, but is left with the wounds of war, the country he is about to serve will do little to heal him.

This was made clearer to me during my time as a special guest at this year’s Democratic National Convention. Guam delegates had prime seats on the convention floor and were able to cast votes for the Democratic nominee for president, but otherwise had no real presence – not in the heavily televised speeches of politicians or the daily caucuses discussing issues that were relevant to our island. The reason: as long as Guam cannot vote for president, the needs of our island and people will always remain a distant afterthought in U.S. politics.

On Guam, however, the United States is always on our minds. Our island is home to thousands of veterans who served in every war since World War II, and yet there is not a hospital to serve them. We are finally getting a new VA clinic, but in order to receive care from that clinic or any other benefits for wartime casualties, Guam veterans must be processed in Hawaii – a seven-hour, $1,000 flight away. Guam leaders have been pushing for a VA processing center on the island, but their requests have been ignored.

At the Military and Veterans Affairs Caucus at the DNC I learned that Guam veterans are not alone in their fight for recognition. Congressman Mike Honda from California spoke passionately about the difficulties he faced to include Filipino World War II veterans in the Veterans’ Benefits Enhancement Act, which finally passed the Senate. He talked about how most Filipino veterans of World War II have either died or are in their 80s and 90s and have yet to receive benefits for their service. I sat wondering about all my relatives who survived World War II on Guam, but died before ever receiving war reparations. Every single one of Guam’s non-voting representatives to Congress has tried to pass legislation for them, but still our people have not been recognized for the sacrifices they made during that war. Again, without real representation, our people remain ignored.

I followed Congressman Honda outside after his speech and asked him very candidly what he thought about Guam’s political status. “I believe in sovereignty,” he said. “People of Guam should have self-determination.” Then I asked him if he supported the current massive military build-up on the island, and he said he thought it would be good for Guam. When I tried to tell him that it would stand in the way of our self-determination, he said that he did not understand how.

I started to wonder about contradictions in his beliefs and in my own. I strongly believe that our political status prevents us from thriving economically and politically because of our imposed dependency on the United States. I would never push for a deeper dependency on Federal funding. But I also believe that our elders who survived World War II, our veterans, and our young men and women fighting in U.S. wars today are entitled to Federal funds and services for their sacrifices.

I returned to the caucus to find that despite all the “support our troops” propaganda spun by the current administration, U.S. troops, regardless of their political status, get very little support for their sacrifices.

The caucus featured a panel of experts that included top military officials, Sen. Barak Obama’s veterans’ affairs advisors, military wives and the daughter of a solider who went MIA in Vietnam. All of them said the same thing: troops, veterans and their families alike have not been a priority in Congress or in the administration. And that John McCain, who does not want anyone to forget that he was a Prisoner of War in Vietnam, has forgotten about his fellow veterans. He has not supported legislation that would increase veterans’ benefits, nor did he support the GI bill.

Obama, on the other hand, is part of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and has laid out a comprehensive plan to improve care for veterans including mental health and drug abuse treatment, improving service members’ transition into civilian life, fully funding and improving VA medical care, and honoring veterans for their service.

While there is hope in Obama’s plan, I remain skeptical about the fate of Guam’s veterans. After the caucus I approached one of Obama’s veterans’ affairs advisors and asked him what the presidential candidate’s policies were for Guam veterans. “I don’t know,” he candidly replied. “We’ve never talked about it.” I was shocked. If there is one thing most politicians know, it’s that Guam produces a lot of soldiers. How could they not know that these soldiers return to our island with all the external and internal injuries common to veterans, including severe cases of depression and drug abuse? He gave me his card, asked me to send him an email about the state of Guam’s veterans’ affairs and promised to speak with Obama about it right away.

Like Obama’s advisor, most political advisors know nothing about Guam. The DNC taught me that we will never have a presence until we make a statement. No one is going to listen until we shout loudly for our rights. There is no hope in fighting another country’s war. It’s time to fight for our own nation and her people.

Friday, August 29, 2008

DNC Day 4 - I Manmatungo' (ta'lo ta'lo)

The continuing list of famous people I've seen so far (seen, not necessarily talked to).

Jonathan Alter, journalist
Paul Begala, pundit
Ann Curry, tv person (who was, according to rumor born on Guam)
Fran Drescher, actress
Tammy Duckworth, former Congressional candidate in Illinois
New York Governor David Pattersen
Penn. Governor Ed Rendell
Former California Congressman Norman Mineta
California Congressman Mike Honda
DNC Chariman Howard Dean
Minnesota Congressional Candidate Ashwin Madia
Hawai'i Congresswoman Mazie Hirono
Congressman from Maryland Steny Hoyer
Colorado Congressional Candidate Hank Eng
Guam Senator Ben Pangelinan
Guam Senator BJ Cruz
California Comptroller John Chiang
California Congressman John Chiang
Susan Sarandon, Actress and Activist
Tamlyn Tomita, Actress and Activist
Lisa Edelstein, Actress
Minnesota Senator Amy Koblucher
Maya Sotero-Ng, Barack Obama's sister
Kansas Governor Katherine Sebelius
Former Democratic Presidential Candidate George McGovern
Journalist Richard Wolfe
CNN journalist Wolf Blitzer
NBC TV News journalist David Gregory
James Carville, pundit
Katie Couric, CBS News Anchor
Kelly Hu, actress and activist
Congressman Charles Rangel
Virgin Islands Congresswoman Donna Christensen
DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton
Roland Martin, CNN analyst
American Samoan Congressman Eni Faleomavaega
Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd
Alicia Witt, actress
Hawai'i Senator Daniel Innouye
Hawai'i Senate Daniel Akaka
Hawai'i Congressman Neil Abercrombie
Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo
Virgin Island Governor John P. deJongh Jr.
Delaware Senator Joseph Biden
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry
Former President Bill Clinton
Cenk Ugyur of The Young Turks
Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks
Asif Mandvi from The Daily Show
Wyatt Cenac from The Daily Show
Rob Wriggle from The Daily Show
Larry Wilmor from The Daily Show
Lawrence O'Donnell, pundit
CNN anchor Anderson Cooper
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Dan Barlett, former counselor to George W. Bush
Michigan Congressman John Conyers
Jon Oliver from The Daily Show
Chuck Todd, NBC News analyst
CBS News correspondent Jeff Greenfield
Connie Britton, actress
Tim Daily, actor
Pennslyvania Senator Bob Casey
CNN Journalist John King
CNN Journalist Campbell Brown
Amy Goodman from Democracy Now
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson
NBC Journalist Tom Brokaw
Chris Wallace from Fox News
Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings
Democratic Strategist Chris Kofinas
Former Special counsel to President Bill Clinton, Lanny Davis
Georgia Congressman John Lewis
Kansas State Representative Raj Goyle
Virginia Congressman Bobby Scott
New York Senator Chuck Schummer
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
Indiana Senator Evan Byah
Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez
Stevie Wonder, singer
Jon Stoltz of VoteVets
Sway from MTV News
Iowa Senator Tom Vilsack
New York Senator Hillary Clinton
Former Vice President Al Gore
Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama

DNC Day 4 - Of Course...

I spent Barack Obama's speech crawling around on the floor of Invesco Field, trying to worm my way close enough to the candidate so I could get a decent picture of him with my cheap digital camera. Unfortunately, the closest I was able to get was right in the middle of the Texas delegation, so I have several dozen photos of a brown blur in a black suit that still has plenty of gravitas.

