Wednesday, October 31, 2012

For Whom the Tolls Bell

The conservative echo chamber on Guam isn’t very large but it is very persistent. Guam doesn’t really have a Fox News that can pound into our heads everyday a consistent, hateful terrifying public ideology. Some Chamorros say that K57 News and talk radio plays that role, but this isn’t really true. K57 has the interesting role of being fairly liberal in a national context, but fairly conservative in a local context. K57, like most media on Guam is pretty inconsistent in its messaging. 

Even though there is no mecca for this conservative echo chamber it still exists. This network exists through the collection of certain events, figures and signifiers. Over time this collection gains strength and loses strength. These signifiers can at certain moments achieve a potent and undeniable aura, and other times bleed insignificance.

This collection doesn’t exist for the same reason that conservative networks exist in the states. In Guam what pumps life into this network, what makes it feel necessary for some on island is the need to defend the United States against local threats. It is an ideological force for American apologists and for proponents of prevailing colonizing ideas. It is a network that supports pro-colonial ideas. This is something that a lot of people haven’t heard lately, since excusing colonial ideas has long since gone out of fashion, but in the colonies that exist up until today, you can make a pretty good living doing it.

When I say pro-colonial I mean pro-colonial. This network feeds vibrancy into various ideas of the local being crappy, corrupting, inadequate, impossible, inauthentic and a whole slew of negative things. All of this goes into illustrating that the colonial, or anything that is perceived as stemming from the colonizer and his presence beams with life and vitality. The local is argued to be so shoddy and limited and problematic, that the colonial appears to be near perfect by comparison. These ideological positions apologize in sometimes the most grotesque ways for the historical and continuing hypocrisies of their chosen nation. For example, in pre-World War II Guam, how did the US Navy justify the forcing of Americanizing rhetoric on freedom and democracy down the throats of Chamorros while allowing no such thing to exist on Guam for them? If you understand the idea that the colonizer is close to nothing and has close to nothing, then you can justify the stupidest and most racist things.

The dynamic is sustained through the acceptance of a clear and manifest negativity and lack in the local. Because the local is so lacking, things that might normally be considered unacceptable can be accepted. This is the way in which the exceptionality that enabled the colonizing to initially take place is sustained. This sort of sin washing can take place at any level and is not something that only those who are racially similar to the colonizer can participate in. Despite the objective fact that the Spanish committed terrible atrocities when they first came to colonize and force their way of life onto the Chamorro people, people still constantly apologize for them. Even the arguments that try to claim that the Spanish were simply defending themselves don’t hold much weight since the Spanish were the aggressors and morally they don’t have the right to self-defense since they are the ones causing all the violence. You have a moral right to defend yourself, but not them. You can’t even argue morally that there was a greater good at stake here or that God had wanted the Spanish to colonize and victimize them, since no one is supposed to be forced to accept Christianity. Even in that universe of meaning you could almost say that the entire endeavor should be wasted since everything is forced. God, according to his gift of free will and loving acceptance should not accept any of the souls of Chamorros from that point and ever since. To do so would go against what supposedly makes the universe work.

Returning to this pro-colonial conservative ideological network, let’s take a look at some of the objects that sometimes give it life.

In my English class recently we discussed parts of the life of Angel Santos, former Maga’lahi of Nasion Chamoru, former Guam Senator and the most famous champion of human rights and decolonization from Guam. Today Angel Santos is considered by most on Guam to be a hero, although this wasn’t always the case. In the early days of his activism, especially at the helm of Nasion Chamoru, Santos became a symbol for so much negativity on Guam. Him and other activists were called communists, heathens, idiots, radicals, racists, criminals and almost any other negative name because of their assertion of Chamorro rights. His notoriety reached its peak when he and several others leapt a military fence at Tiyan Naval Air Station. When they were arrested Santos spat in the face of an MP.

For years Chamorro activism was defined by this moment. People connected speaking out in the name of justice, protesting injustices with this behavior. There is some evidence that spitting was considered to be one of the highest forms of disrespect in Ancient times and so there may have been some residual effects of this since many Chamorros articulated their hatred or loathing for Santos and Nasion through this event. The fact that a military fence and military issues were involved didn’t help either since for generations after World War II, the community in Guam scarcely tolerated any criticism of the US military. Most protests during the Vietnam War era according to legend were pro-war protests, with people arguing that people needed to fight more and the US needed to bomb more and be more aggressive.

The act by Santos challenged so many of the negative and limited perceptions that people have about indigenous people in general and Chamorros in particular. In the minds of most, indigenous people are understood to be static and defined primarily through their ability to signify tragedy and sadness. This means that they don’t do anything, they are not expected to do anything, and it is surreal when they try to do anything. They are instead like signs that exist to be interpreted by others by have no meaning in and of themselves. The infamous Native American who sees an landscape of trash and waste and sheds a tear is a perfect example of this. The expectation of Native peoples by modern peoples is that they will either remain static and authentic or that they will fade away and cease to exist. It is shocking and jarring when the natives actually assert their rights, demand their sovereignty or do other things that require you see them as figures of agency or momentum and possessing an essence which is not solely mean to flicker out over time, but can actually burn brighter and become hotter.

When Santos and others jumped that fence it was just one key symbolic moment amongst many where Chamorros had decided to stop being the native background upon which the colonial present and presence is painted. They instead asserted the right to participate in the present. They asserted the value of Chamorro history, culture, language. They asserted that this island belonged to the Chamorro people long before the US ever existed and long before it was ever stolen by the Spanish, the Japanese or the Americans. Nasion Chamoru were not the first to do this, but they were the pinnacle, the most in-your-face, blatant manifestation of an vibrant, assertive Chamorro spirit that they symbolize this the most in recent memory.

This was unsettling to so many on Guam of all ethnicities, Chamorros included who long accepted that in time none of these things would matter anymore. In time the Chamorro life of the land would just fade away and dissipate.

For years after when people wanted to articulate the problems of the island this event helped to sustain all sorts of negative ideas about Chamorros. It along with other images, ideas or sinthomes as they are called in psychoanalysis helped to create the conservative pro-colonial mantra that the Chamorro is the cause of all the breakdown on Guam, and that the Chamorro is what gets in the way of Guam being properly American and the Chamorro corrupts everything.

It became something that gave vitality to a certain worldview and way of viewing Guam. It allowed a lot of people with varying ideas about who is bad on the island, what sort of ideologies are morally corrupt and bankrupt. It fed into the conservative notion on Guam that Chamorros are the source of most of the problems. This is an ideology that is slowing being changed to reflect a similar sort of corrupting status for Micronesians.

It is a way you use those events, those signifiers, to bring together an argument that asserts that a certain group of people are responsible for the ills of a society. It goes beyond simply stating that these people are bad, since all people are good and bad, but goes into asserting a naturalness to their malfeasance. There may be connections that are made to their culture, as if their culture helps encourage these corrupting qualities or that their lack of culture leads to their downfall.

The most upfront and unapologetic version that I have seen of this came from a 2001 letter to the editor of The Pacific Daily News by someone named Albert K. Gibbs. The letter titled “Improving island starts with family” marks the Chamorro and its extended family, with its tentacles in so many aspects of life on Guam, as being the source of all Guam’s problems. It is written in a no-nonsense style that is typical of people who are using a discourse on corruption in order to develop their own momentary authority. With the nuance of a karabao, Gibbs deftly lumbers from government employees to potholes to delinquent dads in his attempt to provide a descriptive painting of the deplorable state of affairs in Guam. Yet, at the same time, he is also offering a plan, a prescriptive emphasis on what to do about this assemblage of corruption, which retroactively determines the Chamorro family as the source of said corruption, because of Gibb’s naming it as the site through which we need to intervene:
For the Guam Power Authority employees, don’t flinch when your mother asks, “How could you turn off your aunt’s power?” The correct response is to inform her that her power was terminated due to an unpaid balance…If you are angry that you are buying your 10th new tire because of the potholes, tell your brother to pay his registration fees and the multiple traffic violations he has amassed. Can’t make ends meet because your child-support is late? Go to your in-laws house, and he’ll be there, cleaning his brand new truck beneath the mango tree.

