Thursday, June 30, 2011

Be Happy, Be Smile

A few months back I started up a Tumblr in hopes of exploring the angsty, curious teenage girl inside of me (j/k). In truth, I have no idea what the teenage girl inside of me is like, we don't talk very much, sina gof ekpe gui' lao ti siguru yu', hassan na kumuentos ham. Actually I did think about getting a Tumblr long ago, but it was precisely the abundance of angsty, curious pre-teen and teenage girls on there which made me shy away. Would getting a Tumblr mark me in a social-virutal way that I wasn't expecting? I don't know how cool or uncool Blogger is, but I'm certain that having a Tumblr is cooler, but would it be the right kind of cool? Esta meggai na blogs-hu siha, lao ti mangcool siha. Ya mungga yu' mama'tinas nuebu ya para bai hu makase' ta'lo.

I asked my younger sister Alina who is a living, breathing angsty teenage girl what she thought about Tumblr and her response was, "What's that?" So that's when I decided it was ok to get one.

For the past few months I've been posting on there, i fina'tinas-hu siha or in English, "the things I've created." This means that I've mainly been pasting images of my paintings or drawings. But in addition to this I've pasted images of knives that I've made while apprenticing for my grandfather, the first Famoksaiyan conference that I helped orgainze in 2006, and even a photo of the handwritten first draft of my 9th Chapter for my dissertation. Meggai fina'tinas-hu esta, ya guaha na biahi hinasso-ku na maolekna na bei deskana na'ya.

Although I am an artist, I don't think I'm a very good one in any way. I don't get to make as much art as I want to. I don't take as seriously the conventions of being a good, contientious artist. I would even argue I don't have much natural talent for painting or drawing.

My brother Jack on the other hand has a great deal of talent. Me and him used to compete in drawing when we were younger, and stopped the moment he, despite being four years younger than me, was already proving to be far better than I at drawing Marvel superheroes. Jack recently graduated from CSU Northridge with a degree in Graphic Arts, and me and Sumahi were fortunate enough to be there as he walked.

As part of entering this new phase of his life Jack decided to start a Tumblr as well. The name of it is Be Happy, Be Smile. He hasn't put much up yet, but I encourage people to follow him. Here below is one of my favorite pieces of his that he's done recently.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Maolekna "Para Siha Todu"

I mentioned I was working on an editorial with Victoria Leon Guerrero the other day and it was published in the Pacific Daily News this morning. We crammed alot of statements about what has been going on lately in terms of attempts to shift the buildup conversation into something of pre-DEIS period mode. We discussed Para Hita Todu and some of their motivations and also why they can't be taken seriously as a group that will lead Guam on this issue. All in all I think it was a pretty good editorial and so I wanted to paste it here as well.


Guam Needs Leadership on Buildup Issue
Michael Lujan Bevacqua and Victoria Leon Guerrero
Pacific Daily News
June 26, 2011

Given last week's Sunday Forum topic, which focused on whether or not people should express their support of the military buildup, we eagerly await a future Sunday Forum that will ask the obvious next question as to whether or not people opposed to the buildup should speak out as well.

Last Sunday's topic coincided with the recent appearance of a new pro-buildup group Para Hita Todu, which is seeking to carve a place for itself in the buildup conversation. The tone of the topic made it seem as if the pro-buildup side of the debate, such as the leaders of Para Hita Todu, have been cowed into silence and become marginalized in the process. In addition to the lack of any semblance of objectivity, it is laughable to think that such captains of industry and influence, with their thousands of employees, millions of dollars and obvious power, who have dominated the discussion of the buildup since it was announced, have somehow been silenced and need to be given a special space to make their case.

For years, the people of Guam were fed a steady stream of fantasies and wishful thinking about the buildup. Before people even knew what it was, while it was just numbers in press releases, people made promises of billions of dollars, better futures and jobs for everyone, without any specifics. But those days are over and the people of Guam have come to a point where we don't crave promises or platitudes about the buildup, but want answers and solutions to either the problem it represents in and of itself, or the problems that will arise because of it.

This is the sign of a maturing community; one which does not want to be lied to, but wants to be informed and wants to be able to make their own decisions.

What Guam needs now is leadership on the buildup issue, and this is something that as of yet Para Hita Todu is not offering. Their recently released study showing 60 percent buildup support in the community is a perfect example of this. They refuse to address the valid concerns of our community. Instead they have polarized the issue, making it just about who does or does not support the buildup, and not about why our community is apprehensive in the first place.

Proponents of the buildup have long attempted to substitute support for the buildup with a judgment that the buildup is good for Guam. Polls conducted over the years have always showed various high levels of "support" for the buildup, but this bears no relation to whether or not it is a good thing for the island.

The EIS gave the people of Guam answers about what the buildup might bring and much of it was bad. Thus, if Para Hita Todu wishes to blow the kulo' of buildup awesomeness, it must be able to tackle the legitimate concerns that people have about everything from Pågat, traffic, public institution overcrowding, environmental damage, a higher cost of living, and the list goes on.

From what we have seen so far, they are unwilling or unable to do so and have rebuffed these concerns with whimsical remarks of such things "being taken care of." The concerns of the people of Guam were kept at bay with such language for years and it did us little good.

Now that the military has revealed its plans and we know the potential impact, it does us even less good to ignore them. We need to continue to take a serious look at the buildup plans and address the valid concerns our community raised during the draft EIS commenting period, many of which are still being avoided by those orchestrating the buildup.

Para Hita Todu's inability to make a solid argument for the buildup is not truly their fault, but most likely tied to the inherent fact that the buildup has always been a potential boon for some and a possible burden for most. There are those who may reap incredible rewards from the buildup. They are the ones who are already at the top of Guam's society and have the means to leverage their already abundant resources into possibly much more resources.

For the majority of Guam's people, however, the opportunities are mixed, to say the least. The EIS said as much, by indicating that the quality of life on Guam may take a significant hit and the responses to these cautions from the pro-buildup side always boil down to vague promises of more money to take care of everything.

Yet when asked what kinds of jobs will be offered, what wages people will receive, who will get the big buildup contracts, how the government will pay for the necessary infrastructure and public service upgrades, how our island's middle- and lower-class families will be able to afford the increasing cost of living because of the buildup, those saying the economy will simply improve have no concrete answers.

While we agree that all voices must be heard in every discussion of our future, these voices must be informed by facts and not false promises. The people of Guam should always consider whether or not groups that claim they represent all of us truly do.

With Para Hita Todu's emphasis on "supporting" the buildup rather than understanding it or analyzing it, they are leading the island away from making concrete plans for all our people, and instead are supporting the interests of the select few who will profit and will not be disproportionately affected by the buildup's negative impacts.

Maolekña na mafana'an siha "Para Siha Todu."

Michael Lujan Bevacqua, Ph.D., and Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, M.F.A. both teach at the University of Guam.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Guam at the UN

The United Nations is supposed to represent everybody. For countries weak, strong, big and small there is supposed to be a place for each and everyone. But for those who are not nation-states or are nations within nations or colonies, the UN is a very different experience. There is no official, permanent place there. You are literally a ghost which is called into existence and every once in a while given a temporary place from which your story can be told.

In the case of Guam, there is an official place for this tiny little island each June and July when petitioners from Guam can speak before two different committees. Below is the summaries of the most recent visit this June.


United Nations Press Release

Special Committee on Decolonisation

6th & 7th Meetings (AM & PM)

Special Committee on Decolonization Adopts Draft on Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Amid Petitioners’ Concern that Text Ignores Islanders’ Self-Determination Wish ‘Committee of 24.’ Also Forwards Three Traditional Texts in Support Of Decolonization Declaration to General Assembly; Hears Petitioners from Guam
In a busy day that heard pleas to do otherwise, the Special Committee on Decolonization today adopted a consensus resolution reiterating that the way to end the “special and particular” colonial situation in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) was through the peaceful, negotiated settlement of the sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom.

The text was one of four passed today, which zeroed in on thorny questions that had been before the Special Committee for decades, and recommended ways to better implement the 1960 (Decolonization) Declaration, which it was tasked to monitor. The day also heard a number of petitioners air their views on the questions of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and Guam.

By the terms of the text, introduced by Chile’s representative, the Special Committee regretted that, despite widespread international support for negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom, which included all aspects of the Islands’ future, longstanding General Assembly resolutions on that question had not been implemented. The parties were requested to consolidate the current “process of dialogue and cooperation” by resuming negotiations in order to find, as soon as possible, a peaceful solution to their sovereignty dispute.