I enjoyed the speech, although when you are working on taking pictures and talking to delegates or other people crouched and crawling its easy to miss some of the the finer points. Being someone interested in justice for oppressed communities and also an Ethnic Studies scholar, I had hoped for much more though on the glorious anniversary that this speech was taking place on, and in general the struggle for civil rights and racial justice that he represents. Unfortunately, since his "mature" speech on race didn't quite allow Obama to seal the deal on the nomination, or solve his Jeremiah Wright "problem," the Obama campaign seems to have resorted to a conventional strategy on race, meaning never mention it, except to say that your opponent is mentioning it.

Obama is now playing a very dangerous game of hoping that people like me, who see his election as a step forward for non-white groups in the United States, will continue to support him even while speaks in the language of progressive colorblindness and vague inclusive universality. On the other hand, he has to hope that independents or people who are voting for him because he's in the words of famous wordsmith Joseph Biden such a "clean" and "articulate" black man and most of all, not an angry one, will not see all the "angry" and "uppity" people who are pushing for him, and that that two radically different drives animate their support. For the first group, that I am a part of, there is a hope that Obama will mean an opening in the system, in the racial politics and very embedded sorts of ideologies that America is plagued and sustained by. For the second, group there is no doubt a hope that a vote for Obama will close everything up, clamp it down and place a final seal over all discussion about slavery, Jim Crow laws, white privilege, black oppression and black complaints.

For my stake in this then, I am saddened that for all the talk that people made for this coming 45 years after the anniversary of Martin Luther Kings, beautifully but regularly co-opted speech in Washington D.C., Obama chose not to pursue that route further, but instead keeping his speech squarely focused on a vague always universalizing inclusiveness (blacks, women, gays, asians, there were some mistakes, but were always moving forward). I can't say that it is, as people often say, a betrayal of the dreams of Dr. King, because the election of a black president was no doubt a central dream of his and so many others. I can say however that when Obama is elected president, we will not have gone as far as we thought, we will not as achieved as much as the historic hype alludes to, precisely because of the double bind that someone such as Obama represents. Where he is potentially the resolution of a trauma, but can only ascend to that point of potential resolution, by remaining painfully silent about the persistance of that same trauma.

DNC Day 4 - Disenfranchised

From the floor of Invesco Field: Guam Senator and Convention Delegate, Ben Pangelinan on Guam's participation at the Democratic National Convention.

"For me its a double edged sword. We come here and we participate in the process of the seleciton of the nominee, and then its stops and so its like a journey incomplete. Its frustrating to that end. I'm glad that yesterday during the roll call vote we were able to make a statement about Guam not having the right to self-determination...That opportunity to make that statement was a positive for this trip and gives me hope that people are listening. We've had an opportunity to talk to many people who are, quite frankly shocked that America disenfranchises people who are asked to bear the burden and responsibility of citizens, and yet are not give that one most precious element of citizenship in this country, the vote."

DNC Day 4 - Operation New Life

While looking for a seat at Invesco a bit of serendipity took place, as I ran into a freelance journalist in the same section, who was looking for people to interview, and who after learning about where I was from and why I was at the convention, told me that she had spent three years on Guam in the 1970’s.

When I asked what for, she told me that she had worked for Tony Palomo, as a journalist writing for his newspaper The Pacifican. Sadly, the paper didn’t last very long and soon after it was born it was driven out of business by the Pacific Daily News. She asked if I knew Tony Palomo and I said yes, and so she told me some of her life so that next time I see him I could share with him how she’s doing.

She ended up interviewing me and my thoughts on the Convention, and I gave her my usual, I’m excited to be here, but…if you aren't enamored with all the excitement and sign-waving, the specatcle of inclusion, then what you've got is basically friendly American colonialism.

After finishing up, I asked her about her time on Guam. She said that she was there in her twenties, just as she was coming into her own identity, just as America was also rethinking itself and its role in the world. Just a short time after she moved to Guam, Operation New Life, with the evacuation of thousands of South Vietnamese to Guam and other US military installations took place. As a young journalist she was sent down to cover this event.

Her experiences interviewing and covering Operation New Life had a profound impact on her. She went out to one ship crowded with refugees. There she saw packed amongst all the people, farm animals such as goats and monkeys that people had brought on board as one of their few possessions. These animals were sure to be killed before any of them would be let into Guam. When viewing the refugees that were arrived by plane she saw a very different story, with people carrying boxes and sacks of gold with them. It was a stark contrast that even as Saigon fell, the division between rich and poor held firm as the wealth and well-connected were flown to Guam, while the poor had to sits for weeks in the holds of ships.

As we were sitting in Invesco Field, where in a few hours Barack Obama would work hard to established an exceptionalist moral and good position for America in the world, she felt it was a major contrast to think back to those years, where a similar version of America's position in the world had just been challenged, where it had been defeated and the images of its "defeat" or the fall of Saigon were being printed all over the world. She was considering how far things had come, how things had changed, how they hadn't, and how people came full circle. She is currently teaching journalism at Kent State University, and more than thirty years ago, over that war and its expansion into Cambodia had sparked even more protests, and at her current university several protesting students were killed to protect that idea of American exceptionalism, and that it above all has a right to wage whatever war it wishes.



It was an interesting conversation, and I became so engrossed in it, that it didn't dawn on me until the next day, that in a stadium where more than 80,000 people will soon be, I had just randomly bumped into someone who spent three years of her life on Guam. It was a nice bit of serendipity, that definitely helped me put the day of stirring speeches and lofty and vague rhetoric in better perspective.


DNC Day 4 - Walking into the Stadium

DNC Day 4 - Guam's Presence at the Convention

Congresswoman Bordallo Proud Of Guam's Presence At Democratic National Convention
Written by Mana Silva, Pacific News Center
Guam, Saipan, CNMI, Asia-Pacific
Thursday, 28 August 2008

Guam - It was an exciting time for democrats taking part in the Democratic National Convention, and Guam certainly put its best face forward, and made its presence known. The convention in Denver, Colorado was attended by thousands, and according to Guam's Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo "the event has been electric."

Former presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton showing her support during the convention yesterday. President Bill Clinton took center stage today, and of course, vice presidential candidate Joe Bidden also called to speak before the crowd of supporters. Quite a surprise though, was a visit by Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama.

Guam's congresswoman was also called to the stage to join House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Bordallo also had a chance run in with former president Bill Clinton backstage, and met with the Guam blogger Michael Lujan Bevacqua.

Aside from the convention, Bordallo also paid a visit to the Colorado Springs Air Force Academy where she met with cadets from Guam.


DNC Day 4 - The Mall of Babel

Estague i chalan siha, nai mamamokkat yu' kada diha. Bula linahayan, yan diniskuti taiguini.

Ai adai, esta mampos yafaifau ya puputi i patas-hu.

DNC Day 4 - The Lost Pacific

To say that this convention has been frustrating because of a lack of Pacific Islander presence would be a sen dongkalu na understatement. I've attended this week all of the events which were marked as "Asian-American Pacific Islander" or "Asian Pacific Islander American" and even "Asian Pacific American." I've had little to no luck. The delegates and representatives from these islands haven't been attending these meetings or even speaking at them.

This could be a number of reasons, due to the distance and high cost in getting here, less delegates from these areas are here. Also, because of the great distance and the novelty of being in what is for some a new city or area, touring around or visiting friends has also been keeping people from the convention. Lastly, although the events and the Congressional Caucus may be Asian American Pacific Islander, Pacific Islanders may not see themselves there, both in the sense of their needs not being attending to or spoken of in these fora, and also simply because as one Pacific Islander delegate said to me, they don't look like me.