This scene of the web of Chamorro relations as being things that take resources from the island and foul all things public doesn’t require a specific incident like the fence jump by Angel Santos. It is instead a scene whose elements can also be replaced and filled with new content, but whose message is always meant to be one of Chamorros sucking the life out of Guam and causing problems. It is a nefarious sort of idea since it turns one of the things that Chamorros do like to publicly prize, their extended clan networks, into something that destroys the island.

More recently as the debate over the military buildup and Guam’s response to it has gone through a cycle of heating up and cooling down, there is a regular amount of drama over who is to blame locally for the buildup not happening. Although almost all of the blame for the buildup not happening as people dreamed lies elsewhere, within a colonial universe this can never be the case. The problem must always be local, since the local is always problematic. The colonial, so distant, so far away, appears to be perfect and ordered, it could never be at fault.

Thus we see a game taking place where people try to pin the blame for the delays and the failure of the buildup locally. This has become mixed together with the election season and led to people in the media calling for bums to be thrown out of the Legislature, in particular the “Fab 5.” These five Democratic Senators were known several years ago for making public statements critical of the military buildup and Guam’s relationship to the United States. They made these statements to the media, to public meetings and in some cases to the military and other Federal officials themselves.

While it is easy to transform most of these Senators via conservative pro-colonial ideology, as they are Chamorro and therefore fit easily within the racial imaginary mentioned earlier. One Senator Judith Guthertz doesn’t fit as she is not Chamorro.  For the rest of them they can all be felt through the specter of Angel Santos, and that they can be seen as corrupt or bad for Guam in the same way Chamorros who soak up welfare and don’t have to wait in line at DMV cause their pare’ or cousin works behind the counter. For her to be joined to this network of negativity it requires an extra signifier an extra event to mark her as being just as potentially crazy as the rest of us.

As Lee Webber and Dave Davis never grow tire of mentioning, Guthertz is remembered by some primarily through a bill that she proposed whereby toll booths would be set up outside of US military facilities on Guam in order to collect monies to pay war reparations for Chamorros. This was proposed in reaction to yet another failure in the US Congress to get war reparations passed. The bill was never meant to be serious but was something that the Senator introduced in order to get the conversation started on how to kick start this important issue.

The funny thing when I read about this bill was that Chamorro and demilitarization activists in Guam have joked for years about doing just this sort of thing. They find the fence offensive in how it sets up life on Guam as being consistently asymmetrical. Someone in the military can go off base and on base. The same doesn’t hold true for someone with no military privileges. Someone in the military can enjoy the best of both worlds. A civilian can’t. This is part of the reason why Pagat became such a significant issues in the military buildup debate. So many people on Guam have felt the pain of not being able to go to beautiful recreational sites or ancestral lands because of there being a line or a fence or a gatehouse in between.

Naturally for someone like myself it was an interesting approach to forcing into public debate a whole host of things they would rather take for granted and not discuss regarding Guam’s relationship to the US and to the US military. But most people did not see it this way and Guthertz quickly withdrew the bill before too many people thought of her as a radical military and American hating local.


Toll-booth bill was protest to Senate
2:00 PM, Oct. 22, 2012

Thanks, Lee Webber, for inviting a serious and truthful discussion about the "toll-booth" bill which I briefly introduced and withdrew back in 2009. The former publisher of this newspaper and his mostly anonymous followers have tried to spin this three-year-old protest ever since to claim that I am anti-military and, despite years of evidence to the contrary, opposed to the Guam military buildup.
What was my protest actually about? It sure wasn't about the military buildup. In fact, it was an attempt to get Washington to do its duty to our manamko' and finally approve war reparations for the Guam survivors of the brutal occupation of the island by the imperial government of Japan during World War II. Once again, Washington didn't listen, but I'm not apologizing for trying to bring justice to Guam's war victims and survivors.

Shame on Webber, who has been distorting this for political gain ever since!

It's too bad our manamko' don't have a guaranteed slot on the PDN opinion pages to make their case for war reparations, over and over again, but I've done my best to do it for them.

In 2009, Delegate Madeleine Bordallo had taken the war reparations issue the furthest it had ever gotten in Congress. It was passed by the House and only required insertion into the Senate version of the military budget. At the last moment, Sen. John McCain blocked that insertion. This was after he had promised the people of Guam during his 2008 presidential campaign to support the World War II Loyalty Recognition Act.

I introduced the bill because I was upset by McCain's action, like many others in Guam, and felt betrayed and wanted to bring attention to this miscarriage of justice to Guam's World War II victims and survivors that has gone on for decades. I introduced Bill 253, which called for toll booths to be erected on roads going into and outward of the military bases on Guam to raise money for the reparations that McCain and the Senate didn't want to pay and to pass these funds to our greatest generation, the survivors of the brutal Japanese occupation of Guam.

I introduced the toll-booth bill to be a conversation starter, and to make a strong statement, but not as something that would ever become law. In fact, the bill was withdrawn almost immediately after introduction, on Oct. 12, 2009.

It was based on historical actions, to remind Washington about other possibilities. The bill received a great deal of attention, and reinforced the fact that those on our side of the fence are Americans, too. Again, no apologies.

Webber is simply misrepresenting my action for political purposes. I think that many others will clearly understand my motivation and look beyond the blitz of big buck, full-page ads and the constant repetition of Webber's political attacks in his column as the election approaches.

Judith P. Guthertz, DPA, is a senator in the 31st Guam Legislature and is running for re-election.

Monday, October 29, 2012

From Maya Angelou

From Maya Angelou:


Dear Michael,

I am not writing to you as a black voter, or a woman voter, or as a voter who is over 70 years old and six feet tall. I am writing to you as a representative of this great country -- as an American.

It is your job to vote. It is your responsibility, your right, and your privilege. You may be pretty or plain, heavy or thin, gay or straight, poor or rich.

But remember this: In an election, every voice is equally powerful -- don't underestimate your vote. Voting is the great equalizer.

Voting has already begun in some states that President Obama needs to win. So please use this handy tool to make sure your friends in those key states know where to cast their ballot. You will be doing them a great favor.

As a country, we can scarcely perceive the magnitude of our progress.

My grandmother and my uncle experienced circumstances that would break your heart. When they went to vote, they were asked impossible questions like, "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" When they couldn't answer, they couldn't vote.

I once debated with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. about whether an African American would ever be elected president. He believed it would happen within the next 40 years at the time -- I believed it would never happen within my lifetime.

I have never been happier to have been proven wrong.

And since President Barack Obama's historic election, we've moved forward in courageous and beautiful ways. More students can afford college, and more families have access to affordable health insurance. Women have greater opportunities to get equal pay for equal work.

Yet as Rev. King wrote, "All progress is precarious."

So don't sit on the sidelines. Don't hesitate. Don't have any regrets. Vote.

Go, rise up, and let your friends and family in early vote states know where they can vote today. We must make our voices heard:

Your vote is not only important. It's imperative.

Thank you,

Dr. Maya Angelou

Saturday, October 27, 2012


“Get Out the Vote”
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
 October 24, 2012
The Marianas Variety

Daniel Ellsberg was infamous during the Vietnam War era for his releasing of documents that later became known as “The Pentagon Papers.” Ellsberg was working as an analyst for the RAND Corporation at that time and had access to numerous top-secret documents dealing with the ways in which the United States was prosecuting the war in Vietnam. Through his work Ellsberg was privy to the fact that the White House under President Johnson had systematically lied to Congress and to the American people about the war in Vietnam. It was an important moment in given some credibility to the sometimes instinctive feeling that people have that their government cannot be trusted. The Pentagon Papers proved that we often times dismiss things that have a conspiratorial quality to them precisely so we can never find out if they are true or not.

Ellsberg is a hero for many progressives and Democrats in the United States as someone who was willing to go to jail in order to keep his government honest. He is however even more of a hero to those in the United States who see themselves outside of the usual politics, especially the two-party system. These are people who are alienated from the major parties and side with Third Parties or with no parties. For these people the Presidential election is a pageant held to distract the American people from the fact that both Democrats and Republicans generally stand for the same things. In the final Presidential debate on Foreign Policy this sameness was so glaring that I felt like I was watching Danny Boyle's Sunshine and about to be vaporized.