Imploring the Special Committee not to adopt the resolution as presented, Roger Edwards, an elected official of the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands, and one of several petitioners to take the floor on the issue, pointed out that the text had been drafted without a reference to the wishes of the Falkland people and their fundamental right to self-determination. “Falkland Islanders do not wish to see a change from British sovereign status,” he declared. The Islands had never formed part of Argentina; they were self-sufficient, self-governing and enjoyed a high standard of living. “Please respect our people’s wishes and our right to self-determination,” he said.

On the other side of the issue, petitioner María Angélica Vernet, Director of the National Historical Museum of the Buenos Aires Old Town Hall and May Revolution, traced her roots to the Malvinas Islands, where Argentine citizens had been stripped of their property and expelled by the United Kingdom in 1833. The population on the islands today was not a people in the legal sense of the term, as they were British either by birth or by origin. “The usurpation of the Malvinas Islands in 1833 was the usurpation of a territory that, both in fact and in law, belonged to Argentina,” she insisted.

Weighing in as an observer, Héctor Marcos Timerman, Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of Argentina, reiterated his Government’s “unrenounceable” rights over the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime spaces. In accordance with the United Nations mandate, he said, Argentina had included in its Constitution the commitment to take into account their interests and respect their lifestyle.

Further, while Argentina had always advocated the right to free determination of peoples, the United Nations, on the question of the Malvinas Islands, had determined that such a principle did not apply, he said, since the inhabitants of the South Atlantic Islands had not been subjugated to a colonial power. He extended a formal invitation to the British Government to resume negotiations, in good faith, to resolve the sovereignty dispute and end an “incomprehensible” colonial situation that was unacceptable in the twenty-first century.

Echoing the call to end colonialism in the modern era, the Special Committee approved three other consensus resolutions submitted by Chairperson Francisco Carrión-Mena (Ecuador) for the General Assembly’s adoption, all of which related to the implementation of the landmark Decolonization Declaration.

By the first, the Assembly would call on the administering Powers to cooperate fully with the 24-member body and finalize — as soon as possible — a programme of work on a case-by-case basis for the Non-Self Governing Territories to facilitate implementation of the Special Committee’s mandate. Among other things, it would request the Special Committee to continue to seek a suitable means to carry out actions related to the Second and Third International Decades for the Eradication of Colonialism, in those Territories that had not yet exercised their right to self-determination.

By the second text, the Assembly would urge the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations that had not yet done so to provide assistance to Non-Self-Governing Territories. Those agencies would be urged to provide information on environmental problems facing the Territories, ways and means to assist them in fighting drug trafficking, and on the illegal exploitation of the Territories’ marine and other natural resources. The Assembly would recommend that the heads of those agencies formulate proposals for the full implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions and submit them to their governing and legislative organs.

The third text would have the Assembly reaffirm the right of Non-Self-Governing Territories to self-determination, in line with Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) (1960), as well as to the enjoyment of their natural resources and to dispose of those resources in their best interest. It would affirm the value of foreign economic investment undertaken with the Territories — and in accordance with their wishes — in order to contribute to their socio-economic development. By other terms, the Assembly would urge administering Powers to safeguard and guarantee the inalienable right of Territories to their natural resources and maintain control over the future development of those resources.

In final business today, the Special Committee heard presentations by several petitioners on the question of Guam, who made their voices heard on the future of that Non-Self-Governing Territory administered by the United States. Lisa Baza of the non-profit organization Conscious Living recommended that Guam remain on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories until the Chamorros people had an opportunity to exercise their right to political self-determination. More broadly, she recommended that the United Nations adopt a resolution that reflected a case-by-case decolonization plan for each of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to be achieved in the Third Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.

Echoing that call, Clare Calvo, speaking on behalf of the Governor of Guam, said: “exercising this human right is long overdue”. She urged the Special Committee to help the Chamorros become citizens of their own place in this world.



The Special Committee on Decolonization met today to hear petitioners on the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). Before members was a draft resolution on the item (document A/AC.109/2011/L.7), as well as a working paper prepared by the Secretariat (document A/AC.109/2011/14) outlining, among other things, constitutional and political developments, as well as progress on mine clearance, economic and social conditions, and the Territory’s future status.

The paper says that the Constitution approved in 2008 came into force on 1 January 2009. The last general elections were held for all eight members of the Legislative Assembly on 5 November 2009: five from the Territory’s urban constituency and three from the “Camp”, for a four-year term. The Governor took up his appointment in October 2010.

As for the Territory’s future status, the paper says that, on 24 September 2010, the United Kingdom reiterated in the General Assembly that there could be “no negotiations on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands unless and until such time as the Islanders so wish”, and that the principle of self-determination “underlies our position on the Falkland Islands”. The Falkland Islands Government was entitled to develop a hydrocarbons industry within its own waters, the representative had said, noting that Argentina had announced plans for hydrocarbons exploration in the South Atlantic.

In an annual message to the Territory for 2011, the United Kingdom Prime Minister said: “It is in all our interests that we maintain a constructive working relationship with Argentina. And we will continue to do so.” There was common ground to be found at the Group of 20 (G-20) and on tackling climate change. The United Kingdom would stand resolutely with the Territory on any question of sovereignty, the paper explains.

Also on 24 September, according to the paper, Argentina’s President in the General Assembly claimed “respect for our sovereign rights over the Malvinas Islands”, underlining that the United Kingdom had refused to implement Assembly resolutions calling for negotiations with her country on the question of sovereignty. Unilateral decisions had been taken by the United Kingdom to exploit hydrocarbon resources on the Islands, she said, which constituted a “depredation of natural resources that belong to us” and entailed “the risk of ecological catastrophe”.
According to the paper, she had expressed her belief that the United Kingdom could “do as it likes”, as no one was compelling it to implement Assembly decisions. In a world of double standards, it was not possible to build peace, she had said, let alone maintain international security, as such situations ended up creating the kind of insurmountable disputes seen every day.


Also before the Special Committee was a working paper (on the territory of Guam) prepared by the Secretariat (document A/AC.109/2011/15), which outlines constitutional, legal and political issues there, as well as matters relating to the military presence, land, economy, social conditions and the environment.

The paper explains that the new Governor of Guam took office after the November 2010 elections. In October 2010, United States President Barack Obama signed into law bill H.R. 3940, which clarifies the Secretary of the Interior’s authority and obligation to provide federal funding for political status education on Guam, which should help inform the people of the island about their constitutionally viable political options.

As for action taken by the General Assembly, the paper explains that, on 10 December 2010, the Assembly adopted without a vote resolutions 65/115 A and B. Section VI of resolution 65/115 B outlines, among other things, the Assembly’s call on the administering Power to consider the expressed will of the Chamorro people as supported by Guam voters in the 1987 referendum and as subsequently provided for in Guam law, regarding Chamorro self-determination efforts.
Additional texts before the Special Committee are contained in documents A/66/63, E/2011/73 and A/AC.109/2011/L.10; as well as A/AC.109/2011/L.9 and L.11).
Petitioners on Guam
CLARE CALVO, speaking on behalf of Eddie Baza Calvo, Governor of Guam, said: “The people of Guam need your help.” Colonialism had weighed on them for nearly 500 years. The island had suffered over 230 years of Spanish colonial rule, during which the Chamorros had been devastated by disease, war and oppression. After the Spanish-American War, the United States had claimed Guam, and rule had begun under the “Naval Government”. Japan’s foray into imperialism during the Second World War had been especially brutal, when Chamorro women had been raped and men beheaded by the Japanese Imperial Army.

In July 1944, the United States had taken back the island, she continued, and while the Chamorros had been liberated from slavery and war, they were still suppressed under colonialism, and worse, had yet to receive reparations for the atrocities they had suffered. The Chamorros of the Second World War had endured slavery, murder and genocide, yet the United States had been silent on its obligations for war reparations. That silence reinforced the point that Guam could no longer be a colony in perpetuity.

She said the Chamorros had been unable to reach their full socio-economic potential because of their political status. “Now, more than ever, it is important to move forward”, while there were still Chamorros left to express their right to self-determination. She was thankful that the United States, the administering Power, recognized that right. The Obama Administration had agreed to match local funding allocated for decolonization efforts. The Government of Guam was committed to a plebiscite, and she wished to see a vote taken in the next general election or the one thereafter.