This has all been very frustrating for me because on the one hand the delegates from the Islands, in particular those who are Pacific Islander have been less interested in talking about their issues or the ways they don't fit in, and more on communicating to me their incredible joy at being included, at being recognized. So on the one hand there is a resistance to being a part of a panethnic group because they don't take my issues seriously, or the people there don't look like me, but on the other their is an almost blinding excitement to be included in a large political group, which doesn't take my issues seriously and is full of even more people who don't look like me.

On the other hand, meeting up with elected officials or activists who can speak to Pacific Islander issues has been impossible. The line up for the APIA events has almost completely been comprised of Asian American political leaders and activists. In some sense I can understand this, because conventions and political parties in the United States are obsessed with voting and getting people to vote. With this in mind we find a multitude of small and large ways in which "swing states" are given priorities and given the focus, such as who is on the floor at the convention, and who is invited to speak on panels, etc. For Pacific Islanders attached to the United States through different forms of colonialism and neocolonialism, this focus isn't very inviting.

In the first case, there are no members from the islands of Micronesia other than Guam at the Convention, and so although each of these islands is tied to the United States in some way or another, they do not have even a symbolic presence here (this will most likely change when the CNMI elects its first non-voting delegate). For Guam, there is no vote in the national elections, so there are no campaigns to get out the vote for Obama there. Guam's zero electoral college votes are not in contention, it is not consider to be a "swing colony." The same goes for American Samoa. Lastly Hawai'i, which does have a large delegation at the convention and can vote for President, is not at all a swing state, if it was, then the votes of not just Asian American Pacific Islanders, but Pacific Islanders specifically would be vital and we would see much more emphasis on Pacific Islanders and their concerns separate from the AAPI Matrix. But since Hawai'i is probably either the safest or second safest state for Obama (in a competition with Illinois), none of this has taken place or will take place.

As my own piece of sad evidence of this I offer up the fact that not a single interview request that I've put through with the Obama Campaign, the Democratic Party or the Democratic National Convention, or even specific Congressional/Senatorial offices to speak on Pacific Islander issues has been answered. When I say answered, I mean that I haven't even gotten a single call back saying that my request was rejected or accepted or even considered, and I've both left messages and spoken to living breathing people.

The only politicians that I've been able to talk to are those non-voting Democratis delegates from America's territories, Washington D.C., Guam, American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands.

DNC Day 4 - Invesco Field

Today we move the convention from the Pepsi Center to Invesco Field, to accomodate a much large crowd to witness Senator Obama's speech tonight accepting the nomination for the Democrats. The change in venue will be huge for increasing the "historical" nature of this event, opening the event up for even more people. But unfortunately, this change will make internet access more difficult for me. There is a section of the press box marked specifically for bloggers, but I'm sure it'll fill up fast. If I'm at Invesco all day, then I might not post much on the day's activities until late tonight or tomorrow.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

DNC Day 4 - Guam and Iraq

Although he has not been posting recently, when he was Carbondate from the blog The Command Post was a very insightful writer. He is currently in the service and at least several months ago was stationed on Guam. At present its possible he's in the Middle East right now.
He was absolutely the type of Democrat and blogger that I have been hoping to find at the Democratic Convention this week, people who may come from different positions in the United States, different places, different political backgrounds, different social worlds, yet can still come together and discuss things through a common critical frame.

In Denver this week, there is sadly a scarcity of these sorts of things, except for those directed at Republicans and John McCain. In other ways, there are also the usual sorts of critiques that liberals and Democrats can share, about health care, environment, democracy, peace. But for me, as I wrote yesterday, the frames I am searching for are those dealing with American colonialism and militarization. I am hoping to have real conversations about American military power and presences. Last night, I had submitted to interview both Senator Jack Reed and Madeleine Albright to ask them about Obama's foreign policy plans and American military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Sadly, once again I didn't get access.

A real conversation about US militarization and presence means to rid the conversation from the beginning of any innate morality of the United States or its military and also to rip forcefully from the discussion any idea that any current US presence anywhere in the world should be open ended and beyond question. This is not to say that the military of any other country is better or more moral, but simply to reduce the American military from its status as the blessed sword of the Archangel Michael, and see it as what it is, a military. And contrary to what most Pentagon analysts and everyday Americans think, everything it does is not liberation, and just because it occupies a space (especially in someone else's backyard), it does not mean it has the right to stay for 100, 1000 or 10,000 years.

Unfortunately, both of these points are what dominate most any discussion of American military, and this is what makes it so difficult for me to find any allies here at the Democratic National Convention.

I am hoping the Carbondate will again start blogging soon, because before he left, he posted something which I found to be very thought provoking, involving possible connections between Iraq and Guam. To read it, click this link, "Guam: An Object Lesson on US Designs for Iraq."

DNC Day 3 - I Forgot About Them...

Maleffa yu' put siha, i manRepublicans. Ti mafa'primary giya Guahan, pues mas excited i ManDemocrats kinu i ManRepublicans.

Hu faisen todu i delegates ginnen i Manterritories Amerikanu (ni' hu kuentusi) este na finaisen. "Sa' hafa dumemocrat hao? Gi i banda Federal, fihu pumarehu ha' i ManRepublicans yan i ManDemocrats. Todu ti ma attende pat hasso i Manterritories. Sa' hafa un ayek este na banda, enlugat di i otro?"

Gi entre todu i sinangan, taya' maolek na ineppe. Ma konsedera este kulang esta Manamerikanu siha. Ti ma hahasso i estao pulitikat i islas-niha. Ti ma keketungo' hafa i "platforms"-niha i Democrats yan Republicans nu i Manterritories. Yanggen un taitai ayu siha, ti dongkalo i diferensia. Ti Manstates hit, pues Manaibali hit, ya puru ha' mandeschable.

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

McCain taps Governor Camacho to chair Pacific campaign
by Mindy Aguon, KUAM News
Thursday, August 28, 2008

Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain has appointed Governor Felix Camacho as the chairperson for his campaign in the U.S. Pacific territories. The island's chief executive will lead fundraising and political advocacy efforts on the island, American Samoa, and the CNMI.

Governor Camacho will join the other Guam Delegates at the Republican National Convention that will be held next week in St. Paul, Minnesota.

DNC Day 3 - The Trauma that Enables

There was so much speculation in the previous week over why Joe Biden would be picked as VP. The most common argument is the Foriegn Policy stuff, which will beef up (by association) the resume of Obama, and hopefully deflect those "fears" of not being ready to engage with the rest of the world. Which is surprising since its been John McCain's gaffe on everything from Czeckoslavakia, to Iraq-Pakistan border, to Sunni vs. Shia, who has consistently proven that he may be old and experienced, but not necessarily ready to engage with the rest of the world.

But during the lead up to his speech tonight, just about everything positive from his biography was dragged out to try and make him feel like the ideal candidate for everyone. Hawks, peacniks, women, minorities, etc.

There are two things that struck me about Biden's "being" tonight that I think were absolutely part of the Obama team's rationale for picking Biden. When I saw "being" I mean the sort of composite presence that he can create, the types of arguments, criticisms, defenses that he can enable or disable. So, the "foreign policy stuff" is key in how people perceive his being, but there are also thing such as plain-spokeness, frankness, ga'kumuentos. When you think tactically, you are drawing every potential positive or negative from this being. It is not just someone's life, but also that which is said about them, the kinds of things, emotions, ideas they stimulate.