It was therefore surprising when Ellsberg wrote an article this past week on the progressive news website “Common Dreams” calling on people, especially those in swing states, to vote for Obama. His argument was very interesting however as he wasn’t call for people to “support” Obama, but simply vote for him. His argument is summed up very well by his title “Defeat Romney, without illusions about Obama.”

Ellsberg states that the idea that Democrats and Republicans are the same is misleading. They may stand for so many of the same basic things, with minute superficial changes between them, but in the minds of progressives they should see that one party is clearly worse than the other.

He writes that the idea that “There’s no significant difference between the major parties” amounts to saying: The Republicans are no worse, overall.”  And that’s absurd.” He points out that the Republican party of today is far more extreme in its ideology than Democrats are, and if they came to power it could mean radical, potentially catastrophic changes. Ellsberg points out that Obama and Romney do have some key differences and even if you don’t believe in the two-party system, those differences are worth participating in the election over. For women's rights, taxes, whether or not Iran gets invaded there are sometimes stark differences.

This sort of discussion is important because it brings about a central contradiction in terms of the office of the Presidency. Obama himself campaigned on the theme of “CHANGE” in 2008, but so does every challenger for high office. You always propose yourself as different and new and being able of taking things in a new and different direction.. A lot of voter apathy in 2012 stems from the fact that while every candidate proposes that they will use the power of the Presidency to right the wrongs and put things back on track, all of this changes once you actually get into office.

The Presidency has its own logic and power. You could say it looks and feels different from within and without. From the outside Obama may have criticized many of Bush’s policies as abusive, corrupt and incompetent. But once he was elected he continued many of those policies and expanded others. Candidate Obama railed against so many of the illegal and immoral detention and rendition policies of the previous administration. President Obama has continued most of those programs and in some case even expanded them. The paradoxical power of the Presidency or any high office is that while it can potentially change so much and revolutionize things, it also breeds avarice, as if more power must be consolidated and change must be avoided since it may lead to the Presidency or the government holding less control.

The Presidency will most likely never be a “critical” position, regardless of the past of whoever holds it. It is fundamentally a conservative position, interested in protecting American interests and hording American power, and will do so legally and sometimes illegally. So people looking for Presidents to change everything or to be fundamentally different might as well be looking for unicorns in haystacks or chichirikas in Guam’s jungles.

The vote for Presidency is for whoever will be in charge of that governmental apparatus, and as Ellsberg notes there are difference that are worth getting out the vote for someone you may not wholeheartedly support. In concluding his article Ellsberg invokes a quote from Henry David Thoreau that he states has sustained him in his life, “Cast your whole vote: not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.” In other words, cast your vote in elections, but don’t feel like that is how you change the world or how positive change takes place in general. Your role in life is not just a vote, but as community members and individuals you have potentially so much power over the world around you. But what happens in democracies like the United States is that the aura of being "the greatest" or "the best" often makes people forget that being part of a democracy should mean more than just voting every 2 or 4 years. There is far more responsibility than that, and so while we should care who gets elected President, we shouldn't pretend that he or she will change much, especially on the more difficult and entrenched issues of our times.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Defeat Romney, Without Illusions About Obama

Defeat Romney, Without Illusions about Obama

Advice to progressives in swing states, vote for reelection

It is urgently important to prevent a Republican administration under Romney/Ryan from taking office in January 2013.

The election is now just weeks away, and I want to urge those whose values are generally in line with mine -- progressives, especially activists -- to make this goal one of your priorities during this period.

Romney and Obama exchange fingers in Tuesday night's debate. (Reuters)An activist colleague recently said to me: “I hear you’re supporting Obama.”

I was startled, and took offense. “Supporting Obama?  Me?!”

“I lose no opportunity publicly,” I told him angrily, to identify Obama as a tool of Wall Street, a man who’s decriminalized torture and is still complicit in it, a drone assassin, someone who’s launched an unconstitutional war, supports kidnapping and indefinite detention without trial, and has prosecuted more whistleblowers like myself than all previous presidents put together. “Would you call that support?

My friend said, “But on Democracy Now you urged people in swing states to vote for him!  How could you say that?  I don’t live in a swing state, but I will not and could not vote for Obama under any circumstances.”

My answer was: a Romney/Ryan administration would be no better -- no different -- on any of the serious offenses I just mentioned or anything else, and it would be much worse, even catastrophically worse, on a number of other important issues: attacking Iran, Supreme Court appointments, the economy, women’s reproductive rights, health coverage, safety net, climate change, green energy, the environment.

I told him: “I don’t ‘support Obama.’ I oppose the current Republican Party.  This is not a contest between Barack Obama and a progressive candidate. The voters in a handful or a dozen close-fought swing states are going to determine whether Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are going to wield great political power for four, maybe eight years, or not.

As Noam Chomsky said recently, “The Republican organization today is extremely dangerous, not just to this country, but to the world. It’s worth expending some effort to prevent their rise to power, without sowing illusions about the Democratic alternatives.”

Following that logic, he’s said to an interviewer what my friend heard me say to Amy Goodman: “If I were a person in a swing state, I’d vote against Romney/Ryan, which means voting for Obama because there is no other choice.”

The election is at this moment a toss-up.  That means this is one of the uncommon occasions when we progressives -- a small minority of the electorate -- could actually have a significant influence on the outcome of a national election, swinging it one way or the other.

The only way for progressives and Democrats to block Romney from office, at this date, is to persuade enough people in swing states to vote for Obama: not stay home, or vote for someone else.  And that has to include, in those states, progressives and disillusioned liberals who are at this moment inclined not to vote at all or to vote for a third-party candidate (because like me they’ve been not just disappointed but disgusted and enraged by much of what Obama has done in the last four years and will probably keep doing).

They have to be persuaded to vote, and to vote in a battleground state for Obama not anyone else, despite the terrible flaws of the less-bad candidate, the incumbent. That’s not easy.  As I see it, that’s precisely the “effort” Noam is referring to as worth expending right now to prevent the Republicans’ rise to power.  And it will take progressives -- some of you reading this, I hope -- to make that effort of persuasion effectively.

The traditional third-party mantra, “There’s no significant difference between the major parties” amounts to saying: The Republicans are no worse, overall.”  And that’s absurd.  It constitutes shameless apologetics for the Republicans, however unintended.  It’s crazily divorced from present reality.

It will take someone these disheartened progressives and liberals will listen to.  Someone manifestly without illusions about the Democrats, someone who sees what they see when they look at the president these days: but who can also see through candidates Romney or Ryan on the split-screen, and keep their real, disastrous policies in focus.

It’s true that the differences between the major parties are not nearly as large as they and their candidates claim, let alone what we would want.  It’s even fair to use Gore Vidal’s metaphor that they form two wings (“two right wings” as some have put it) of a single party, the Property or Plutocracy Party, or as Justin Raimondo says, the War Party.

Still, the political reality is that there are two distinguishable wings, and one is reliably even worse than the other, currently much worse overallTo be in denial or to act in neglect of that reality serves only the possibly imminent, yet presently avoidable, victory of the worse.

The traditional third-party mantra, “There’s no significant difference between the major parties” amounts to saying: The Republicans are no worse, overall.”  And that’s absurd.  It constitutes shameless apologetics for the Republicans, however unintended.  It’s crazily divorced from present reality.

And it’s not at all harmless to be propagating that absurd falsehood.  It has the effect of encouraging progressives even in battleground states to refrain from voting or to vote in a close election for someone other than Obama, and more importantly, to influence others to act likewise.  That’s an effect that serves no one but the Republicans, and ultimately the 1%.

It’s not merely understandable, it’s entirely appropriate to be enraged at Barack Obama.  As I am.  He has often acted outrageously, not merely timidly or “disappointingly.”  If impeachment were politically imaginable on constitutional grounds, he’s earned it (like George W. Bush, and many of his predecessors!)  It is entirely human to want to punish him, not to “reward” him with another term or a vote that might be taken to express trust, hope or approval.