Most important was to ensure that Chamorros made an educated decision on their political status, she said, underscoring that “exercising this human right is long overdue”. For far too long, the Chamorro people had been told to be satisfied with a political status that did not respect their wishes first. For far too long, they had dealt with taxation without full representation, quasi-citizenship and partial belonging. She urged the Special Committee to support their human rights and help them become citizens of their own place in this world.

EDWARD ALVAREZ, Executive Director of the Commission on Decolonization of Guam, said his Government would embark on an aggressive campaign to parlay its situation to a national and international audience. Legislation had been introduced to appropriate money for a Chamorro self-determination educational campaign, a programme which the United States Department of the Interior had expressed its intention to fund. Moreover, the Governor aimed to hold a plebiscite in the next five years for the Chamorro people to exercise their right to self-determination.

He said that Guam did not plan to draft a constitution at this time, but rather, it would pursue the resolution of its political status by helping Chamorros exercise their right to self-determination, particularly amid the military build-up. With that, he recommended that a representative from the United States President’s Office facilitate the issue in Congress, as Guam engaged the Departments of the Interior and Defence.

For its part, Guam would reach out to national and international media “to get our story told and message across”, he pledged. It also would seek advocacy from as many groups and celebrities as possible. He also recommended that the United Nations advocate for Guam by pressuring the United States. Along with a national and international media campaign, Guam might request an invitation to the International Court of Justice. “The time has come for all of us to come to grips with what is right and just for the Chamorro people of Guam,” he said.

LISALINDA NATIVIDAD, Chamorro professor at the University of Guam and a member of the Guam Commission on Decolonization, said that, in 2006, the United States had entered into a bilateral agreement with the Government of Japan, which included plans to transfer 8,000 United States Marines from Japan to Guam. That process had occurred without any consultation with Guam leaders or the Chamorro people — a situation that had been made possible by the island’s unresolved political status. Guam’s current colonial condition “set the stage for exploitation” of its lands and the rights of the Chamorro people.

She said that the announced planned military build-up had prompted a return by Guam to the annual sessions of the Special Committee after a nearly 10‑year absence. But despite consecutive years of attendance since 2006, the situation remained unresolved and conditions in Guam were poor. “As you hear the dismal realities of our island home, we ask that you do something different,” she urged the Special Committee, calling on delegates to focus on specific actions that could be taken by the United Nations, and the Special Committee in particular, to bring about changes.

“Militarism has historically been used as the imperial hammer that ensures the suppression of Guam’s colonized peoples,” she said, noting that the application of American militarism in Guam had continued as recently as 2010, when the United States Navy had begun awarding Department of Defence contracts for construction and other projects on the island. Over the years, the United States military presence in Guam and the Federated States of Micronesia had resulted in radiation exposure, environmental devastation and toxic contamination of the islands and their peoples. Nonetheless, Guam residents were still not eligible for compensation through the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of the United States Congress, a fact that continued despite evidence of excessively high rates of rare types of cancer among the Chamorro people.

In light of the current situation, she offered a series of recommendations, including keeping Guam on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories until the Chamorro people were able to exercise their right to political self-determination. She further recommended that the Special Committee reaffirm and declare that Guam’s militarization plans by the administering Power, the United States, posed an impediment to the exercise of the Chamorros’ rights to self-determination and decolonization. Among other recommendations, she also said that the United Nations should provide financial and technical assistance for an educational campaign in Guam, in the near future, relative to the political status plebiscite.
YASUKATSU MATSUSHIMA, Professor at Ryukoku University in Japan, said that the colonial histories of Guam and his native Okinawa were closely linked. Just as Guam had been historically controlled by Spain, Japan and the United States, Okinawa had been under Japanese and United States control. And just as the Japanese Government had imposed colonialist policies in Okinawa, prohibiting the use of the Okinawan language in schools, Chamorros in Guam had been forced to speak English. Those policies and others like them amounted to a “cultural genocide”. The military policies in Guam and Okinawa had been unilaterally decided by the colonial Powers, ignoring the claims of their residents.

Today, the militarization of Guam was tied to the building of new military bases and the transfer of more than 8,000 United States Marines from Okinawa to Guam. With that movement, the Chamorro people would face many of the same problems that the Okinawan people had faced, including field fires and bomb accidents caused by live ammunition, plane and helicopter crashes, as well as noise pollution, traffic accidents, the destruction of environmental and historical sites and the loss of indigenous cultural heritage. The Okinawan people were against the movement of United States Marines to Guam, as well as the construction of new military bases, as they feared that the island’s colonial situation would become “deeply fixed”. They insisted that Guam be demilitarized in accordance with United Nations decolonization principles and the Special Committee’s processes.

LISA BAZA, Conscious Living, a non-profit organization, recommended that Guam remain on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories until the Chamorros had an opportunity to exercise their inalienable right to political self-determination. The United Nations should provide financial and technical assistance for an educational campaign that informed all people of Guam about the political status plebiscite, and it should send a visiting mission to observe that event.

More broadly, she recommended that the United Nations adopt a resolution that reflected a case-by-case decolonization plan for each of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to be achieved in the Third Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in particular, should financially assist Non-Self-Governing Territories in dealing with poverty-related issues caused by their economic dependence on administering Powers. The Organization should also consider revisiting the development of a declaration of rights for indigenous peoples, which would allow colonized voices to be heard.

Guam’s process of self-determination would be revisited with a plebiscite within the next five years, she said. The administering Power, through the Department of the Interior, had pledged funding for education, as the island worked towards that plebiscite, and she asked the Special Committee to implore the administering Power to follow that mandate.


Governor of Guam Discusses Role in UN Process:

Guam Self-Determination Outlined at UN Seminar, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, June 2011: Issues and Concerns of Civil Society on Guam:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Petition of Chains

Fellow activist and instructor at UOG Victoria Leon Guerrero and I just finished our letter to the editor weighing on the emergence of Para Hita Todu and the recently reinvigorated pro-buildup bias of the Pacific Daily News. This past week has had alot of letters in support of the buildup, many of them exceeding the usual limit the paper puts on submissions. All of these letters made similar points and talked about opportunities being missed and the buildup been a once in a lifetime or golden chance for so much more. None of them were particularly helpful for the discussion and were all built upon the hopeful, wishful but pointless premise that good things will happen if we believe in the buildup and support it.

Gof na'chalek nu Guahu, that opponents of the buildup were for so long accused of not offering anything but just negativity and critique, whereas those supporting the buildup were somehow offering a real concrete solution to problems despite not even knowing what they were talking about. It is intriguing how this still hasn't changed. Support for the buildup doesn't require much, in fact it requires less than opposing it. All you need is faith. All you need is to not think, to not question and to just hope and pray that good will come from it. Opposing the buildup tends to require a little bit more since the mere act of challenging or countering requires more critique and use of your facilities than to have faith in something.

In addition to all the pro-buildup letters that were published, a number of more cautious or moderate letters were featured as well. One which caught my eye was the letter below from Senator Rory Respicio. Para Hita Todu built their entrance into the debate on the buildup around their much touted and much maligned petition of support for the buildup. They argued they were going to get 15,000 signatures in a matter of no time, but have struggled after weeks to reach their target. Given their advantage as captains of industry and rich people with thousands of employees, you would think their task would be easy, but such hasn't been the case.

When you read their petition you can easily see why. The petition was drafted in some sort of ridiculous ideological bubble, as if no thought whatsoever was considered as to how a living breathing human being might react to what was being handed to them. Para Hita Todu attempted to create a petition which no one could be against, even going so far as to basically make three of their five petition statements banalities about the troops and supporting them. All of the stupid, idiotic things which conservatives regurgitate in order to make themselves seem patriotic or to deflate the patriotism of their opponents must come from a tall, smooth black obelisk similar to the one that appears in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It appears that Para Hita Todu in the conjuring of this petition made a pilgrimage to that rock, similar to the ones Muslims make to the Ka'bah perhaps. Once there, rather than having a meeting about what would be the best thing to put in their petition, they simply cut slivers of that foreboding black rock and when each piece landed on the parchment they had brought it shimmering and contorted itself into the following five glittering generalities:

These are all things no one can be against, or no polite and God-fearing patriot is supposed to be against. And while few to none would ever openly challenge these points, they are much stronger and much more potent when they are unspoken or unwritten. These points are sometimes deployed as talking points to silence a political opponent or characterize your enemies as being against the things no one is supposed to be against. They are powerful when used in that strategic context, but in an everyday sense they are things which are better left unsaid, since to remind people of them can end up unleash in them a desire to refuse them or be against them simply because they are being presented as things you must support. That is the dangerous dynamic of anything which is considered to be commonsensical or something all must stand behind. Is that while is gives you a sense of security, a strong identity, something you can assume a feeling of normal, angokkuyon community around those bonds in a positive sense can quickly began to feel like bonds in a negative sense. Those ideas can transform into ideological chains, things which while you still may believe in, you still feel the need to chafe against, to struggle against. Once revealed they are things which you almost feel like a interpollated punk for accepting. The petition shows a place in the world carved out for you, waiting for you to sign and accept, and in that sense it strips you of your feelings of agency, it deprives you of the ability to feel like you are your own person or you make up your own mind. These petition statements, normally things you might love or adhere to begin to feel like they are commands, orders issued through the social superego. To put it in the most simple terms possible, the petition reveals that these are not truly points that you want to follow, but are things that you must follow. That feeling naturally can quickly take the wind out of your sails and pop the enthusiasm bubble of your petition.