The first of these things is his son Bo Biden, and his much touted public service and military service. Several weeks ago, although Obama is still on the right side of the the wars America is fighting today, he doesn't necessarily control the terms of the debate. This is something McCain deftly proved by his repeating of the phrase "the surge worked" over and over and over. By doing so, he eventually able to take away Obama's advantage (at least rhetorically) in terms of how to talk about the war. McCain changed it so that only the last year and a half matters and nothing beyond that.

With Biden and his son, a politician, a public servant who still serves and will still go off to war (although as a JAG), it gives Democrats a flexibility and potential foil against McCain's claim to describing and defining the war. Whether or not Biden can change this remains to be seen, but it is possible.

Secondly, although I think most Americans and Democrats didn't know about this prior to the initial announcement that he was Obama's choice for VP, is the story about the loss of his child and his wife prior to being sworn in as the youngest Senator in United States history. This story was repeated over and over tonight, from multiple angles, with his son bringing it up in the most effective way. But ultimately what this story boils down to is that it is a form of trauma which authenticates a person. The story of Biden's humanity and earnestness, his toughness, strength and determination can all be traced to his experiences in this midst of this trauma. This was tied together pefectly during the video made for Biden prior to his introduction, where his wife made clear that he sworn to take the train home everyday to Delaware from Washington D.C. as a promise to his sons following the death of their sister and mother.

It was interesting to hear this mentioned so much tonight, because it reminded me of another trauma which enables a certain Senator running for President from Arizona.

Although the media has developed a narrative of John McCain which swears that he is cautious and uncomfortable about sharing his POW experiences or stories with people, he certainly doesn't seem to have any issues now. He is mentioning it all the time, in the context of anything and everthing, he has even mentioned it in the context of health care and what his favorite songs are!!!! This trauma makes John McCain. Even if he doesn't mention it, it is always there, authenticating him, making him seem like a truer, tougher, better and greater figure.

In comparision to McCain's suffering imprisonment and torture, Biden's trauma is small, yet I wonder if that story was part of the appeal of Biden. Obama's story of economic and social hardship and suffering is too normal, even if Obama is supposed to be "foreign" or "elite" when he speaks about his family and his background, it is very normal. To have problems economically is not trauma, it does not make you authentic, it does not enable you in anyway or make your arguments stronger, or provide you more breathing room in terms of criticism or attacks. But Biden's story is much more unique, complex, a mixture of a tragic death coming, just as a young politician beings his career. And just as McCain's suffering in Vietnam becomes the basis for his identity as a strong, determined and straight talking maverick, Biden's trauma functions in the same way, giving him an aura of family closeness, love, a realness through his surival under such pressure and horrible circumstances.

But just as with Biden's son serving in Iraq, it remains to be seen how effective this will be.

DNC Day 3 - War Reparations and Self-Determination are on the Table

Here is an image from the floor votes earlier in the day.

When it came time for Guam to report its votes for the party nomination (Hillary pat Obama) there was some confusion. Guam has a total of 9 delegate votes, five super delegates and then eight regular delegates, which each get half votes.

When it came time to report the votes, former Guam Senator and current Guam Democratic Party Chair Pilar Lujan stated four votes for Barack Obama and three votes for Hillary Clinton. This being two short of the total they were supposed to provide.

In addition to this confusion, Pilar Lujan also made an impact on the proceedings with her short, but to the point introduction to Guam, prior to providing the tally for the Guam delegation.

She began by invoking that they were the delegation from Guam, "Where America's Day Begins" which was met by applause. She followed up this statement with a reminder that the Guam delegation seeks self-determination and war reparations from the United States. She again repeated a moment later, the reminder about self-determination for Guam.

Interestingly enough, in the draft Democratic platform, self-determination is something which they party is proposing to support for Guam. Even more interestingly, one of the issues which both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama spoke of during the Guam primary in May, namely war reparations, was not.

Considering that much of my interactions with Guam's delegation have focused on joy of being included and desire to move the island closer to the United States (and this participation being one way of feeling and doing that) I was naturally surprised and excited by this statement by the Guam Democratic Party Chair.

DNC Day 3 - I Manmatungo' (ta'lo)

The continuing list of famous people I've seen so far (seen, not necessarily talked to).

Jonathan Alter, journalist
Paul Begala, pundit
Ann Curry, tv person (who was, according to rumor born on Guam)
Fran Drescher, actress
Tammy Duckworth, former Congressional candidate in Illinois
New York Governor David Pattersen
Penn. Governor Ed Rendell
Former California Congressman Norman Mineta
California Congressman Mike Honda
DNC Chariman Howard Dean
Minnesota Congressional Candidate Ashwin Madia
Hawai'i Congresswoman Mazie Hirono
Congressman from Maryland Steny Hoyer
Colorado Congressional Candidate Hank Eng
Guam Senator Ben Pangelinan
Guam Senator BJ Cruz
California Comptroller John Chiang
California Congressman John Chiang
Susan Sarandon, Actress and Activist
Tamlyn Tomita, Actress and Activist
Lisa Edelstein, Actress
Minnesota Senator Amy Koblucher
Maya Sotero-Ng, Barack Obama's sister
Kansas Governor Katherine Sebelius
Former Democratic Presidential Candidate George McGovern
Journalist Richard Wolfe
CNN journalist Wolf Blitzer
NBC TV News journalist David Gregory
James Carville, pundit
Katie Couric, CBS News Anchor
Kelly Hu, actress and activist
Congressman Charles Rangel
Virgin Islands Congresswoman Donna Christensen
DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

DNC Day 3 - Interview with Raj Goyle

Guest Blogged by Rashne Limki:

I had the pleasure of meeting KS Rep. Raj Goyle (D) this morning at the AAPI Caucus. Over the past couple of days I kept hearing of the amazing job Rep. Goyle had done in getting elected to a district he himself describes as "the reddest of the red." Admittedly, this was the first I'd heard of him (in fact, I really had no idea of the current extent of desi representation in state and federal government, and it only seems to be expanding, slowly but surely.) So, like I mentioned this was the first I'd heard of Rep. Raj Goyle and I had no idea what he looked like. So, imagine my surprise, and embarrassment, when I figured out that the desi seated in front of me for most of the caucus was indeed Raj Goyle.

Rep. Goyle is a super-energetic, dare I use the "i"-word – inspirational – speaker. He addressed the caucus for just a few minutes, talking primarily about his campaigning experience, but he had folks sitting up and paying attention. I have to say, as someone who gets a bit apprehensive of talking to random folks, especially about politics, just the idea of an unknown brown man knocking on (presumably) a large number of white doors, makes me want to stand up and applaud – pay my respects. It must take a lot of 'steel in your spine' to pull something like that off… and successfully too! In his speech, Goyle mentioned that when he started off with his campaign, he knocked on thousands of doors, only to soon realize that polls had him 19 points behind. And of course, as any truly committed person might do, he kept going… knocking on thousands more until, ultimately, this democrat won a traditionally republican district – i.e. the 87th district of Kansas. Yeah, Desi Power!

Rep. Goyle is the son of immigrant parents from Punjab. When I asked him about what made South Asian candidates tick, he noted that the drive to succeed, to scale greater heights, that characterizes South Asian immigrants and their descendents, helps aspiring politicians to connect with their future constituents. I guess the 'model minority' perception does have some benefits… one that can be critically negotiated if it means having more brown folks in office. Of course, it's not enough to have 'brown folks' in office, it takes the right kind of 'brown folks.' And Rep. Goyle seems to be of the right kind. Check out his Issues and Ideas page.