But rage is not generally conducive to clear thinking.  And it often gets worked out against innocent victims, as would be the case here domestically, if refusals to vote for him resulted in Romney’s taking key battleground states that decide the outcome of this election.

To punish Obama in this particular way, on Election Day -- by depriving him of votes in swing states and hence of office in favor of Romney and Ryan -- would punish most of all the poor and marginal in society, and workers and middle class as well: not only in the U.S. but worldwide in terms of the economy (I believe the Republicans could still convert this recession to a Great Depression), the environment and climate change. It could well lead to war with Iran (which Obama has been creditably resisting, against pressure from within his own party).  And it would spell, via Supreme Court appointments, the end of Roe v. Wade and of the occasional five to four decisions in favor of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The reelection of Barack Obama, in itself, is not going to bring serious progressive change, end militarism and empire, or restore the Constitution and the rule of law.  That’s for us and the rest of the people to bring about after this election and in the rest of our lives -- through organizing, building movements and agitating.

The reelection of Barack Obama, in itself, is not going to bring serious progressive change, end militarism and empire, or restore the Constitution and the rule of law.  That’s for us and the rest of the people to bring about after this election and in the rest of our lives -- through organizing, building movements and agitating.

In the eight to twelve close-fought states -- especially Florida, Ohio, and Virginia, but also Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin -- for any progressive to encourage fellow progressives and others in those states to vote for a third-party candidate is, I would say, to be complicit in facilitating the election of Romney and Ryan, with all its consequences.

To think of that as urging people in swing states to “vote their conscience” is, I believe, dangerously misleading advice. I would say to a progressive that if your conscience tells you on Election Day to vote for someone other than Obama in a battleground state, you need a second opinion. Your conscience is giving you bad counsel.

I often quote a line by Thoreau that had great impact for me: “Cast your whole vote: not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.”  He was referring, in that essay, to civil disobedience, or as he titled it himself, “Resistance to Civil Authority.”

It still means that to me. But this is a year when for people who think like me -- and who, unlike me, live in battleground states -- casting a strip of paper is also important. Using your whole influence this month to get others to do that, to best effect, is even more important.

That means for progressives in the next couple of weeks -- in addition to the rallies, demonstrations, petitions, lobbying (largely against policies or prospective policies of President Obama, including austerity budgeting next month), movement-building and civil disobedience that are needed all year round and every year -- using one’s voice and one’s e-mails and op-eds and social media to encourage citizens in swing states to vote against a Romney victory by voting for the only real alternative, Barack Obama.

To read and distribute a proposal from for strategic voting for president, click here.
Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg was put on trial in 1973 for leaking the Pentagon Papers, but the case was dismissed after four months because of government misconduct. He is the author of "Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Support UOG

"Support Tritons of Today, Tomorrow"
by Robert A. Underwood
Guam PDN
October 24, 2012

The University of Guam has faced a dramatic reduction in Government of Guam support over the past decade. We are a public corporation chartered by the government of Guam and our base operational support comes from government of Guam appropriations. Without this funding, our student learning, academic quality, federal grants and public service are not sustainable.
We are appreciative and we recognize our public obligations.

But the GovGuam appropriation has declined over the past two decades. In 1994, UOG received $31.9 million in general operations appropriations and the annual amount has been consistently less than $28 million in subsequent years. Moreover, the GovGuam portion of current total University expenditures has declined significantly even as our enrollment has grown by 20 percent over the past decade.

The year 2002 was the last year in which GovGuam appropriations accounted for 50 percent of the University's expenses. Today, the University is a $100 million-plus operation and approximately 30 percent of that comes from appropriations. The balance comes from tuition, federal grants and contracts, fundraising and the ingenuity of an extremely talented faculty and staff.

This is occurring elsewhere and the result has been typical. There has been a steady decline of "state support" to state institutions (nationally, by 7.6 percent from 2011-2012) and there has been some cost-shifting, although not proportionate to the cuts.

Tuition has gone up but not at the rate that state support has declined. The University of Hawaii has approved a 35-percent increase over the next five years, the Cal State University system increased tuition last year by 9 percent (tuition has nearly doubled in five years) and Guam Community College increased its tuition by 18 percent last year.

The University of Guam has responded differently. We have not raised tuition for the past three years, even though our support has declined slightly and we have been subjected to "hold backs," additional costs, new requirements and modest inflation. We did everything we could to forestall a tuition increase.

Absent new assistance, we will be forced to implement a 10-percent increase for this year and 5-percent increases in the subsequent two years. The financial integrity of the university is paramount in maintaining accreditation, securing new funding and remaining an efficient institution while providing many more students a quality education.

Have been responsive

The university is celebrating its 60th anniversary by trying to secure more funding on its own. The university is proposing legislation that will allow it to become even more adept at securing funding through public-private partnerships. The university has adopted cost-cutting measures, eliminated positions and is developing a new 21st-century university that will rely less on public funds. We have been responsive to existing conditions and taken on more responsibility for our future.

Those of us who attended a public university in the 20th century attended at a time when our tuition burden was responsible for 20 to 30 percent of the total cost of our education. This meant that we had access to college and we could attend with less financial assistance and fewer student loans. Most of the island's current leadership benefitted from this arrangement.

But today's college students are expected to carry the burden of 50 percent of the cost of their education. They are not being offered the same access to college and opportunity that most of us had in the past. This is not the way for a society to invest in a prosperous future and in the quality and number of its future leaders, teachers, businessmen, nurses, military officers and professionals.
There is not a straight line between tuition increases and enrollment. There is not a straight line between tuition relief and financial solvency. But there is a straight line between economic development and a strong university. There is a straight line between local entrepreneurship, professional development and University attendance. There is a straight line between increased consumer spending and contributions to the public treasury and university attendance.

As it turns out, tuition assistance and adequate funding for the university is less about helping individual Triton students or a community of scholars. It turns out that it is really about investing in a prosperous future and educated workforce for Guam. Students still need the opportunity to attend and students continue to be the best investment for our island.

Support the university and support the Tritons of today and more importantly, of tomorrow.

Biba UOG!

Robert A. Underwood is the president of the University of Guam.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hagu i Flores

Six years ago my grandparents celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary. 

We had a large gathering at the Westin Hotel in Tumon. All of my siblings flew in, as did most of my cousins and my grandparents' still living children. The party was lots of fun. I got to meet more family than I can remember. The highlight was the stage where grandma and grandpa sat in their chairs of honor, beaming as friends, family and even a few politicians would come to greet them and pay their respects. 

One of the duties I had for the party was to coordinate some singing with the grandkids and great-grandkids. As most songs that grandma and grandpa like are Chamorro songs and everyone except for me could not speak or sing in Chamorro we had to find some songs that were lighthearted, merry and easy to remember, with words easy to pronounce. 

One of grandma's favorite songs is "Nobia Kahulo'" and the words for that are simple enough. I taught everyone that song and even though it is meant to be a solemn tune, we ended up singing it with youthful, somewhat inappropriate gusto.

There are different variations of the song, but here are the verses that we sang:

Kobia kahulo'
Ya fa'gasi i mata-mu
Sa' u fatto i nobiu-mu
Ya u li'e' i chura-mu

Part of the reason for this is because "Kobia Kahulo'" is often sung as part of a medley of wedding related songs. Johnny Sablan on his CD "Dalai Nene" sings a version that combines "Nobia Kahulo'" with "Nobia Yanggen Para Un Hanao" and "Nana'yan un gigimen." We ended up adding the lines from "Nana'yan un gigimen" to our version of "Nobia Kahulo'" simple because it is really fun to sing. It is meant to be a drinking, partying, celebrating song. 

These wedding favorites of grandma were combined with another famous old Chamorro song "Hagu i Flores," which is sung to the tune of "You are My Sunshine." The tune and lyrics are dreamy and upbeat and so even if you don't know what is actually being said, when you hear young kids belting it out, you cannot help but smile.