What I found interesting about Senator Respicio's letter was his attempt to re-write the petition to make it more accurately reflect what the people of Guam want or believe. While I am not a supporter of the military buildup, I do have to admit that if Para Hita Todu went around gathering signatures with the rewritten petition of the Senator, they would most likely have a much easier time. The rewrites are compromises and so they don't have the gusto of the original, but interestingly enough in that gray, mushy area of both supporting and not supporting something, or placing conditions on things, that is where humans feel alive. That is where they feel like they have a say, a place, like the world is not mapped out for them already, but in the miasma of moderation and middleness, they have choices and the ability at the least to move back and forth across that gray area.


Buildup Support Petition Needs Amending
Senator Rory Respicio
Guam PDN
June 22, 2011

I seem to have hit a nerve with Lee Webber, as his June 11 column suggests. The statement I appreciate most is that he said I was "very young." Thank you very much, Mr. Webber. As I am approaching 40, with more than 20 years of government and private sector experience, I always appreciate being called "very young," even if it's not quite accurate.

Also not accurate was Mr. Webber's statement that I "lamented" his service to our country as a corpsman. Military service is an honor, not something to lament. He put himself in harm's way to help the wounded and injured, and that is to be commended. My father and other relatives have also served in the military, and I have only respect for those who defend our island, country and people.

Mr. Webber has also failed to understand my perspective on the buildup. He has convinced himself that I am against it.

Although I haven't been asked, here is my suggestion to improve the petition being circulated by Para Hita Todu, the group that he mentioned. If the five statements were just slightly altered, as I have done below, I would gladly sign it, and many others may, as well. I haven't removed any of the original language, just modified the statements (changes are in italics; I've included an explanation for each to eliminate any question that the buildup should be "at any cost"):
•I welcome a military expansion that will create more good-paying, middle class jobs for our community. ("More jobs" shouldn't mean just minimum wage and temporary H-2 jobs).

•I want to be a partner in the fight for freedom, and in the fight for equality for Americans on both sides of the fence. (Freedom must mean equality for all).

•I welcome the servicemen and women who defend our nation, and welcome all efforts to help create 'One Green Guam.' (As the White House has stated: "construction [in Guam] must take into account the needs of not only an increased troop presence or Marine presence, but also the needs of the people of Guam [and] the impact on the environment.").

•I want what's best for Guam's future, for both the civilian and military communities. (Self-explanatory)

•I support our troops who protect our freedoms, and I support every American who has ever been denied our freedoms. (The war claims for Guam's greatest generation have yet to be fully addressed)

I hope this helps Mr. Webber understand why some still have concerns about a buildup "at any cost." Mr. Webber and I have a great deal of common ground.

Sen. Rory J. Respicio is majority leader of the 31st Guam Legislature and chairs the Committee on Rules; Human & Natural Resources; and Federal, Foreign & Micronesian Affairs.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Against Reality

Last week the Pacific Daily News, the most powerful and most influential media outlet on Guam which has been a longstanding devout mouthpiece for the military buildup, burying much of the negatives but always careful to blazon in sometimes stupid ways any potential or even mythically positive, provided this in a way far more clearly than ever before. Each week the PDN hosts a Sunday forum where people in the community who are knowledgable about a subject are invited to write in letters to the editor addressing said subject. Last week's topic was about whether or not people who support the military buildup should voice their opinion. Most topics are about issues where there is a pretense to address the subject in a comprehensive way, or at least from two sides. In this instance no such pretense existed and it was merely a ploy to create a space for supporters of the buildup could crame the editorial pages of the PDN with pointless platitudes of how awesome the buildup is and how everyone should just support it.

For those who have been following buildup politics, this sort of letter to the editor orgy is meant to be a sort of debut or coming out party for the group Para Hita Todu, which is bringing back all the old rhetoric of how awesome the military buildup is for Guam in hopes of convincing the people of Guam that whoever says the word "jobs" more times in more sentences is the person you should trust your life with.

The PDN has published a handful of letters thus far, but has promised that due to the high volume of letters they received, they will be publishing more throughout the week. I'm working with Victoria Leon Guerrero on drafting our own letter to the editor responding to this issue of the PDN's bias, but also to the stances or non-stances of Para Hita Todu. For a group which is attempting to assert themselves as offering solutions or offering help to the economic problems the people of Guam are facing they are surprisingly thin on anything of the sort. Thus far, they have offered no solutions or analysis of the military buildup except the same take' toru or the building being fantastic and the shaky assumption that supporting it or saying you want it will somehow 1. make it happen. 2. make it good for Guam. Neither have much connection to reality, but if you think they do, than Para Hita Todu has a petition they would like for you to sign and they also have some take' toru they want to serve to you in a delicately smoked panini.

I found it interesting though in the letters to the editor that have been published so far, how none seemed to attack the opponents of the buildup, as least not directly and not in any real way. The group We Are Guahan is for example a very easy target as they have been regularly critical of the buildup and protested it in many ways. You would think that since rich, affluent and gof delikao supporters of the buildup now feel marginalized and that their ideas on the buildup are now being silenced or drowned out by the shouts of a vocal minority opposition, they would want to counter those stepping on their throats and preventing them from using all of that influence they have over politics, the media, the business community and the lives of those employed by them to speak their mind. But such a callout never occurs and instead we are stuck with fragile banalities, pointless rhetoric about money to be made and little to no useful specifics.

One reason that it is so difficult to blame opposition groups for the perceived marginalization of the pro-buildup voice or the possibility that the buildup may not happen is because none of the rumblings from Japan and the US which indicate the buildup may not happen or may be put on hold have anything to do with local issues, politics or activities. Given the daily updates from Tokyo and from Washington D.C. about how the road map for realignment is dead or that money is being cut from the buildup or that the Congress may actually require DOD to follow laws in how it prosecutes the buildup, it is so transparently obvious that you cannot blame We Are Guahan. This is not BRAC where you can blame the protests of Nasion Chamoru for the closing of a military base. Nothing has actually happened yet where you could blame someone who preventing it, and furthermore all the barriers to the buildup happening, gi minagahet, have little to nothing to do with Guam. Talking positively about the buildup today may feel difficult, and it should. Regardless of what any poll says, given the news we are hearing daily, we could assume that the universe itself, the nature of reality is against the buildup. It's kind of hard to argue for something and claim it is so necessary and will solve so many problems when it and its components are still so up in the air or up for grabs (manu na metaphor i ga'o-mu?). As much as buildup supporters at the highest levels might want to simply blame We Are Guahan and other radicals for preventing the buildup or putting a halt to it, it seems more likely that the universe is conspiring against the buildup, and as awesome as us buildup opponents are, it's hard to fill the shoes of the universe.

Below is one such article showing the way things are falling apart in terms of the payment and planning for the buildup at so many levels. In the case of this article from the perspective of Japan and the negotiated road map plan for realigning US forces which is now kind of dead in the water.


Dispatch Japan
US-Japan Base Roadmap: 'Dead Plan Walking'
Peter Ennis
June 21, 2011

The lengthy joint security statement set to be issued by the US and Japan today marks the demise of the 2006 bilateral “roadmap” for restructuring US forces in Japan, particularly the plan to construct a facility in the Henoko Bay area of Okinawa to replace to US Marine Air Station Futenma.

No one will say this officially, of course. The two governments will continue to say that they have only postponed the 2014 deadline for completion of the new facility, and the related redeployment of 8,000 US Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

But the plan is dead.

