Sunday, May 25, 2014

We Are Comments

To be very honest I used to hate the comments on the Guam PDN website before. Every couple of weeks someone would tell me something someone was saying about me on in the threads. I wouldn't often check it out, but when I did it was never pleasant. It was like a no-reality zone there for most people. I would be called all sorts of names and people would make up some pretty insane things about me. The PDN comments were filled with so many people who had left Guam behind, but their disdain for the people of the island or disgust for the island burned brighter than ever. That disconnect was very intriguing for me. How the people who took that space the most seriously in terms of dominating it with their ideas were those who probably at the least to gain or least actual investment or connection to what they were arguing over.

Since the PDN changed their comments over to Facebook and requiring that people be signed into Facebook in order to comment the dialogue has cleaned up quite a bit. Whereas most progressive people stayed away from the PDN comments of ole, Facebook is filled with progressive and critical people.

A case in point is the most recent column by Lee Webber, formed publisher for the PDN. His article "Support buildup or support decline" upset quite a few people on Facebook and they logged onto the PDN site in order to express themselves. In the days past, Webber's column would have been covered in comments complaining about Chamorro this or Chamorros that, and would have bashed me and many people I know for everything from being communist to being a fake Chamorro. But Webber's column as of a few days ago had nothing but critical comments on it. Many of these comments offered very serious critiques of his pro-buildup position. At one point most of these comments were mysteriously deleted, only to reappear later after many complained the PDN was censoring their views.

I've pasted below Webber's original article and a number of the comments that were left.


"Support buildup or support decline."
by Lee Webber
Guam PDN

On Monday evening, I spent quite a number of hours at Father Duenas Memorial School, attending one of the scoping meetings that allowed for public comment regarding the impending military buildup and use of Ritidian federal property for the planned firing range complex.
As one person said, "It is ironic that the same people that are pushing for minimum-wage increases are also denying people of the economic and growth opportunities that are brought in by the buildup."
It appeared to me the clear majority of testimony presented by the anti-military proponents were driven by emotion and distortion of fact, or a sheer dislike of any military presence, no matter where it was planned. It was also obvious the We Are Guahan members did not show the level of respect I have grown to appreciate from the Chamorro culture during my 45-plus years residing in Guam.

Jones testimony

Unlike the previous meeting, there was more testimony from pro-business, pro-military and pro-buildup members of the community -- Guamanians such as Jeff Jones, who was raised in Guam, married here and has raised his family here. His company, Triple J Enterprises, has been in business in Guam for more than 30 years and he employees nearly 350 local residents.
He understands the sensitivities regarding the wildlife refuge and the surface danger zone implications. He also seemed to understand the reality that the adverse impact would be minimal, at best.
The reality, as he put it, is that Guam has two main economic engines, tourism and the federal government. Without a balance in both, the overall quality of life for all residents would decline.
He aptly pointed out that with both of these segments of the economy remaining strong, many of the people complaining about the buildup would be unemployed or unable to personally benefit via government-funded social programs.
He also reminded listeners -- those who would listen -- that it is simple enough to look at regional neighboring locations to see poor infrastructure, educational systems and social support programs that residents of Guam currently benefit from, which could dry up should local economic growth be stifled.
The businesses of Guam need the buildup so we can continue to grow economic activity, which in turn will provide more and better-paying jobs and additional tax revenues for the government.

Sablan testimony

Another speaker for the business community was Mark Sablan. Mark is a Chamorro who also supports the buildup.
Mark was proud to note that his father, Dr. Ralph Sablan, was a retired U.S. Navy physician who served not only his country but the people of Guam.
Like Jeff, Mark lived his life on Guam and has raised his family here. He is a Chamorro and a Guamanian.
He was, as he put it, a "military brat" who has seen both sides of the fence. He was here during the Vietnam War and when all the bases were operating at peak. He remembered a healthy economy. All of his adult friends and relatives had jobs and he seldom heard the word "unemployed."
Those days are long gone, but it does not have to stay that way.
Mark reminded those, again who would listen, that his "parents and grandparents resided on Guam when the Japanese invaded the island. They lost everything they had and had to succumb to the orders of the Japanese Imperial Army soldiers.
"Having lost their homes, they relocated to their ranches, where they survived on whatever they salvaged from their destroyed homes and relied on the poultry and crops that they had. Eventually, they all ended up in Manneggon concentration camp. This was not at all pleasant. Their living conditions were horrible and many Chamorros lost their lives because of disease and malnutrition.
"When the Marines liberated Guam on July 21, 1944, the local people were ecstatic. I've often heard of stories from my now-deceased relatives on how well they were treated by these brave young soldiers. My grandfather was one of the few Chamorros who owned a ham radio. He risked his life by providing the Marines with information on the location of Japanese soldiers and fortifications. I could go on and on with many stories about the war as told by my parents and grandparents but I think you get the picture."