Hagu I Flores

Hagu I flores, I korason-hu
Hagu konsuelan piniti
Ya ti un fanodda’ otro guinaiya
Kinu Guahu kirida Nene

Ai gi un puenge, kirida nene
Matto I minahalang-hu
Kalan estaba hao gi hilo’ kannai-hu
Lao gaige hao gi guinife-hu

Ofresemento, na petmanente
Ya para todu okasion
Finihu’ langhet
Ya mumagahet
Ai hongge yu’ Neni korason

Friday, October 19, 2012

I Ilun i Gamson

Hawaii: Head of the Tentacled Beast
By Jon Letman, October 18, 2012
Foreign Policy in Focus

Fresh from hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Honolulu last autumn, U.S. President Barack Obama recently told members of the Australian Parliament that America’s defense posture across the Asia-Pacific would be “more broadly distributed…more flexible—with new capabilities to ensure that our forces can operate freely.”

The announcement of America’s “Asia-Pacific pivot” by its first Hawaiia-born president was highly fitting, since the Hawaiian Islands are at the piko (“navel” in Hawaiian) of this vast region.

A less flattering metaphor for Hawaii’s role in the Pacific is what Maui educator and native Hawaiian activist Kaleikoa Kaeo has called a giant octopus whose tentacles reach across the ocean clutching Japan, Okinawa, South Korea, Jeju island, Guam—and, at times, the Philippines, American Samoa, Wake Island, Bikini Atoll, and Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

The head of this beast is in Hawaii, which is home to U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), with sonar, radar, and optical tracking stations as its eyes and ears. Its brain consists of the supercomputers on Maui and the command center on Oahu that connects PACOM to distant bases. This octopus excretes waste as toxic land, polluted waters, abandoned poisons, blown-up and sunken ships, and depleted uranium (DU). Like a real octopus that can regenerate severed limbs, the military in the Pacific grows in new locations (Thailand, Australia) and returns to old ones (Philippines, Vietnam).

PACOM headquarters at Camp H.M. Smith on Oahu is a short drive from Waikiki Beach, but it’s unlikely many tourists pause to consider that tensions between the United States and Russia over missile defense, the war in Afghanistan, the destruction of Iraq, the use of drones in Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and the Philippines—as well as growing opposition to military bases in Okinawa, Guam and Jeju—are all linked to Hawaii.

Thirty-six nations— and over half the world’s population—live in PACOM’s “Area of Responsibility” which spans from the Bering Strait to New Zealand, as far west as Pakistan and Siberia and east to the Galapagos. This behemoth’s self-proclaimed duty is to defend “the territory of the United States, its people, and its interests,” and to “enhance stability in the Asia-Pacific,” “promote security cooperation, encourage peaceful development, respond to contingencies, deter aggression and, when necessary, fight to win.”

Sovereignty violated
Hawaii’s relationship with the U.S. military was cemented on January 16, 1893, when U.S. Marines overthrew what had been a sovereign kingdom recognized by the United States and dozens of countries around the world. Encouraged by Anglo-American subjects of the Hawaiian kingdom seeking tariff-free access to American markets for their sugar cane, the U.S. military—pursuing what was then already a mission of expansion in the Pacific—toppled Queen Liliuokalani, making way for the 1898 U.S. declaration of the Territory of Hawaii and, in 1959, statehood.

In 1900, President Theodore Roosevelt said, “I wish to see the United States the dominant power on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.” He and every president since have understood the importance of Hawaii in fulfilling that goal. “Our future history will be more determined by our position on the Pacific facing China than by our position on the Atlantic facing Europe,” Roosevelt said.
Since even before World War II, but especially since the 1947 establishment of PACOM, Hawaii has been at the center of testing, training, and deployment of U.S. military hardware and personnel around the region. Today Hawaii is home to 118 military sites, from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai to Kaena Point Satellite Tracking Station on Oahu, from the Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing observatory to the Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island (Hawaii Island).
Besides Hawaii’s four largest islands, the military has used smaller Hawaiian islands and offshore islets for live-fire testing for decades. Best known is Kahoolawe, which was a bombing range from 1941 until 1990 when, after more than a dozen years of protests and legal challenges, President George H.W. Bush ordered a cessation to bombing and the removal of unexploded ordnances. Yet as of 2004, one-quarter of Kahoolawe still had unexploded ordnances and was considered “unsafe.”
On Hawaii Island, at 133,000 acres, Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) is over four times the size of Kahoolawe. The high-altitude site between the volcanoes Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea has been used by all branches of the military for small arms training, mortar firing, and other live-fire tests.

In addition to being shelled with millions of rounds of ammunition annually—and on the receiving end of 2,000-pound inert bombs dropped from B-2 bombers—PTA is contaminated with an undetermined amount of depleted uranium (DU). In 2008, the Hawaii County Council voted 8-1 for a resolution calling for a halt to live-fire training until further assessments and clean-up can be conducted. The military, however, continues to exploit the site, according to Jim Albertini with the Malu Aina Center for Non-violent Education & Action.

Below PTA, in the sleepy town of Hilo, community advocate Lori Buchanan describes Pohakuloa today: “It’s so disheartening to drive past and see the degradation to the land. What I see will bring tears to your eyes—not only animals with no place to go, but dust storms reminiscent of Kahoolawe because of the erosion and impact of military training.” She says the bombing doesn’t make sense. “Why would you bomb the hell out of the land when it’s so limited? We live on an island…and they’re bombing a huge area, making it a wasteland.”

Although a native Hawaiian, Buchanan says she isn’t instinctively anti-military. “It’s the whole patriotic [thing]. It’s ingrained in us. We understand the importance of defense—no one is challenging that, but is all this really necessary? You cannot kill your own resources when you live on an island and have nowhere to go once you’ve killed everything off.”

“It isn’t just Pohakuloa. It’s Kahoolawe, Makua, Barking Sands, the proposed training on Maui and it’s Kalaupapa,” says Buchanan, talking about Kalaupapa peninsula, on the island of Molokai.

Kalaupapa is a quiet place, best known for its 19th-century leprosy colony at the bottom of Hawaii’s highest sea cliffs. Less well known is that Kalaupapa and “topside” (upper) Molokai are used by the Navy for confined area and field carrier landing “touch-and-go” training by CH-53D helicopters, the type used in Afghanistan. In July 2012, activists on Molokai helped thwart plans to increase night training exercises for the controversial MV-22 Osprey and Huey attack helicopters from 112 takeoff and landings per year to 1,388.

The Navy plans to base two squadrons (12 aircraft each) of Osprey and one squadron of light attack H-1 Cobra and Huey attack helicopters in Hawaii. The Osprey, which takes off like a helicopter but can fly like an airplane, has been heavily criticized over safety concerns following at least seven fatal crashes—including two this year, in Florida and Morocco. Osprey helicopters have been used in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, and they’re being deployed in Japan and Okinawa despite fervent protests.

In addition to concerns about some 2,000 new active-duty personnel and their dependents being transferred to Oahu, civic and cultural groups are worried about the impacts of the aircraft on local communities, wildlife, and historically and culturally sensitive areas on Kalaupapa, which is designated a U.S. National Historic Park. The military has said the increased training will have “no significant impact on noise levels for most communities,” but local groups wedged between high cliffs, mountains, and the sea fear otherwise.

Under my thumb
An Asia-Pacific pivot will increase testing and training beyond what has taken place in Hawaii for years—from live-fire testing in Makua Valley on Oahu to missile defense, rocket, and drone testing at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai. Additionally, every two years, the U.S. military holds its Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) training—the “world’s largest international maritime exercise,” which was most recently held this summer across the islands.

RIMPAC 2012 included 22 regional allies (including Canada, Japan, Australia, South Korea) and more distant nations like Colombia, Netherlands, Tonga, India, and Russia. Notably absent was China, but in September 2012, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that Beijing would be invited to participate in a limited capacity in the 2014 exercise.

Retired U.S. Army Colonel Ann Wright sees RIMPAC and the growing number of multi-national joint military “exercises and engagements” in the region as an opportunity for the United States to test (and show off) its next generation of weaponry: laser-fueled, computerized, and submarine-launched drones. It’s also a chance to closely assess regional capabilities while positioning the United States to more effectively “push around” other countries and persuade them to do the foreign policy and military operational bidding of the United States, Wright says.

Wright, who resigned in protest of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, points to the South Korean naval base on Jeju which, when finished, will house AEGIS-equipped destroyers linked to U.S. missile defense as an example of how the United States pressures its allies to follow certain paths.