I asked him if he intended to run for national office, but for now he seems focused on winning a re-election. So go ahead and support him... we need more progressive people of color in office, no?

You know that question folks seem to be bandying around these days: "What's wrong with Kansas?" Well, you can read a book on that… but it seems to me that folks like Kathleen Sebelius and Raj Goyle something must be right with it… what?

And hey, there's lots more desis out there running for office... and there'll be even more in the near future. Soon, desi rashtrapati?

DNC Day 3 - Looking for the Other Side of American Militarization

Tonight theme for the convention looks to be military, security, having the right judgement when wielding American might and power. Once again however, I find myself out of place in the fervor of the rhetoric and the excitement of the Democrats attending.

In this election, but more so in the last election the Democrats will be straddling a very thin line, trying to find a balance between being the default anti-war party, but also proving to be the most militaristically adept party, and the one who should be controlling the troops and the bombs.

Coming from an island which has a far more intimate relationship to the military than any other military community (with the exception perhaps of the Marshall Islands), I'm struggling to find a place for the expression or even just mention of Guam's particular relationship with the United States military. Can any "real" "formal" American community, meaning those in states, know the feeling of being occupied in an American war, being displaced from your land to transform your island into a massive base, and also have your people then serve and die in that same military in record numbers? And this is all history which is not ancient, but has all taken place in the lives of my grandparents and thousands of other Chamorros.

Our relationship to war is such a complex one. It is something that gives us life, Guam's military value, allows us to be Federally funded, allows us to be recognized as an American community. Both Congresswoman Donna Christensen and Congresswoman Elenor Holmes Norton mentioned the incredible sacrifice and service of Chamorros as being the thing which makes possible any favors their receive from the Federal Government. It is through war, through serving, through praising America and its wars that we get to be Americans.

But it is war that destroys us as well. Chamorros have the second highest per capita KIA rate in the War on Terror, following Samoans. Chamorros have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Bahrain. The military is something which prior to World War II took away our language, and since then took away so much land, and has poisoned our island with its munitions and waste. It is also something which fuels our ever-growing diaspora, keeping our young people moving off island.

So when I am looking for solidarity or dialogue at the DNC on this issue, I am coming from the perspective of someone who wants to be a real discussion about militarization, about war and about peace. Because as I come from an island which is celebrated as the "tip of America's spear" this is not simply just another issue for me.

This means that finding a place in the Pepsi Center at the actual convention, amongst politicians and Party leaders is almost impossible. The antiwar sentiment that you find in the convention, in its speeches are all skewed to clearly that it would be more accurate to call it "anti-Bush Wars" sentiment. Tonight's lineup of speakers will thus denounce wars and militarization, but only so long as it is the Bush kind, the point of all this of course to make the case that although they are not the party of the current wars America is fighting, they are far more capable of being the War Party for America.

I submitted a request to speak to Dennis Kucinich yesterday following his floor speech, but unfortunately it wasn't accepted. I had wanted to ask him more about his proposal for a Department of Peace, because amongst all the "anti-war" Democratic candidates for President this year, he and Senator Mike Gravel alone entertained the idea of shrinking the size of the American military or limited its reach and power. I've made several more interview requests tonight, for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed to speak on the party's platform and if there is any room for "change" in terms of America taking seriously the governmental and grassroots discontent that is spreading around the world to existing and planned American bases in other countries.

If I do get the chance to speak to them (which I'm pretty sure won' t happen) then I'm sure I'll get a "kao lungga hao?" look, and a banal assertion of the greatness and moral goodness of American military might. I'll be trapped in a sort of circular logic trap, where the fact that there is no other side to the debate about US militarization, is reinforced by that idea that there doesn't have to be, since the American military is the most advanced, most restrained, most respectful military out there. There is no other side to this issue because there doesn't have to be. Its a familiar sort of argument that you hear from all governments, but which the Bush Adminstration has perfected, you don't need oversight or information, since everybody who is working on it is doing a good job and can be trusted.

I was happy to see amongst the delegates present, members of Codepink who were passing out pink cardboard fingers formed into peace signs, with the words "I am a delegate for peace on them."

Outside of the Pepsi Center I was fortunate to find more voices such as these, but at the same time there is a real disconnect. In March of last year, 400 activists from 40 different nations came to Ecuador for a gathering calling for the abolition of foreign bases, which the United States controls 95% of. Medea Benjamin from Codepink and The Gobal Exchange wrote a very informative piece detailing the demands of different activists, and included in this demand were not just bases on "foreign" soil, but also colonial soil. It didn't just call for bases to be taken out of the backyards of those who are recognized as other sovereign nations, but also sites such as Guam which are recognized as colonies of the United States. I had hoped, since so many of Benjamin's allies were present in these protests, that they would continue with these sorts of arguments about the relationship between war, militarization and bases.

Those outside were far more "anti-war" than those inside the Pepsi Center. But what people I talked to didn't seem to get was the connection between war and bases. They were protesting violence and deaths, suffering, and calling for an abstract end to these things in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, being against "war' and its violent spectacles, doesn't get anywhere near the heart of the violence of war and militarization, that takes place through the establishing of bases. Which in different areas boils down, what Chalmers Johnson calls a new form of American colonialism, with bases colonizing different countries by the occuping of foreign lands, and the application of all sorts of diplomatic, economic and military pressures through these bases to secure American interests. You can end the visceral violence of open warfare, alot easier than you can rip out bases from foriegn lands, because these bases worm their way into local communities, economies, governments, and become entangled in life there, and eventually become just another part of the landscape. The collection of more than 700 bases the United States operates around the world, are what give it its power and its ability to dominate the world, and the support for this thinking is what has led to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have allowed the United States to set up even more bases in areas where it perceives its future mortal enemies to be. So long as these bases are out there, American power will continue to grow, and continue to be flexed in order to protect itself and keep its global growth active.

I spoke to many protestors who wanted an end to the open and obvious forms of violence, but very few who were thinking about these deeper, less visible forms of violence. But if you are interested in building up that other side of the debate of American militarization, make it possible to speak about peace, as a process of opposing war and creating stability, and not simple a time absent of war, then it is the bases that America has around the world, most importantly in those places that American's don't know about, that the work has to begin. I pray everyday that the other side, this not just antiwar side, or anti-militarization side of American politics will grow and become concrete enough to create a real debate about the role of the American military in the world today, the size of its budget and influence, and the status of its bases around the world.

DNC Day 3 - Kelly Hu

After seeing a parade of Asian American celebrities and political figures, I was glad to finally see someone of Pacific Islander descent. Actress and model Kelly Hu stopped by at the Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus meeting this morning.

Although Kelly is most well known for her roles in the films X-2 and The Scorpion King, and tv shows such as Nash Bridges and Martial Law, I know her best and most fondly for her support for the Kamehameha school in Hawai'i. In addition to being party English and Chinese, she is also Native Hawaiian, and attended the Kamehameha school in Oahu. She has been on record as supporting these schools for Native Hawaiians, and in 2006 she even made a video which was posted on Youtube through which she expressed the importance of the schools to Native Hawaiians, and rebuffed any claims that the school's existence is tied to racism, but rather to restorative justice. For years, there are have been efforts to close the school or force it open to students of any racial background.