Key members of Congress have moved to block it, insisting that more viable, cost-effective, and innovative ways be found to base and deploy US forces in the strategically critical Asia-Pacific region. In Japan, neither the money nor the political will is present to move forward with construction of a new facility that Okinawans – who generally are supportive of the US-Japan alliance – deeply resent. And on Guam, the building of infrastructure and related facilities needed to host a larger number of servicemen and military equipment is far behind schedule and plagued by cost overruns, which has further angered an increasingly debt-weary Congress.

For now, the most likely outcome of the roadmap’s death is a tacit acceptance of the status quo: 17,000 Marines from the division-size III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) – the only MEF based abroad – will remain based on Okinawa, and the 1,200-acre Futenma base, which is dangerously located in the center of Ginowan City (pop. 91,000), will remain open.

Few Japanese political leaders are prepared at this point to raise the idea of alternative basing options, for fear of provoking the wrath of a Washington that has been surprisingly inflexible on the issue for over a decade. There is virtually no chance that the initiative to start talks on alternative arrangements will come from Tokyo.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is in the midst of a transition from the historic tenure of retiring Defense Secretary Robert Gates – truly a momentous era for the Defense Department – to the incoming team of Leon Panetta, who is moving over from the CIA.

Today’s “2+2” meeting of the defense and foreign ministers of Japan and the US takes place with Gates still in office, making it unrealistic to have expected any change in the official US stance on base realignment in Japan to be apparent in the joint statement. Even if Panetta ultimately chooses to initiate a policy change, it will take time for him to put in place his own team to bring that about, not to mention have the opportunity to give the issue the attention it deserves. Not surprisingly, Panetta is extraordinarily focused Afghanistan and Pakistan, as his trip to Pakistan just 10 days ago for talks with top Army and intelligence officials made clear.

But it is also reasonable to assume that Panetta, as part of his deliberations with Congress about overall defense spending, will want to engage the three influential senators – Carl Levin, Jim Webb, and John McCain – who have taken the lead in insisting on changes in US basing plans for the Asia-Pacific region, including the realignment roadmap for US forces in Japan.

As US forces withdraw from Afghanistan, and cutbacks in defense spending proceed, another US global force posture review is likely, in which context the US and Japan could engage in discussions about alliance roles, missions, and force structure, and update a 2006 realignment roadmap that has already been overtaken by events.

ALLIANCE POSITIVES: Problems surrounding Okinawa and US basing notwithstanding, today’s bilateral Security Consultative Committee talks (as the ‘2+2’ is formally known) will highlight the enduring, enormous value of the US-Japan alliance – a genuine coming together based on friendship and shared interests that was on display for the world to see in the wake of the ‘triple disaster’ that hit Japan on March 11. The joint statement to be issued today speaks at length about common security challenges in North Korea, Afghanistan, Iran, and other areas, and shared interests in disaster relief, nuclear safety, energy security, climate change, and regional and global economic prosperity.

UNSTABLE STATUS QUO: Still, the collapse of the 2006 roadmap for base realignment can’t simply be papered over by political leaders and government officials from Washington and Tokyo. Almost 16 years after the horrendous assault and rape of a young Okinawan girl by three US servicemen sparked intense protests and led to base realignment plans, the US and Japan have virtually nothing to show for a decade-and-a-half of intense negotiations. Clearly this is no way to run an alliance, especially one of such immense regional and global importance.

The stalemate reveals deep-seated, uncomfortable realities about the structure and management of the bilateral US-Japan alliance, including discrimination by main-island Japanese (and, implicitly the US) against Okinawa, which bears a hugely-disproportionate share of the burden of US military installations in Japan; a continuing (though much-lessened) tendency of Japanese leaders and citizens alike to bear less-than-full responsibility for security matters; and, a lingering, occasional tendency on the part of American military and civilian leaders to adopt the haughty tone of superiority typical of managers dealing with a client-state.

The original purpose of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO), formed by the two countries in November 1995 in the wake of the schoolgirl rape, was to reduce the heavy “footprint” of US military installations on Okinawa. The centerpiece of the SACO agreement, reached in December 1996, was the promised return to Okinawa of the US Marine Air Station Futenma. Virtually everyone agrees Futenma is a disaster just waiting to happen, given its location in a heavily populated area. One helicopter crash in downtown Ginowan City could throw this vital security alliance into crisis.

INTERIM OPTIONS: Futenma is home to Marine tanker aircraft, and Marine helicopters. Original plans called for moving the tanker aircraft to bases in Kyushu; those plans remain intact. The initial plans envisioned movement of the Marine helicopters to some other existing facility on Okinawa. The first option was the giant US Air Force Kadena base, north of Futenma. But intense rivalries between the US Air Force and the US Marines bureaucratically rendered that “unworkable,” with both services making the dubious argument that it would be dangerous having fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters operating in close proximity. A second option was to construct a relatively small heliport inside the Camp Schwab Marine base.

Over time, however, the Kadena and Schwab options gave way to the vision of a brand new runway – either offshore, or with landfill – being built in the Henoko Bay area.

Once the runway vision emerged, the search for a replacement for Futenma was no longer about helicopters; it morphed into the new need for a dedicated Marine runway for fixed-wing aircraft.

And over time, US negotiators began to firmly link the closure of Futenma with the construction of the new runway.

The purpose of this runway? The Marines have never provided a consistent, credible explanation. Ministry of Defense officials in Tokyo who have worked intensively on the Futenma replacement issue say they have never been informed about the Marine intentions for the envisioned runway (actually, runways, as plans envision a V-shaped structure). There had been talk by Marine officials of possible use by jet fighters, but Japanese officials counseled against voicing any such intentions for fear of inciting opposition on Okinawa. Since then, US officials have spoken about Gulfstream-style executive jets. Some officials have also mentioned the need for runways in the event that MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft need to conduct emergency landings in fixed-wing (instead of helicopter) mode. The Marines are scheduled to deploy 24 Osprey to Okinawa starting in October 2012, which has infuriated many on Okinawa, including moderate Governor Hirokazu Nakaima.

Once the need for a runway is either eliminated or put aside, the Futenma air station closure could proceed even if the overall base realignment plan is postponed. The Marine tankers at Futenma could move to Kyushu, as planned, and the helicopters (even MV-22 Osprey) could be moved to either Kadena (as envisioned by Senators Levin and Webb), or to a heliport inside of Camp Schwab, which engineers say could be constructed quickly.

Closing Futenma, as both the US and Japanese governments have promised would be done, would go a long way toward easing tensions on Okinawa about the heavy presence of US bases. It would also deeply impress Okinawans if the US were to finally deliver on promises to reduce the noise associated with continuous flights in and out of the huge Kadena air base. Up to now, the US has agreed to modify some flight schedules, only to rotate in other aircraft, with the result of no net noise decrease.

On the other hand, tensions will linger as long as Futenma remains open, especially because the US unilaterally decided to link the Futenma closure to the broader realignment, which the SACO agreement of 15 years ago never envisioned. If Futenma remains open, the 24 Osprey set for deployment to Okinawa next year will likely wind up there.

Okinawans are also worried about political retaliation from Tokyo, in the form of reduced economic aid. An existing large development assistance program is scheduled to expire next year, and renewal talks have barely begun.

FROM INTERIM TO LONG-TERM BASING: There would be relatively few political or technical obstacles to closing the Futenma air station as an interim measure, while postponing the final decisions about overall US basing in Japan and the region until a later date. To the contrary, closing Futenma, and integrating its current assets and operations into existing facilities, would create the kind of political goodwill that would facilitate broader US-Japan strategic dialogue.

Alas, both interim and long-term solutions to the Futenma problem will have to wait until Leon Panetta and his team are up and running inside the Pentagon. And even then it will likely take time for the issue to make it to Panetta’s desk.

Until then, the unstable status quo – Futenma’s continued operation – will likely remain, causing the US-Japan alliance to work with less-than-optimal efficiency and friendly willingness.

Monday, June 20, 2011


This weekend I took twenty people on a Heritage Hike down to Haputo which is on a Navy base in the Northwestern part of Guam. The spot is a favorite of those with military base access and a spot which many who don't pine for the chance to visit. The hike down takes less than 10 minutes, and you are greeted with a secluded, shallow water beach, which is great for fishing, sunbathing and just relaxing. Haputo was once an ancient Chamorro village and the area above the beach to the base of the cliffs is full of artifacts. Some of the most beautiful latte that I've every seen on Guam we found there during our hike. For those who don't know, while the iconography of latte has them looming tall in the sky, most latte were small and stature, especially on Guam. That is why, when you find latte which are six feet tall, and still standing, haligi and tasa intact, it is truly a treat for the historical mind.