Speaking at a Pentagon news briefing last June, PACOM commander Admiral Samuel J. Locklear basically said the same thing: “We’re not really interested in building any more U.S. bases in the Asia-Pacific,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to at this point in time. We have reliable partners and reliable allies, and together we should be able to find ways to—not only bilaterally, but in some cases to multilaterally—to be able to find these locations where we can put security forces that respond to a broad range of security issues.”

“It’s complicated”
Much has been made of the Asia-Pacific pivot, but Oahu activist Kyle Kajihiro of Hawaii Peace & Justice says this is just the most recent wave in a series of endless waves.

“Every pivot needs a fulcrum in order to turn. Hawaii was the first fulcrum for U.S. in the Pacific and has allowed it to leverage their power to greater effect,” he says. Kajihiro points out that questions of land use and the military’s social, cultural, and environmental impacts on Hawaii are frequently overlooked or sidelined by the notion that seemingly endless infusions of money and military-based employment always trump the needs of people and the environment.

For decades the military has enjoyed solid backing from Hawaii’s congressional delegation in Washington, the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, and unions with construction interests. Hawaii’s own population, which overwhelmingly votes Democratic, has largely accepted what Kajihiro calls “the dominant myth” that a large military presence is organic, inevitable, and naturally beneficial. He refers to events like “Military Appreciation” month and the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, where he says militarism and war are monumentalized as forms of “redemptive violence”—that is, as a source of goodness, honor, and valor from which the United States always emerges “stronger and better.”

In Hawaii, the military has widespread local support, even from some native Hawaiians (whose kingdom was overthrown), people of Japanese descent (who have suffered discrimination and internment) and others whose ancestral homelands have born the brunt of the U.S. military (Koreans, Okinawans, Chamorro, Pacific Islanders).

“When you’re severely addicted to something like the military,” asks Kajihiro, “how do you transition away without causing trauma?” He says Hawaii would face serious economic hemorrhaging if it turned away from the military cold turkey. “How do we plan for and invest in an alternate course that will take us off an addictive substance that deteriorates the body to a more diversified, healthy economic sustenance?”

Hawaii is a remote archipelago almost wholly dependent on imported oil, commodities and manufactured goods, but increasingly its people are recognizing the need to become more self-reliant, especially in terms of local food production.

In the last decade Hawaii has seen a mushrooming of businesses and educational efforts to pursue alternative energy based on sun, wind, waves and waste. Author Richard Heinberg, a senior fellow in residence at the Post Carbon Institute, has suggested Hawaii should move in a direction like New Zealand, which places very little emphasis on military strength but has become a global leader in environmental conservation.

Under the banner of an “Asia-Pacific pivot,” the United States is positioning its military to secure access to remaining resources and drive the economic and political winds of the region, but it also demonstrates that it understands the importance of finding alternatives to building large, new bases that rely on increasingly hard-to-obtain money and oil.

In order to successfully secure a place for its people in a more crowded, resource-strained world, Hawaii would do well to pursue its own pivot away from militarism and instead shift its efforts to food and energy self-reliance, environmental protection, and planning for survival in a world beset by climate change.

The sooner Hawaii recognizes that it would be better off with a drastically reduced dependency on the military, the sooner it can begin to move toward a healthier, safer, and more secure future.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mensahi Ginnen I Gehilo' #6: Quiz Time

Mensahi Ginnen I Gehilo' #6
"Quiz Time"

What do people look for in their political candidates?

To often the list of things that people vote based on is filled with the trivial, the superficial and the embarrassing. People will vote for candidates based on height, hair, smile, ability to wave by the roadside and even what their first name is. In a democracy people have the right to vote for whoever they want to, regardless of how informed they are about the candidates or the issues. This is one of the reasons why everyone may claim to love democracy, but really want it only in small doses. Real democracies take work. They require that the people keep track of their leaders. They require that the people themselves are knowledgeable and know who for whom they are voting.  If this is not the case, then communities tend to elect simply those who are most famous or the wealthiest.

Next month Guam will be electing another Legislature. Currently there are 30 candidates running for those 15 spots in Hagatna. For several months people have been asking these candidates where they stand on everything from the military buildup to abortion rights to fishing rights. Most candidates take positions that are completely inoffensive or harmless, in other words better everything that’s good, less of anything that’s bad, that is my promise to you.

The Independence Task Force would like to weigh in as well, but not in the way you might think. We don’t want to know what political status candidates support or try and convince them to support our status (at least not yet). What we are looking for in candidates this election are people who know the basics about our political status and self-determination. Regardless of what status they support, we want people in power who at least know what they are talking about when these issues come up and will not just speak or legislate with their misconceptions.

The Task Force developed a simple quiz of 11 multiple choice questions that will test a candidate’s general knowledge about Guam’s political status and its potential decolonization. These questions are not meant to support Independence or any other status option. They are just meant to see how much our potential leaders know about this very critical issue. At the end of the quiz there is a short essay question where each candidate can express what they feel personally about political status and what option they believe is the best for Guam.

Often times during a political season people obsess over opinions and platforms. What does the candidate feel or think about this? What will the candidate do about that? This is all well and good, but it is also important to take into account what a candidate knows and what they understand. Too often people will elect those whose names are known and whose face is easy on the eyes. These things make people feel like they can trust someone or that they should be in a leadership position. For the Independence Task Force we are looking for candidates who instead of saying the right things simply know what they are talking about. It is a simple enough request, but one we often forget during election season.

Sahuma Minagahet ya Na’suha Dinagi

Michael Lujan Bevacqua

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Problems of History

Senator Daniel Akaka, as the first and only Native Hawaiian to serve in the US Senate is a key icon in the pantheon of Native Hawaiian politics. He is currently retiring and not running for re-election. Neither of those running to replace him are Native Hawaiian and so in some ways it is a sad day for those who take seriously those types of issues of representation and inclusion.

He is a regular speaker at the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement conference that I have been attending this week. He came on the last day to give his final speech to those assembled, as a sitting Senator. It was a very solemn moment when he arrived and when he spoke. He was treated like an elder celebrity statesmen, as people rushed to take pictures of him as he walked to the stage and record him as he spoke. He received a line of well-wishers and gift givers, some of which had the chance to speak briefly and told tales of how the Senator had made an incredible impact in their lives. People spoke about land issues, expansion of health services, educational opportunities and scholarships. All things that Akaka, had helped push for Native Hawaiians and had dramatically affected the quality of their lives.

It was a beautiful moment in so many ways. As we have an election season now where the memories of most are dedicated to negative things about candidates and illustrating the pointlessness and uselessness of politicians, it was heartwarming to see so many people express how someone in power had helped them. How someone had used the power of the United States government, something that had taken so much from Native Hawaiians, and used it to help them.

He gave a speech that was very interesting, and an ideal one given his position. It talked about the complicated relationship that Native Hawaiians have to the United States. Unique is one of the most euphemistic ways of referencing it. Tragic is a more apt one. Unresolved is the way that few want to admit to.

Akaka was a key force in getting the Apology Resolution out of the United States Government. In it the Federal Government admitted participating in the overthrow of the Native Hawaiian government and sincerely apologized for it. Like most apologies this one wasn’t very genuine and so when Native Hawaiians have tried to use this apology as evidence in furthering their claims for sovereignty, they usually get shut down. The most clear rejection of any value to this apology came in 2009 when the US Supreme Court argued that you couldn’t base any claims from the apology since it wasn’t meant to be binding, it was just meant to make people feel better.

In his speech, Akaka didn’t whitewash history the way so many do nowadays. He didn’t pretend that the 1893 Overthrow was somehow justified. He didn’t pretend that the Native Hawaiian people were in support of it. He didn’t argue either that the United States has acted like a benevolent ruler over the Hawaiian people, watching over them. Although the crowd at the Council of the Native Hawaiian Advancement isn’t the most radical, they are not the delusion either. They know the truth, they know the history, although they may not agree on what that history means today, no one there can deny that Hawai’i was illegally seized by the United States.