The Kamehameha School is still under attack today, and will likely continue to be until the rights of Native Hawaiians as the indigenous people of Hawai'i, and as a political community whose rights extend beyond simply dancing and giving leis to tourists. If you would like to learn more go to this website, Support Kamehameha.


DNC Day 3 - Another Dispatch from the AA/PI Matrix

Guest Blogged by Rashne Limki

I’m sitting right now at the AAPI Caucus meeting. It’s the second one I’m attending, the other being this past Monday. As an Indian, I guess I kind of fit into this rubric and I feel relatively comfortable within it because it is within this community that I became politically active at Oberlin. At Oberlin, one of the issues we grappled with was the ‘inclusion’ of the P or PI within the rubric. During my time at Oberlin, I knew exactly two Pacific Islanders, neither of whom were particularly active in the community. I’m not even sure how they identified, except that they probably put down A/PA on various official forms, just as I have had to do pretty often. I don’t feel particularly comfortable with this census categorization, except when I’m around it as a political community. In any case, sitting here in the AAPI caucus, the situation of Pacific Islanders is absolutely no different than anywhere else… the number of PIs can generally be counted on one hand, if not one finger. And often, those charged with PI outreach are Asians/Americans who live, or have lived, in Hawai`i. Now, I don’t think Asian Ams. are resistant to having PIs among them, but they are relatively indifferent – the common understanding seems to be we’ve included them in our name and now its up to them to join us. Of course, most Asian Ams. aren’t even aware of the diversity of PIs – they’re awareness is probably limited to ‘Hawaiians’ and a couple of other groups. (Until a couple of years ago, you could count me among them… admittedly, the increase in my awareness is attributable to my being in a relationship with a politically active Pacific Islander.) And there’s absolutely no way that Asia Ams. grapple with the same issues as PIs. The fundamental difference between the two groups can be captured in one word – ‘colonization.’ The AAPI rubric is as absurd as AANA (i.e. Asian American Native American). But what makes the indifference, lack of awareness and absurdity starkly evident is that the majority of the speakers at the caucus stumble over the ‘PI’ part, hesitating about where exactly the letters P and/or I fit into the label. And of course, when not using the abbreviated version, the group is addressed simply as ‘Asian American.’

DNC Day 3 - Guam Mention in the National Journal

Even In Denver, Bloggers Keep Independent Streak
New Media Types Are Excited To Cover The Convention,
But Some Do It With A Critical Eye
by Kevin Friedl, The National Journal
Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008

When the Democrats welcomed hundreds of bloggers to Denver, they may not have known what they were in for. Even the most carefully vetted bloggers, it seems, are still capable of biting the hand that feeds them press credentials.

Before the convention had even begun, bloggers invited by the party to cover the event from inside the Pepsi Center were demanding greater access to the floor and overwhelming the DNCC staff with requests. Some bloggers used their initial posts in Denver to complain about security hassles, the credentialing process, and the lack of wireless Internet access, much to the annoyance of Democratic staffers.

Of course, the great majority of the blogs' initial coverage was positive. These are, after all, Democratic partisans. Many see their role as sharing the excitement of the convention experience with audiences back home by posting pictures, video, and regular updates without necessarily editorializing.

"To be honest, I'm a big party supporter," said Jeff Strater, a delegate from Texas and a blogger who said he wouldn't think of including criticism in the online posts of his experiences. "Most of my readers are Democratic Party faithful so, yeah, it wouldn't be cool with them at all."

That's a sentiment unlikely to be heard at the Big Tent, a workspace for bloggers a few blocks outside the convention security perimeter. At an opening press conference on Sunday, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas talked about the need for the blogosphere to check the power of the traditional press and party establishment.

But even within the ranks of those allowed onto the convention floor, many bloggers fiercely assert their independence. "One thing we're not afraid to do is criticize the party, and I do it all the time," said David Dayen, who writes for the California-focused blog Calitics. That iconoclasm, he says, can rub some members of his delegation the wrong way. "I might get a little look here or there, just because of something I've written or talked about."

Greg Palmer, who is blogging with the Pennsylvania delegation this week, acknowledged the temptation to toe the party line but said he would be ill-serving his readership if he did so. He said, "Keystone Politics [the blog for which he writes] has always aimed to be an independent journalism outlet. What we really want to do is get the public interested in politics and policy-making."

To that end, Palmer has posted short interviews with state pols such as Sen. Bob Casey and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. "For me, the more access the better," he said.

The local focus is one reason why the DNCC reached out to blogs in the first place -- to reach smaller, more-focused readerships. But a consequence of embedding a blogger with each delegation is that they have multiple agendas in Denver.

Guam's blogger, Michael Lujan Bevacqua, hopes to draw attention to his island territory. "I will absolutely participate in these celebrations, but I will also be present as a cautious reminder ... about Guam and the Pacific," Lujan Bevacqua wrote on his blog.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DNC Day 2 - ...for those of us from the territories

Senator Hillary Clinton is speaking right now and she just said, "...and the territories." I will write later about why, other than this being the way that Guam is mentioned and included in this great big Democratic tent, that this is interesting.
Otro fino'-ta: Earlier in the evening her old campaign shark Terry McAuliffe came by the Guam Delegation on the floor and yelled at us "I Love Guam!" The Guam delegates, mainly the Hillary supporters swooned, because like Hillary, Terry has also visited Guam.

(for clarification, in this photo Terry Mcauliffe is posing with Alaskan delegates not Guam ones)

DNC Day 2 - Interview with the Der(r)icks

An interview with Guam delegate Derrick Muna Quinata and page from Guam Derick Hills. From Campus Voices:

DNC Day 2 - The Half-Vote Dilemma

I've written before about the half-vote delegates that Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the Americans Abroad receive in the Democratic Presidential primary process. For me this is just another sort of way in which the island is included and excluded, how it is never made a full part of the United States, but instead treated to small token gestures to make it feel more American then it really is.
But this is my view on things, a member of the Guam delegation, Taling Taitano, a Democratic National Committeewoman and a superdelegate looks at it in a different way. She says that the rules have been such, with half delegates for a long time and isn't sure where the rationale comes from. But it is actually a bonus for territories such as Guam, which have small populations and are so far away from the United States. With half delegates, they can send twice as many members. If they received full delegates, then only four people, in addition to Guam's five super delegates would be. And since it is such an honor to be here and participate its important to be able to share it with more people.

If it was her decision on whether Guam delegates should be treated equally and be given four votes or continue to have half votes, she would absolutely chose half votes. According to Taitano that is the Guam way, to try to make sure as many people can join in as they can.

DNC Day 2 - Okinawan Realities

I briefly met one elected official this afternoon, who had spent several years of her life in Okinawa. I introduced myself as the blogger from Guam. She mentioned having always wanted to visit Guam but never having the chance too.
I took this opportunity to discuss the impending military buildup there, and mentioned specifically the several thousand Marines which will be transfered from Okinawa to Guam. At first her face went ashen and she said oh no, how terrible.

She didn't elaborate on this and so I can only guess why she seemed to feel it was terrible. Was it because of some simple image of a small paradise island being overrun by eager young Marines? Or was it something tied to her own time in Okinawa?

After this brief pause, she quickly sobered up and said that it would probably be for the best.

DNC Day 2 - Aaron at last!