The past few months of my life have been full of latte. I've written about them, lectured about them, painted and drawn them, and found and photographed hundreds of them while hiking. I've wondered why latte, the foundations of Ancient Chamorro homes and the markers for where you can find many of their burials, have been such a big part of my imagination.

Since I've come back to Guam after finishing my Ph.D. in San Diego, the summers are always an interesting time, full of changes and uncertainty. When I moved back, my relationship to Jessica, the mother of my two children was confusing and contradictory, and once again that uncertainty is spilling back into my life. With uncertainty on this front always comes worries about my kids and what sort of future they'll have. My job situation at UOG, where I've been fortunate to get two limited term contracts to keep me employed these past two years, always gets tossed into the air in the summer as I never know what I'll be teaching in the Fall or if they'll even hire me back at UOG. There so much more that I could write about, but all in all kalang mabo'ok yu', taihale' yu', and that feeling is always a mixture of anxiety or fear, but also excitement, that something interesting or exciting may lie ahead. As the the world and ways in which I once understood myself starts to crumble and crack, yes there is a possibility that everything beneath my could disappear and I could get lost somehow, but there is also the chance that new things will inspire me and define me.

I wonder if my halacha' na fascination with latte is from this feeling that foundation of my life is slipping away, might soon be gone, or will be revealed to have never been there in the first place. Guess I might unconsciously be in search of some new foundation for myself.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pagat Lawsuit News

Courtesy of Famoksaiyan Friends:
From We Are Guåhan:

DoD Refuses Public Involvement in Additional Firing Range Complex Studies

June 15, 2011

Eight (8) months after making its Record of Decision (“ROD”), DoD has asked the District Court of Hawaii for a “voluntary remand” to do additional studies on the firing ranges that DoD has planned on building at Pågat Village and the surrounding area. DoD has refused to allow for any public input or participation in these new studies.

DoD’s request to add more information to its previous studies comes weeks after an e-mail from JGPO about DoD’s plans for Pågat Village was publicly released. In the e-mail, which was sent seven days after DoD issued its ROD, Major General Bice of JGPO wrote to several high ranking DoD officials that DoD “can get all of the land eventually, including an SDZ [Surface Danger Zone] over Pagat; we have to be patient and build trust with the community first.”

The e-mail from JGPO also said that DoD could get Pågat Village and the surrounding area for its firing ranges if it eliminated “all impacts to Pågat historic village in the near term . . . .” This is consistent with DoD’s request to use a different way of figuring out where the 10,000,000 bullets it plans on firing per year at the firing range complex will land in order to shrink the Surface Danger Zones. The different method, which has been around since 2003, was not considered by DoD until after We Are Guåhan, the Guam Preservation Trust and the National Trust for Historic Preservation filed its lawsuit challenging DoD’s selection of Pågat Village.

“For over a year and a half, the community has insisted that DoD look at other alternatives and leave Pågat Village alone,” says We Are Guåhan member Cara Flores-Mays, “this time around, DoD must actually address our concerns instead of just going through the motions and manipulating numbers.”

We Are Guåhan, the Guam Preservation Trust and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, have asked that DoD allow for public involvement in any new studies about the firing range complex. DoD has denied this request.

“This process will continue to be flawed,” continued Flores-Mays, “as long as DoD makes decisions without transparency or input from the people who will be affected.”


Download DoD’s request to do new studies here.

Download the response filed by We Are Guahan, the Guam Preservation Trust and the National Trust for Historic Preservation here.

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Marianas Variety
When the Moon Waxes

Beyond Pågat

Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Wednesday, 15 June 2011
OVER the past year, I have lost track of how many times I have visited the Pågat area in northeastern Guam. I have taken my students on several trips there. I took reporters from NHK in Japan, the Washington Post in the U.S., and even a crew from Guam’s own PNC News there. Earlier this year, I took a group of newly elected and re-elected senators down there. I’ve lead groups there twice through the Heritage Hikes I’ve organized for We Are Guåhan and will be leading people once again later this month.

Even though I can count visiting Pågat at least 15 times in the past year and a half, I have not gotten tired of traveling there. Even as I walk on limestone trails, which I swear I could hike with my eyes closed, I still know that there is more to see and more for me to discover.
One reason for this is because while most people think of Pågat as the trail which leads from the Back Road to a cave and then to some stunning cliffs, Pågat in my mind extends further north and further south from that point. That trail itself is a great way to spend an afternoon, since you get to tour through different ecosystems and see artifacts along the trails. For those who are afraid of heights, there is a dark freshwater cave to swim in; and for those afraid of the dark, there is a well-lit cliff to jump off of to swim in the ocean below. But Pågat is still so much more than this.

Earlier this year, there was a debate in the media and in the minds of the military and Guam’s people as to what exactly constitutes Pågat.

Many felt it was just the sliver of land that I mentioned above and nothing more. If this was the case, then the proposed firing ranges the military plans to put on the bluff above Pågat could be more palatable, since the cave and cliff area so many know would fall on the edge, rather than the center of the surface danger zones, or the areas where there is a chance a stray bullet may land.

In response to this assertion, I and members of the group Halomtåno’ explored the area north of the assumed location of Pågat to see what we could find. Further north we found more latte and more lusong, and other artifacts such as pottery. As we moved further up the coast, we found pieces of shell tools such as higam or adze heads and even an acho achuman, a very ingenious device that ancient Chamorros used to train fish, making them easier to be caught later.

At the furthest northern point of Pågat is an area aptly called Pågat Point, which is, in my mind, the most beautiful section of all in Pågat. In the jungle cliffs we found small caves with pottery shards. And when you reach the ocean cliffs at Pågat Point, you find a lamasa, a natural table-like walkway at the water’s edge. The lamasa extends for what seems like a mile, and is for the most part safe and flat, although it can be dangerous, as its low level can make it easy for a rogue wave to appear and sweep you down into the deep blue sea.

This is something we learned firsthand; so if you ever visit this area, please be careful when the lamasa narrows. Despite the danger, the view there is breathtaking. From the jagged limestone cliffs you can face north and the cliffs of Yigo will look particularly majestic.

If you would like to learn more about Pågat and the artifacts or cultural significance I’m describing, by all means, join us on our Heritage Hike on June 25. We’ll be meeting at the Pågat trailhead on the Back Road to Anderson at 9 a.m.

For more information, head to

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Pacific News Center
Navy Seeks 90 Day Stay in Pågat Firing Range Lawsuit: Preservation Trust Opposed
Kevin Kerrigan

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Guam - The Navy has asked the Hawaii District Court for a "voluntary remand," and stay, in the lawsuit over the Pågat firing range so they can complete an ongoing "review and analysis." But the Preservation Trust and "We Are Guahan" are opposing the request unless public input is allowed.

The Navy wants the Court to stay all deadlines and proceedings for 90 days or to issue an administrative closure, "which would have the effect of closing the case during the remand, but permit the plaintiffs to reopen the case for cause thereafter."

During that period, the Navy says it will conduct "an assessment to determine whether application of a technical solution ... could minimize the physical footprint of the training range complex" at Pågat. The Navy would then prepare a Supplemental Information Report (SIR) and from that decide whether to prepare a supplemental NEPA report on the firing range complex "before making a final decision regarding the specific site for the live-fire training range complex."

The Navy argues, that until they reach a decision on where the firing range complex will be located, there is nothing for the court to decide.

"Contrary to the plaintiffs’ allegations ... the defendants have not taken a final agency action with respect to the selection of a site ... Absent final agency action on site selection ... there is no basis for judicial review of the claims alleged in the Complaint, all of which pertain exclusively to the location of the training range site."

The Navy also points out that the result of their review could be "the issuance of a decision to which the plaintiffs would not object."

READ the Navy's request for a voluntary remand

But the plaintiffs, the Preservation Trust, "We Are Guahan", and others, state in their response that they "oppose this attempt to reopen and bolster the deficient administrative record unless certain safeguards -- particularly public involvement -- are built into the remand process.
First, "there must be public comment" and second that they, the Plaintiff's, be given an ample amount of time to respond to any final decision on the firing range complex before ground is broken.