But history is never something that exists in and of itself. People assume that it can take on a sort of objectivity, when it cannot ever. History doesn’t exist to be written, but rather to be read and to be interpreted. Even if someone could achieve the ultimate clarity in terms of piecing together a narrative that bears no possible stain of bias, inaccuracy or ideology, what happens when it is read by people? It will get all of those things anyways as people make connections to other moments in the past, the present, make arguments about how something does or does not relate to the future. That is why history is not truth itself, but always the start of a debate over truth.

So while Akaka can clear lay out a list of injustices, this articulation does not lead him to be “anti-American” or even “anti-colonial.” This is something that people constantly miss because they don’t understand how ideology generally works. For example, if you flip a coin 100 times and the first 99 times it is heads, does this affect somehow affect what the final 100th flip will be? No, it doesn’t. Ideology can work in the same frustrating and mysterious way. Keith Lujan Camacho, a Chamorro scholar who teaches at UCLA, spent a year teaching at UOG in history. In his Guam History class he gave students a very real and upfront history of the Marianas Islands. He spared no punches, gave it all to them straight and any other clichés you can think of. In other words he didn’t mince words about colonization or American imperialism. Camacho assumed that at the end of the semester, with all the discussion of Chamorro resilience and resistance, his students might have their horizons widened a bit and decided to poll them on what political status they would prefer for Guam’s future, Statehood, Free Association and Independence. Given that the history of Guam he taught was from a critical perspective and was very harsh on Americanization and American colonization you might assume that more students would have given Independence a chance.

Ahe’, ti magahet enao. The overwhelming students voted for Statehood, as they do in almost any class regardless of how the history is taught. That is most people’s default position on political status, especially if they know very little about it.

The problem is that the history alone doesn’t create any direct and overt form of consciousness. Not everyone responds to history in the same way and not everyone arranges its pieces to come to the same conclusion. Although for someone like me if you were to give me a history of Guam that is critical of its colonizers and how they have treated the Chamorro people and their lands, the conclusion I would draw is that we should seek another path, a different future. For me, the colonial ways in which Guam has been treated historically and in a contemporary context, make me feel as if Guam taking care of itself and working to better itself free from colonial entanglements is the best choice. But someone can look at that same history and come to the conclusion that this history is beautiful since nothing is like that anymore. Sure the US may have treated Chamorros in terrible ways before, but it doesn’t do that anymore. The history, far from being something that you use you positively articulate a critique, it becomes something you banish to the past and then use to argue the supremacy of the present, since it no longer bears the stains and claw marks of that past.

Another way that a tragic and controversial history can become pacified is how they become rite-of-passage-like-scars. How these trials and tribulations were what gave you access to the colonizer’s world and what allowed you to progress in the first place. Often times this is expressed locally as a way of justifying the brutal ways that Chamorros were forced into Catholicism. It is also expressed in terms of the land loss after World War II or the suffering at the hands of the Japanese gi Tiempon Chapones. That suffering is what gave the Chamorros the right to try to be Americans, to insist that they deserve recognitions from Americans or as Americans. Injustices and wrongs committed in the past become excused as the price for being allowed to experience the “best possible world” that is the present.

You could say it is the same dynamic that a love story must go through. Two people destined to be with each other can’t just be with each other. There has to be various levels of drama and miscommunication. There has to be conflict and things must come between them, so that at the very end there love can mean so much more. This also works with history. A tortured history doesn’t mean that you will hate and loathe the torturer. It could instead make you feel even more loyal since your relationship is like a power ballad bi Chicago from the 1980’s. You’ve been through so much together and so many things went wrong and you both got lost along the way, but not that you’ve finally found each other, everything is all right. I have a tune to how this song goes in my head and every once in a while a line ends with “the glory of love.”

So even if you know the tragic and racist colonial history of Guam it isn’t necessarily going to make you think that Guam is better off without the United States or better off without colonialism. In the same way in which people know terrible things that their governments, countries and families do, but still accept them and still wouldn’t want to be without them.

For Akaka in his final speech to the Council on Native Hawaiian Advancement, he played this game very well. He invoked the history of abuses in order to make sure the audience understood that he a serious speaker and person. He is not someone who runs from history or hides it. He knows that the United States and Hawai’i have a shady and immoral history. Their kingdom was stolen from them. They lost their sovereignty.

Akaka takes that history and redirects it towards the present. He argues that while Native Hawaiians may have lost political sovereignty, they used the new framework of power that their relationship to the United States provided to protect themselves and also assert their rights. Note that from where Akaka begins and ends, he is not arguing for an assimilationist teleology for Native Hawaiians. He is not arguing that things may have been bad in the beginning, but all that is fine now and so let’s just be Americans and forget about it! He is instead arguing for a internal colonial teleology. He is arguing that Native Hawaiians don’t give up who they are, but that they use those tools that their ancestors have been doing for more than a century, to try and find a place within this American system from which they can preserve and protect their culture. Akaka’s solution to this problem is “The Akaka Bill,” which would seek Federal Recognition for Native Hawaiians, so that they would join the pantheon of Native American tribes.

This is a similar argument to what supporters of a local Chamorro tribe make. They argue that there is no point in seeking anything outside of the United States, and propose that instead Chamorros seek the best possible place within the United States. That doesn’t mean giving up who they are, but it means using the tools the United States offers to try to protect you. The tools are sad and aren’t worth much, but for most people when faced with the daunting task of seeking independence or something outside of the US, the tools look so much more inviting. It seems like an ideal compromise for those who don’t want to push back against their complicated histories. They don’t want to challenge too much the structures of power that give them identities and feed into their feelings of dependency. So compromises such as The Chamorro Tribe or the Akaka Bill represent those who want to hold onto their uniqueness, hold onto to that complicated history that has created them, but at the same time find a safe and secure and special place within the American family.

Hu sen chatkonfotme este na hinasso, lao komprendeyon nu Guahu.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Big Joe Biden

From The best take on last night's VP debate that I've read all morning.

There's even a Marianas Trench mention in there.

Kalang un machalek na tigiri Si Joe Biden gi painge. Ya Si Paul Ryan i na'-na. Humugando na'ya Si Joe ni' na'-na, ya pues ha galamok ha'.


Big Joe and the Joyful Noise Friday, 12 October 2012 08:58  
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Vice President Joseph Biden of Delaware dropped the hammer on Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan on Thursday, and it was a powerful thing to see.

Anyone who tells you the vice presidential debate was a tie, or that Mr. Ryan prevailed, is trying to sell you a diamond mine that ain't worth a dime. The ultimate impact and import of what went down during Thursday's debate won't be immediately known, but the simple fact is beyond dispute: Joe Biden owned the night, and owned his opponent, in a way rarely seen in modern debate history.
It was, in every respect, just what the doctor ordered for the Democratic presidential campaign: a high-energy, aggressive and fact-laden stand taken by a battle-scarred party elder who, for all time, dispelled any and all preconceived notions that he is some half-addled gaffe generator who cannot be counted on when the chips are down. Joe Biden came to play Thursday night, and the public works employees of Danville, KY, will be spending the next couple of days sweeping up little pieces of Paul Ryan because of it.

Biden - at times laconic, at times incredulous, at times simply pissed - gave a clinic on debate management over the course of 90 minutes. He left no stone unturned in attacking the weak points of his opponent's arguments and general philosophy, handily managed to make Mitt Romney the absent and hopeless star of the show, and in the process delivered a rousing defense of both the Obama administration and Democratic Party principles that was deeply reminiscent of Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention. Mr. Biden's presentation was, like Clinton's, both folksy and factual, and - most important of all - he did not allow Mr. Ryan to slip even one lie into the conversation without covering it with bite-marks, bruises and blood.

To wit.

The first question of the debate focused on the attack on the US consulate in Libya, and whether the whole affair amounted to what debate moderator Martha Raddatz described as a "massive intelligence failure." The GOP has been worrying this particular bone for some time now, and the question was right in Mr. Ryan's wheelhouse. He immediately denounced the Obama administration for its alleged lax security policy and intelligence regarding overseas missions like the one that absorbed the attack in Libya, a line of assault straight out of the Republican playbook.