I was finally able to meet Aaron Silverstein from the Colorado blog Squarestate.net who I first came across on the blog Guam Loves Jason Rosenberg. I had no idea that I could even apply as a blogger to attend the Democratic National Convention, and it was Aaron who first let me know about it.
I posted this morning about a painting that I'm planning on giving Aaron to show my appreciation for his help, and actually when I met a random blogger from Pennslyvania today, and introduced myself as a Guam blogger, he immediately said, "yeah, you made a watercolor painting for Howard Dean!"

Not exactly, but close enough. Speaking of Aaron Silverstein and Howard Dean being confused with each other. At the blogger's Tailgate today, Howard Dean spoke at length with those attending, and enjoyed some watermelon and corn while doing so.

Obviously in a hurry to go to yet another event, he left his plate and his finished food on the table. Goldy, a Washington blogger from Horse's Ass took pictures of first Howard Dean eating some watermelon and later Aaron taking a bite out of Howard Dean's mostly finished watermelon.

Aaron can now claim to have consumed the soul of Howard Dean and embody his grassroots, populist fervor. Although he is already a force to be reckoned with, he is now unstoppable.

DNC Day 2 - An Interview with Colbert's Nemesis

I just finished up a lovely interview with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton from Washington D.C. I saw her, her staff and most of her delegation all wearing buttons or shirts that said "DC Statehood" and "No Taxation Without Representation." I stopped someone wearing one of those shirts, asking if I talk to them about their movement, and thankfully enough I happened to stop Congresswoman Norton's chief of staff.

Amongst the territories, Washington D.C. is like the Alpha Male or Bulaka, because of her privileged status, as the only one whose constiuents pay Federal income taxes, and whose geographical region houses the center of American power. I know plenty of Norton and her positions because of this relationship. Most other Americans probably know her from her ongoing fued with Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report.


DNC Day 2 - An Email from Congresswoman Christensen

I've done plenty of interviews so far, but none with any of the people that I had listed and submitted to the Democratic National Convention. I'm happy to report that I just got an email from US Virgin Island's Congresswoman Donna Christensen and will be meeting her pretty soon.

Since my hope her is to get more info on Federal-Territorial relations, and learn how things works for the insular empire of the United States, meaning Puerto Rico, Guam, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa and possibly the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, this will be one of my most important interviews. Congresswoman Christensen is the chair of the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs under the House Committee on Natural Resources. If there is any subcommittee of Congress which could be considered to "know the colonies" of the United States, at least the formal ones, this is it. So although the subcommittee is compared to all others weak because of the smallness of what it provides oversight for, namely the territories, for those of us in the territories, it is crucial in getting what we want or what we can from the Feds.

DNC Day 2 - I Manmatungo'

Famous people I've seen so far (seen, not necessarily talked to).

Jonathan Alter, journalist
Paul Begala, pundit
Ann Curry, tv person (who was, according to rumor born on Guam)
Fran Drescher, actress
Tammy Duckworth, former Congressional candidate in Illinois
New York Governor David Pattersen
Penn. Governor Ed Rendell
Former California Congressman Norman Mineta
California Congressman Mike Honda
DNC Chariman Howard Dean
Minnesota Congressional Candidate Ashwin Madia
Hawai'i Congresswoman Mazie Hirono
Congressman from Maryland Steny Hoyer
Colorado Congressional Candidate Hank Eng
Guam Senator Ben Pangelinan
Guam Senator BJ Cruz
California Comptroller John Chiang
California Congressman John Chiang

DNC Day 2 - Sarah from Kentucky

Today was another machalapon day. More wrong directions, running around lost and misinformation by DNC folks, Pepsi Center employees and other volunteers on where I need to go and where I can go.

I eventually made it to the Bloggers' Tailgate '08 this afternoon but not after running around for a while, being misdirected to just about every section of the Pepsi Center. Fortunately, I had a partner in being lost and eventually finding the party. I met Sara, who is the state blogger from Kentucky and part of the blog Blue Grass Roots.
I told her that she was the first blogger I'd ever met from Kentucky, and she said the same in terms of Guam. She asked if there was much blogging on Guam and if I had any competition in getting accepted into the State (and Territory) Blogger Corps. I said, sadly no, there is not much blogging on Guam, at least not blogged that's politically motivated or inspired. This wasn't the case with her, as her blog had beaten out a much larger blog for their crendentials, and they probably weren't happy about it.

In my mind, I felt fortunate that there wasn't much blogging on Guam because it gave me this chance to participate and report on this historic event. On the other hand however, it reminded me of the lack of rich political discussion on the internet about Chamorro and Guam issues, and I half-hoped that next time around if I try and get access again, there will be some competition.

Coming from a state that went for Hillary in the primaries, I asked Sarah if there was any tension between their delegation and other Democrats. She said yes there is. As everyone should know, Barack Obama won Guam's primary by just seven votes. Hillary Clinton is a much loved figure on Guam because of her visit there while she was President, and also Bill's visit in 1998. Because both Clinton's share this tie to Guam, the island as distant from the imagination as it is to other politicians. Take for instance, the experiences of one girl from Guam, who met Hillary Clinton earlier this year:

I had the pleasure of meeting Senator Clinton last May, at an Asian American & Pacific Islander kickoff event with her campaign. I shook hands with her and introduced myself, told her I was from Guam and immediately. Immediately we started a conversation about the island and its people. I was so pleased with the fact that I didnt have to explain where Guam was, what our island’s history was or its connection with the United States - because she knew all of that. She was very well versed on the issues our island and its people were facing (i.e., Marines relocating from Okinawa, Guam War Claims, the Filipino Veterans Equity bill, and much more). But, it doesn’t end there. She’s an extremely brilliant individual with amazing experiences under her belt, coupled with an affinity for solving problems and working hard.

DNC Day 2 - A Letter from Al Franken

Just go this from Al Franken's Senate campaign. I'll be posting more substantive things later today once I get to the Pepsi Center.

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

Dear Michael,

I'm grabbing a quick minute in between events here at the Democratic National Convention to bring you some good news. That energy, that enthusiasm, that excitement that's been giving us all hope that this November, we'll really be able to change our country is exploding this week in Denver.

The energy is here – big time. And it will spread from coast to coast.

Everyone I meet is fired up and ready to work hard every day to elect Barack Obama. But everyone also knows that President Obama will need a working majority in the Senate to help him carry out his agenda of real change.

That's where I come in. And that, in turn, is where you come in.

CAN YOU MAKE A CONTRIBUTION OF $25, $50, OR $100 TODAY TO HELP ME HELP BARACK OBAMA CHANGE THIS COUNTRY?

With Barack Obama and Joe Biden at the top of the ticket, we're going to keep this state blue. And we have a tremendous opportunity to turn this Senate seat blue, too. The energy is there – we just need to make sure we have the resources to win this race and give President Obama another progressive vote in the Senate.

Thanks for being part of this movement – and thanks for helping me keep it going!

Al Franken

DNC Day 2 - A Brush with Steny Hoyer

I was just looking over the schedule of speakers for tonight and Congressman Steny Hoyer is speaking. I ran into Steny Hoyer last night, while walking in front of the Hyatt in Denver.

He was in a big Hyrid SUV, it stopped in front of me and Secret Service immediately rush out, one of them coming up to me and placing a large white hand in my face, and told me to stop.

Hoyer and one of his aides stepped out. I felt sorry for the aide, he was carrying a stack of papers as tall as his toro. As Hoyer passed by me, seeing a large Secret Service hand in my face, looked over and tipped his head slightly, saying "Sorry for that."