The response also argues that the relationship between the Plaintiffs and the Navy is now "characterized by shattered trust" and they cite an email, previously reported on by PNC News, from former JGPO Director David Bice in which Bice wrote about the need to provide "sweeteners" to win legislative support for placing the firing range complex in the Pågat area and the need to "give the Legislature a deal they can't refuse."

The Plaintiffs do not characterize the Bice email. Rather they let Guam Legislative Speaker Judi Won Pat do that for them by quoting her reaction. It "shows how disingenuous they are," said Won Pat "here is proof that they are conniving behind our backs."

The Plaintiffs say that Won Pat's reaction shapes their "view of Defendants' proposal for a voluntary remand and stay."

A release from "We Are Guahan" over the Navy's request for a stay states that they "have asked that DoD allow for public involvement in any new studies about the firing range complex. DoD has denied this request"
The release also quotes "We Are Guahan" member Cara Flores-Mays as saying , “this time around, DoD must actually address our concerns instead of just going through the motions and manipulating numbers.”

READ the Preservation Trust's response

READ We Are Guhan's release on the Navy's request for a remand in FULL below:

We Are Guåhan: DoD refuses public involvement in additional firing range complex studies

RE: DoD refuses public involvement in additional firing range complex studies.

Eight (8) months after making its Record of Decision (“ROD”), DoD is now asking the District Court of Hawaii for a “voluntary remand,” or permission to do additional studies on the 5 firing ranges that DoD has planned on building at Pågat Village and the surrounding area. DoD has refused to allow for any public input or participation in these new studies.

DoD’s request to add more information to its previous studies comes weeks after an e-mail from JGPO surfaced about DoD’s plans for Pågat Village. In the e-mail, which was sent seven days after DoD issued its ROD in September 2010, Major General Bice of JGPO wrote to several high ranking DoD officials that DoD “can get all of the land eventually, including an SDZ [Surface Danger Zone] over Pågat; we have to be patient and build trust with the community first.”

The e-mail from JGPO also said that DoD could get Pågat Village and the surrounding area for its firing ranges if it eliminated “all impacts to Pågat historic village in the near term . . . .” This is consistent with DoD’s request to use a different way of figuring out where the 10,000,000 bullets it plans on firing per year at the firing range complex will land in order to shrink the Surface Danger Zones. The different method, which has been around since 2003, was not considered by DoD until after We Are Guåhan, the Guam Preservation Trust and the National Trust for Historic Preservation filed a lawsuit challenging DoD’s selection of Pågat Village.

“For over a year and a half, the community has insisted that DoD look at other alternatives and leave Pågat Village alone,” says We Are Guåhan member Cara Flores-Mays, “this time around, DoD must actually address our concerns instead of just going through the motions and manipulating numbers.”

We Are Guåhan, the Guam Preservation Trust and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have asked that DoD allow for public involvement in any new studies about the firing range complex. DoD has denied this request.

“This process will continue to be flawed,” continued Flores-Mays, “as long as DoD makes decisions without transparency or input from the people who will be affected.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Equal Rights for Women

A few weeks back I was writing for my column in the Marianas Variety about the differences in presidential elections in 2012 and in 2008. The Republicans seem like a schizophrenic bunch right now, with everyone who can say something kaduku into a microphone being tossed into the ring as a possible presidential candidate. In 2008, Democrats hoping to be the one to take advantage of the disdain for President Bush, came out in full force and so the Democrats also went through their own period of primary insanity. But what makes the two primaries different is the presence of "change" and "history" in 2008 for Democrats, which is lacking in 2012 for Republicans. Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, with their primary battle for the soul of the party and the future of it's progressive spirit kept things interesting and made it so that even if the party tore itself apart at times, it was all in the best interests of the country, all in the best interests of finding what better way to represent the United States in all its diversity.
Thinking about that election, reminded me of an earlier black candidate for President of the United States, Shirley Chisholm, who ran a historic, insurgent campaign in 1972. She was the first black woman to be elected to the US Congress and the first to run and receive votes as a nominee for a major party in the US.

While I was looking for articles about the 2008 campaign, I came across some text for speeches on my laptop that I had saved from earlier African American candidates, such as Chisholm, who had inspired many, defied even more, but fell short from the peak that Obama reached. Chisholm's speech reminds us of the way in which women of color are doubly shadowed by power and oppression in a society, becoming the things which soak up the worst of systems of racism and sexism.



In the House of Representatives, May 21, 1969

Mr. Speaker, when a young woman graduates from college and starts looking for a job, she is likely to have a frustrating and even demeaning experience ahead of her. If she walks into an office for an interview, the first question she will be asked is, "Do you type?''

There is a calculated system of prejudice that lies unspoken behind that question. Why is it acceptable for women to be secretaries, librarians, and teachers, but totally unacceptable for them to be managers, administrators, doctors, lawyers, and Members of Congress.

The unspoken assumption is that women are different. They do not have executive ability orderly minds, stability, leadership skills, and they are too emotional.

It has been observed before, that society for a long time, discriminated against another minority, the blacks, on the same basis - that they were different and inferior. The happy little homemaker and the contented "old darkey" on the plantation were both produced by prejudice.

As a black person, I am no stranger to race prejudice. But the truth is that in the political world I have been far oftener discriminated against because I am a woman than because I am black.

Prejudice against blacks is becoming unacceptable although it will take years to eliminate it. But it is doomed because, slowly, white America is beginning to admit that it exists. Prejudice against women is still acceptable.

There is very little understanding yet of the immorality involved in double pay scales and the classification of most of the better jobs as "for men only."

More than half of the population of the United States is female. But women occupy only 2 percent of the managerial positions. They have not even reached the level of tokenism yet No women sit on the AFL-CIO council or Supreme Court. There have been only two women who have held Cabinet rank, and at present there are none. Only two women now hold ambassadorial rank in the diplomatic corps. In Congress, we are down to one Senator and 10 Representatives.

Considering that there are about 3 1/2 million more women in the United States than men, this situation is outrageous.
It is true that part of the problem has been that women have not been aggressive in demanding their rights. This was also true of the black population for many years. They submitted to oppression and even cooperated with it. Women have done the same thing. But now there is an awareness of this situation particularly among the younger segment of the population.

As in the field of equal rights for blacks, Spanish-Americans, the Indians, and other groups, laws will not change such deep-seated problems overnight But they can be used to provide protection for those who are most abused, and to begin the process of evolutionary change by compelling the insensitive majority to reexamine it's unconscious attitudes.

It is for this reason that I wish to introduce today a proposal that has been before every Congress for the last 40 years and that sooner or later must become part of the basic law of the land -- the equal rights amendment.

Let me note and try to refute two of the commonest arguments that are offered against this amendment. One is that women are already protected under the law and do not need legislation. Existing laws are not adequate to secure equal rights for women. Sufficient proof of this is the concentration of women in lower paying, menial, unrewarding jobs and their incredible scarcity in the upper level jobs. If women are already equal, why is it such an event whenever one happens to be elected to Congress?
It is obvious that discrimination exists. Women do not have the opportunities that men do. And women that do not conform to the system, who try to break with the accepted patterns, are stigmatized as ''odd'' and "unfeminine." The fact is that a woman who aspires to be chairman of the board, or a Member of the House, does so for exactly the same reasons as any man. Basically, these are that she thinks she can do the job and she wants to try.

A second argument often heard against the equal rights amendment is that is would eliminate legislation that many States and the Federal Government have enacted giving special protection to women and that it would throw the marriage and divorce laws into chaos.

As for the marriage laws, they are due for a sweeping reform, and an excellent beginning would be to wipe the existing ones off the books.

Regarding special protection for working women, I cannot understand why it should be needed. Women need no protection that men do not need.

What we need are laws to protect working people, to guarantee them fair pay, safe working conditions, protection against sickness and layoffs, and provision for dignified, comfortable retirement. Men and women need these things equally. That one sex needs protection more than the other is a male supremacist myth as ridiculous and unworthy of respect as the white supremacist myths that society is trying to cure itself of at this time.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Para Siha Todu

I've been writing for months that "pro-buildup" groups on Guam have been strangely silent lately. The overtly pro-build side of Guam was for years the richest and most powerful on Guam, and nothing has changed. But for more than a year, those captains of industry and influence appeared to almost live in fear of small, protest and activist groups. They seemed content to sit on the sidelines and not just lick their wounds, but suck every drop of life from them, to keep from getting back into the debate and try to actually argue their side, and try to convince people, beyond the pointless rhetoric that the buildup really is good for Guam. Several weeks ago a new group emerged, Para Hita Todu which is promising to help give voice to the silent majority of Guam people who see the buildup as a good thing. Only time will tell how much they can accomplish, but so far, despite the fact that they represent so much money and power, they are off to a rather silly and almost comical start.