Mr. Biden took in Ryan's response, reared back, and laid waste: "With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey, because not a single thing he said is accurate. Number one, this lecture on embassy security - the congressman here cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million below what we asked for, number one. So much for the embassy security piece. Number two, Governor Romney, before he knew the facts, before he even knew that our ambassador was killed, he was out making a political statement which was panned by the media around the world."

Right out of the gate, Mr. Biden called a liar a liar - something his boss failed to do during his first turn at bat - and then tagged Ryan, along with the entire House GOP, for gutting the funding for embassy security, before concluding with a reminder of Mitt Romney's idiotic, embarrassing, ill-conceived response to the Libya attack...which was, lest we forget, to condemn the victims for hating America before the facts of the situation (and the death toll) were clear.
And that was just the beginning.

Around 24 minutes into the debate, moderator Raddatz steered the conversation toward the current unemployment level, and asked of both candidates, "Can you get unemployment to under 6 percent, and how long will it take?" Mr. Biden had the first bite of the apple, and delivered an aria that shook the glass in the windows.
I don't know how long it will take. We can and we will get it under 6 percent. Let's look at - let's take a look at the facts. Let's look at where we were when we came to office. The economy was in free fall. We had -- the great recession hit; 9 million people lost their job; $1.7 - $1.6 trillion in wealth lost in equity in your homes, in retirement accounts for the middle class.
We knew we had to act for the middle class. We immediately went out and rescued General Motors. We went ahead and made sure that we cut taxes for the middle class. And in addition to that, when that occurred, what did Romney do? Romney said, "No, let Detroit go bankrupt." We moved in and helped people refinance their homes. Governor Romney said, "No, let foreclosures hit the bottom."
But it shouldn't be surprising for a guy who says 47 percent of the American people are unwilling to take responsibility for their own lives. My friend (Rep. Ryan) recently in a speech in Washington said, "33 percent of the American people are takers."
These people are my mom and dad - the people I grew up with, my neighbors. They pay more effective tax than Governor Romney pays in his federal income tax. They are elderly people who in fact are living off of Social Security. They are veterans and people fighting in Afghanistan right now who are, quote, "not paying any tax."
It's about time they take some responsibility here. Instead of signing pledges to Grover Norquist not to ask the wealthiest among us to contribute to bring back the middle class, they should be signing a pledge saying to the middle class we're going to level the playing field; we're going to give you a fair shot again; we are going to not repeat the mistakes we made in the past by having a different set of rules for Wall Street and Main Street, making sure that we continue to hemorrhage these tax cuts for the super wealthy.
They're pushing the continuation of a tax cut that will give an additional $500 billion in tax cuts to 120,000 families. And they're holding hostage the middle class tax cut because they say we won't pass -- we won't continue the middle class tax cut unless you give the tax cut for the super wealthy. It's about time they take some responsibility.
In one fell swoop: a nod to the successful auto industry bailout, a hit on Romney's 47% doctrine, a hit on Ryan's 33% doctrine, a hit on the Norquist anti-tax pledge, a hit on Romney's nebulous tax history, a reminder of the GOP's calamitous record, a hit on the GOP's desire to continue the Bush tax cuts, all of which came in a few savage minutes...and all of which was delivered with the heat and passion of someone who is legitimately angry about the matters at hand. Mr. Biden, in this small space, accomplished more than Mr. Obama did in his own 90-minute opportunity, and the simple force of it was palpable.

Mr. Biden was not done, however. Minutes later, on the subject of Detroit in particular and job growth in general, the vice president enjoyed what may well go down in history as his finest moment in politics.
I've never met two guys who are more down on America across the board. We're told everything's going bad. There are 5.2 million new jobs, private-sector jobs. If they'd get out of the way, if they'd get out of the way and let us pass the tax cut for the middle class, make it permanent, if they get out of the way and pass the jobs bill, if they get out of the way and let us allow 14 million people who are struggling to stay in their homes because their mortgages are upside down, but they never missed a mortgage payment...
Just get out of the way.
Stop talking about how you care about people. Show me something. Show me a policy. Show me a policy where you take responsibility.
And, by the way, they talk about this Great Recession as if it fell out of the sky, like, "Oh, my goodness, where did it come from?" It came from this man voting to put two wars on a credit card, to at the same time put a prescription drug benefit on the credit card, a trillion-dollar tax cut for the very wealthy. I was there. I voted against them. I said, no, we can't afford that. And now, all of a sudden, these guys are so seized with the concern about the debt that they created.
It was at this point that Paul Ryan began to look, for all the world, eerily like Mr. Bean. His reliance on campaign talking points wore raggedly thin, and as Mr. Biden gained strength and intensity, Mr. Ryan began to shrink. A welcome discussion of foreign policy regarding Afghanistan, Syria and Iran was transformed into an international policy seminar delivered by a guy who's been around the block a few times to a guy who didn't seem to know where the block was to begin with.

The situation did not improve when Mr. Ryan was pressed, by the moderator and the vice president, to provide even a sliver of detail on how his campaign's magical tax/budget proposals could ever be reconciled with basic mathematics in this dimension of space and time. He failed. A similarly devastating exchange came when Mr. Ryan was pressed to explain his plan to essentially obliterate Social Security and Medicare. It did not, in the end, go well.

The final act came when Raddatz put the abortion issue on the table, and asked both candidates to speak personally on the matter. Mr. Ryan made no bones about the intent of his campaign to end choice by stating bluntly, "The policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother." In a bewildering aside, he further denounced Obama and Biden for attacking freedom of religion through their support of the availability of birth control.

When it came time for Mr. Biden to respond, he did so in a simple, elegant and utterly devastating fashion: "With regard to abortion, I accept my church's opinion - position - on abortion. Life begins at conception, that is the church's decision. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews. I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman. I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people, women, that they can't control their body."

Game, set, match.

Before the night was even half over, both Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh had tweeted that Mr. Biden was "bullying" Mr. Ryan. If this is any indication of how the GOP intends to spin the debate, and it surely is, the right will seek to make hay out of Biden's demonstrably emotional approach to the debate, if for no other reason than to distract from the actual substance of the event. Mr. Biden laughed, he sighed, he shook his head, he raised his hands to the heavens in disgust, and he leveled an angry, accusatory finger at his opponent more than once.

Biden was heated, and animated, and was not shy about telegraphing the disdain he felt for his opponent's arguments. Of course he will be criticized for that. Of course he will. Elements of the "news" media will certainly try to boil off the meat and focus on the dreck, for no other reason than to make their jobs easier, and that narrative will be promoted with vigor by the GOP's spin machine.
If that becomes the final takeaway from Thursday's debate - despite all the substance provided, despite all the facts deployed, despite all the heartily-welcomed challenges traded back and forth - then the political "news" media has officially lost any and all purchase on usefulness in this republic. What happened on Thursday night was nothing more or less than the best Vice Presidential debate in American history, and was the best debate - period - any of us have seen in a long, long time. If it is not reported this way, in detail, the political "news" media should be collectively shoved into a shot-weighted barrel and dropped into the Marianas Trench.

As for the ultimate impact Thursday's debate will have on the overall race, only time will tell. The usual metrics used to measure and predict election trends over the last several decades do not apply this time around. There are simply too many unique factors at play in 2012 - the nation's first Black president and the impact of racial sentiment, the gargantuan impact of the money unleashed by the Citizens United decision, the ever-increasing impact of the internet and the digital age on what was for so long a demonstrably analog political process - to take for granted the idea that because something has happened so many times before automatically means it will happen the same way this time around.

It was axiomatic to believe that no single debate could move the numbers of a presidential election more than a point or two...until the numbers went sideways by as much as 14 points after last week's presidential debate. It was axiomatic to believe that vice presidential debates hardly ever matter at all...but now? In this new day and age? Was Joe Biden's performance enough to end, if not repair, a long, bad week of reversals for the Obama re-election campaign? We will find out soon enough.
This much is certain: what took place on Thursday night in Kentucky was a clinic, a deconstruction, a masterpiece, a thunderclap. The sun came up on Friday morning to shine upon a world that will never, ever underestimate Joe Biden again. For those who needed what he gave, it was a joyful noise indeed.


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