DNC Day 2 - Podiums and Tailgates

Yesterday was a confusing and crazy day. Interviews were difficult to come by and when I was able to speak to politicians about Guam issues or Pacific Islander issues, their answers were generic or banal. Internet was also an issue, as I had trouble nearly all day finding reliable internet as I shuffled around from DNC event to DNC event all around downtown Denver.
Today looks to be alot better. I woke up this morning to find in my email inbox a wonderful email from one of the blogger media people, letting us know that we can request spots on "podium roundtalble interviews." As speakers at the convention step off the stage and into the sea of media and delegates they will have a blogger/press roundtable waiting for them where we can ask a question or two. You can only request three a day from the list of speakers. I'm sure most bloggers would go after a spot speaking to the bigger name folks from today's schedule. For me, I'm just trying to find people who can speak to issue relevant to Chamorros and Pacific Islanders. My "chosen" three from today's illustrious list of speakers are:

Eleanor Holmes Norton
Dennis Kucinich
Mike Honda

Another bit of good news is that today I'll be attending a blogger Tailgate 08 party hosted by Howard Dean and the Convention outside of the Pepsi Center. I haven't run into many bloggers lately since I've been here, I think they've all been hanging out at the Pepsi Center where the internet is better.

I'm hoping to run into Aaron Silverstein from the local Colorado blog Squarestate.net, who is the blogger who began the blog Guam Loves Jason Rosenberg last year, which led me to apply as the blogger from Guam. I painted him something while I've been here and want to give it to him as a gift.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

DNC Day 1 - The Return of the Native

Earlier tonight, I was walking from my rental car, several blocks to the Marriot Hotel for an APIA Vote Gala Reception titled “Living the Dream: Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Political Leadership.” For most of the day I’ve been wearing some buttons on my shirt. One says “Asian Pacific Islander Americans for Obama,” another says “Judgment to Lead” with Obama and Joe Biden on it, and the last one I received from the Guam Delegation which says “DEMOCRATS UNITED, WE WIN! GUAM.”

If you are in the downtown area of Denver around the Colorado Convention Center and the hotels where other events are taking place, then you can safely assume that everyone around you wearing some sort of political paraphernalia is attending the Democratic National Convention. While waiting at a crosswalk, a young man next to me noticed one of my pins and said to me “Guam, alright!”

I wasn’t too surprised by this. Guam had made a small splash the night before at amongst assembled delegates, because the entire delegation sported bright red Hawaiian shirts. Because of this they were favorites for approaching and having your photo taken with. I smiled at him, a bit uncomfortably, hoping quietly that he would not ask me where my red Hawaiian shirt was.

Instead (and interestingly enough without introducing himself or asking my name) he started talking about how he had been waiting to go to Guam, and how other staffers had said it was great and people there treat you great. I assumed that this point that he was attached to some Congressman who had either been on a delegation to Guam or would be going on one in the future. In my head this meant that he worked for someone from the Armed Services Committee or on the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs.

I smiled again, this time sincerely, since I was hoping to interview some people on that committee to answer some questions about how they were insuring that the local economy would benefit from the military buildup, how they would make sure that the military did follow its environmental standards, how they were planning on helping the Government of Guam pay for the damage the buildup would cause, and lastly how would they ensure that Guam’s right to decolonization would be protected. A long list of things, and after my first day at the convention and not being able to connect to the right politicians or get them to answer any questions I was beginning to despair and felt that I wasn’t going to get any sort of answers on Guam from this convention.

Before I could continue he made a remark which completely set me off. Knowing everything I do know about how Washington D.C. perceives Guam and all the work that the Chamber of Commerce and certain politicians do in creating that perception, it should not have surprised me at all. Guam is after all “the tip of the spear.” Military commanders use this metaphor to speak casually about Guam and its future and reduce it to a weapon in their war games or a piece of property onto which you move a fighter wing here, a Marine battalion there. And locally the Chamber of Commerce style of representing Guam accepts this objectification and offers up Guam as an “American” community which loves to be used by the military and even celebrates it!

He said something to the effect that in the next few years all you guys’ dreams are gonna come true because of the Marines and the military buildup.

The smile of course, disappeared immediately from my face. The only thing that I could reply, was “Is that what you guys’ think?” It was strange to me that someone could speak of the military buildup so callously, and in such a way that the potential negative impacts to the island, its economy, its infrastructure, its environment and its population simply didn’t exist, and all that was left was some magic Marine dust which would make all the islands’ dreams come true.

I had written earlier on this blog, that I would take a more quiet and deliberate approach to interviewing at the Convention, but I have to admit I wasn’t much of either in this exchange. My next statements all dealt with my disgust at how little he knew about Guam, and my revulsion that they were deciding the fate of the island with so little knowledge. I didn’t use the words “disgust” or “revulsion” but I think my tone communicated it.

I finished by unknowingly paraphrasing an old Joe Ada speech, saying that Guam is not Idaho, Guam is not Kansas. Guam is not a state with Senators and Congressmen, where in all your plans for building up the military presence, is the protections for a people without representation or political power, and where is the safeguarding of the island’s right to decolonization? Where are your plans should the island reject this buildup or seek independence?

I think the crosswalk lights had been white for a while. Because he immediately darted off, in a different direction than which we had both been initially facing. In the last look that I got of his face, I saw a mixture of fear and confusion, as if the foundation for his identity in that moment had just completely collapsed and fallen away, leaving him to dangle without any certainty. I imagine that so many people who come to Guam serving in the military, or even tourists who visit Hawai’i get that look after they realize that a place that they imagined as theirs, whether it be a paradise or just another military base, in reality belongs to someone else, and has natives who claim it.
As he walked away I thought about yelling at him or following him, but after realizing that he was reacting to me as if I was a restless native, I thought that this might antagonism him further.

I’m hoping that I see that staffer/aide again. Not to entice him or freak him out more, but more so to talk to him and try to give him the side of Guam that he knows nothing about, and seemed to be very happy to not even consider. But, if this is the way in which people in Washington D.C. react to these sorts of questions and issues, which are the ones I came to Denver to ask and get feedback on, then I think I have a lot more rough exchanges like this ahead. Tomorrow, there are a number of sessions focusing on military families and veterans and so I’m really hoping that I see this guy’s boss there, or at least some other members of the Armed Services Committees that I can pose my questions to.

Being here in the heart of at least half of the political class of the United States, and the figures and ideas from which it draws its power, I can see another side of American colonialism. On Guam, this colonial existence is felt through being disrespected, dismissed, treated as not really American, and feeling constantly inferior because of this never realized American longing. In Washington D.C., in the United States, we see the more passive, lazy side of colonialism, where ignorance and disinterest protects and maintains what is a fundamentally unequal relationship. People in the United States may not know much about Guam, but that ignorance of their colonies shouldn’t save them from being held accountable for the territories whose fates they determine everyday. In an ideal world, only those who have a full and holistic knowledge of a thing should be allowed to govern or control it, but in the case of Guam, it was once again proven to me tonight, that this is especially never the case in terms of the territories.

I've finished typing up this story now, but looking back on it, it still feels surreal. Except for a few moments hanging around with people from the Guam delegation, I've felt out place almost the whole time I've been here. This exchange at a street corner in Denver is just another moment where I feel as if the questions I have, the issues I represent aren't welcome here, don't belong.

This doesn't mean that I'm not having a good time, or making some great contacts and friends, but still...there is still an uneasiness about being here, with so many people welcoming me, celebrating my presence here, but not really caring to engage with me on the critical issues, beyond simple inclusion, that have brought me here.

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