The pro-buildup side of the debate or the island, however you want to look at it, dominated the discourse for years. And as a result the discussion of the buildup was so disconnected to reality it reminded me of a Lady Gaga video. People imagined the buildup in such positive and completely pointless ways, it became something people wanted with an incredible urgency and argued desperately for, but knew so little about and understood even less.

Arguing for the buildup required almost no effort. You could make up anything and so long as it made a good thing sound better, people were on board. It was the discursive equivalent of hitting fish long dead in a barrel with tactical nuclear weapons. Before people even knew what the buildup would entail, when it was only numbers on a press release from Congresswoman Bordallo's office, people were already speaking definitively of how much good this would do and how it was a golden chance for Guam to get a leg up and to move ahead. Before we could even guess as to its costs, its benefits, its timelines, it was already being used as the stuff of wet and wild fantasies for the primarily most powerful and the most wealthy on Guam. Without any actual knowledge of what was going on or what was going to happen, they were promising that dreams would come true and that everyone's most speculative fantasies would become real.

It was such a pathetic site to see, so horribly disconnected from anything we even knew at the time, but the majority of the island willingly participated in what amounted to an orgy of wishful ignorance. Things have changed and the island seems different now, but the question I always grapple with is how and why?

I wish I could credit counter or anti-buildup groups alone for changing the tone of the debate and helping to shift things to the point where the buildup is no longer the fantastical golden ticket it was once thought to be. Groups such as We Are Guahan did play a significant role for transforming what the buildup would be as an object of discussion or analysis. No longer can you "intelligently" speak of the buildup in purely positive terms. No longer can you only focus on the positive things, because what has become the reality of the buildup has moved from the extreme of being awesome, closer to the middle, where it is mixed good and bad.

I should note that part of this blog post is inspired from a column I wrote in the Marianas Variety several months ago titled "The Dreamers" which criticized buildup supporters for publicizing and celebrating the dream of the buildup and never bothering to see what was really going on. This post takes that notion into a more lurid and risque direction, which sadly holds true despite the offensive nature of the metaphor ni' inayek as Guahu.

The truth is, we could also say that we are at the point we are now in terms of discussing the buildup, because of the nocturnal emissions of the whole fantasy of the buildup. Like a lusty, exciting and powerful wet dream, the buildup was displayed for all as making their wildest fantasies come true. The people of Guam were invited to dream along with those who felt they were going to make a lot of money, and enjoy this fantasy together. It was held up by things that the people of Guam run their lives and streamline their identities by, which are regularly not related to reality, but have a way of being mas magahet kinu magahet, more real than real. The positive side of the buildup required no actual evidence, no actual understanding of the issues involved, all you needed to know to feel good and support it and assume it was going to be awesome, were the narratives that keep Guam a pathetic colonial dependency; Uncle Sam is always ready and willing to save this island, and the buildup is just a new way it's doing that, the military is what makes Guam American and so we have to cater to them in order to keep ourselves American, and whatever the US does or brings to Guam is always good and improves things, by virtue of the US being the best country in the world. It was almost hysterical to see people talking about the incredible amount of jobs which would be brought into Guam, when the buildup did not exist in any form yet other than its mentioning or naming.

And so it was a fantasy in the non-psychoanalytical sense. A wishful dream, so potent and so strong, that it was almost impossible to not just embrace it and refuse to even imagine that it was not real. So people lived with this fantasy for years. They made sweet love to it each night of their dreams. They ate breakfast with it in the morning. They might have even raised fantasy children. Maybe they would sit on the couch and watch fantasy episodes of Glee each Wednesday. The fantasy seemed so real it was like a dream you could live in for a while. It seemed so real that you could lie to yourself all the time and pretend that you were being sustained when in truth you had no idea what was going on around you and in truth you are consuming nothing. You are being feed nothing and you are eagerly eating said nothing and asking for a helping of more.

As people sat for years eating this nothing, gaining no weight, gaining no happiness from it, gaining no real satisfaction except the delusion of being full, or the delusion of knowing that you are eating the "right" thing, they naturally, eventually, at last, put fin, woke up. You could argue that We Are Guahan and other groups helped wake the island up. You could say the Legislature played a big role in this. You could say that news out of the Washington D.C. or Tokyo helped yumahu i taotao siha. You could just argue that after a while the nothingness of this fantasy started to taste like something and people didn't like that something. So long as something tastes like nothing, you can infuse whatever taste you'd like into it. You can imagine that it is the most elegant of European cuisine, or the most authentic backyard tanke' treat, but the problem is, that once it begins to take on a taste, even if that taste is good, the fantasy begins to shimmer. It starts to slough away, drip and bend, like waning minutes of a polyjuice potion.

As it fades, there is no comfort, taya' minaguem, there is nothing nice about this intrusion of reality. Even if you are learning the truth and coming closer to understanding something, it feels just the opposite. It feels like someone has stripped you of everything, like they have teared off pieces of your flesh and your tilipas are revealed, twisted, disgusting and ready to pour out onto the floor. Reality is a feeling of rawness. Your body is tender, almost ashamed because of the embarrassment, most of all to yourself, of what you once believed to be true. One of the reasons that fantasies can be so difficult to release yourself from is that even if you know that they are false and that fina'baba' hao as siha, the prospect of the moment after the truth is fully revealed or no longer something to be ignored is a terrifying thought. You cower not waiting to feel that holy and unforgiving light which will reveal to all, but most importantly yourself, how incredibly stupid you were. How you savaged for days, months, years, or just huge chunks of your life, willful ignorance like it was a gourmet meal. Fantasies are so hard to let go of, because you have to eventually face the reality of your fantasy.
It is for this reason, that I sometimes laugh at how much the less than jubilant feelings over the military buildup that we find on Guam today, can be explained through the sticky metaphor of nocturnal emissions or wet dreams. People rolled around in bed, holding desperately to their pillows, their bedsheets, assorted stuffed animals, imagining that they were Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie or perhaps both at the same time. The buildup was that fantasy dream, like the bedsheets which take whatever form you want as you dream, precisely because there is nothing to them. Of course, at some point, unless you are in the movie Inception or Brazil, you have to wake up. And when you do, the dream evaporates, it bursts like a bubble, and the more real it felt, the more it mocks you as you blink your eyes awake and adjust your vision to the world around you. But like anything which felt so absolutely real, it must leave some sort of residue and that residue is what stains the buildup more than anything.

When I hear stories of Para Hita Todu trying to obtain signatures for a fanatically pro-buildup petition and having some difficulty, whereas just a few years ago it might have been simple, it is not solely because of the work of buildup opponents that this is so. That residue, the unwelcome, embarrassing and disturbingly wet and exposed feeling has just as much to do with it. You could call it buyer's remorse, and that would probably be a less obnoxious way of discussing this, but it would also be less interesting to write and frankly less effective in communicating the nature of the fantasy and how its disillusion has left the island in the miasma rich state it is today.

The question is however, can Para Hita Todu counter this apathy towards their cause? From what I have seen so far, I don't think they can. As I've already said a thousand ways, the buildup was devoid of substance for a long time, and Para Hita Todu, rather than learning from that past, seems as of now willing to continue that trend. In their press conference last week, they seemed to once again focus almost religiously on empty positives and actually argue that they will not discuss or take stances on possible negatives. After a night of fantasies which have become nothing but staining and cringing regret, Guam's people are most likely not looking for more rhetoric which will infuse new life into the already burst bubble of the buildup fantasy. For those wanting the buildup and wanting to believe it will be the golden ticket of yore, they most likely want leaders, an organization who will be able to use the cold, unforgiving language of the reality of the buildup and somehow lead them towards a new fantasy. To do this, you need to confront the buildup head on, and you need to not rely on empty pointless abstractions, such as "jobs, jobs, jobs" to make your point. The buildup is now a complex and dangerous thing. It is something which can bring good things to Guam and can also bring horrible things to Guam. If you want to argue it is good for Guam, you have to be prepared to deal with the bad, you have to offer a stronger and more durable fantasy, one which is able to stay strong and remain consistent even in the face of the things which laid waste to their predecessor.


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