'Very disturbing'

Mark added: "Prior to the large-scale military buildup and even with the scaled-down buildup, it is very disturbing to me that a ... minority group of so called indigenous groups oppose the buildup. Surprisingly, one of these groups is made up of white-collar individuals with a majority of the groups being more of the lower-class residents. ... They are a small group, but yet manage to make the most noise, thus getting media attention.
"I know some of them personally. ... They don't see the big picture and feel that the feds always have a hidden agenda. With the more sophisticated groups, I see the validity of their arguments. The proposed condemnation of the newly established Guam International Raceway Park and the Pågat sites to me were a poor choice for a firing range."
Mark said he was very disappointed with a few of our senators, who seem to simply want to "debate, debate, debate to no end. They need to realize that there is no such thing as a perfect world."
In closing, he said: "There is a silent majority that supports the buildup. Please do not concede to the pessimism that you read in the local paper or see on the local news. Instead, listen to the people who really are in touch with Guam's economy and its people's welfare. Disregard the negativity from the self-interest groups.
As I walked out of the door, an elderly Chamorro gentlemen looked at me and said, "Too many of these young people do not understand what the cost of freedom involves."
The choice seems simple: Support the buildup or support economic decline.
Lee P. Webber is a former president and publisher of the Pacific Daily News, and has been a resident of Guam since 1968.


DAVE LOTZ: A case of shooting the messenger and not addressing the message. BTW the messengers are young and old knowledgeable individuals of our island who should be listened to as they exercise their rights. BTW these were not scoping meetings, but hearings on the supplemental draft environmental impact statement for the military buildup.

DESIREE TAIMANGLO VENTURA: Webber is pretty dismissive of what he perceives to be "over emotional" responses from people passionate about protecting our island. He claims the well-researched presentations of many to have included "distorted" numbers, which is simply not true. Those numbers were directly from the SEIS. I didn't hear a single person in support of the build-up offer anything BUT emotional appeals. All they did was explain how long they've been on island and give us their personal beliefs (without ever citing any research or the document they were supposed to be responding to). They clearly didn't do their homework. Reminding people of WWII, trying to shame them by calling them "disrespectful," and going on and on about how long you've been on island IS an emotional appeal. I think the only difference is that the emotional appeals used by Webber and company lacked the sincerity and genuine concern that those who don't share his opinion seemed to exhibit. In particular, holding a traumatic time over the heads over our people in order to justify things for personal financial gain is pretty sick. Twisting experiences of our families during WWII in order to silence our community is EXTREMELY disrespectful. I know that the elders in my family are extremely offended by Webber trying to hold WWII over the heads of their grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. Also, there was quite a bit of heckling, disrespect, and snickering from the pro-build guys, who were hollering to "be quiet" and calling for "time" after younger residents offered to give their time to an older Chamoru woman who was speaking for things they were concerned with. Not buying this guy's silliness. Webber doesn't respect this island or its people. He views it as a place to make profit, nothing more.

J. RICK PEREZ: Lee Webber opines that there is a simple choice to be made, a choice that can be characterized as “a binary choice, a choice between “0” and “1” and a choice, that is somehow tied almost solely to economic development."

I believe that this is myth making at its best.

The simplicity of Lee Webber’s comments, reflect both the decision to ignore a host of existing conditions and issues on Guam - that are environmentally related, that are political status related and that are democratically related and citizen driven - without a clear explanation by Mr. Webber as to why he continually smears opposing viewpoints.

Lee’s modus operandi, as was pointed out in recent SEIS testimony the other day, is to continually reference the “Liberation of Guam” in order to play to the hearts and minds of our elders in a continual attempt to create friction and division within our community. Mr. Webber, our humanity as Chamorros and as islanders from the Marianas is not tied in any way to your self-conceptions of what patriotism may or may not be and should not be used as a tool to create fissures in our community.

In his attempt to shape public opinion and reference one point in time, Mr. Webber also ignores the reality that the retaking of the Marianas Islands during World War Two, the “Marianas Turkey Shoot,” was purely part of a series of military operational plans - “O Plans” - to move westward towards Japan.

If it was intended to be a humanitarian relief plan to "Liberate the Chamorro people," Mr. Lee Webber needs to produce the evidence to demonstrate that this was so.

No where in the historical record does it evidence that the Marianas Turkey Shoot was a operation to “Liberate” the Chamorro people of Guam.

I would argue that what Lee Webber continues to do is create doubt in people’s minds and hearts in order to push for a pro-military transformational agenda at the cost of more complete, evidence based interactions amongst the residents, all kinds of governmental leaders and military operational force representatives. Too many questions remain unanswered such as "is the Guam PDN, through its former publisher, attempting to further divide our Chamorro people?" Another question to consider is Lee Webber and the Guam PDN attempting to discredit domestic opposition to the further militarization of the island of Guam?

The question for Lee is, as the former Guam PDN Publisher, “what are the reasons for your unabated support of this build-up Lee and why have you been so persistent in advocating for a position, as opposed to reporting on the various positions?"

No to the build-up.

CHRIS SANTOS: Mr. Webber, given what was seen at the hearings I don't think your silent majority exists by any stretch of the imagination. The "best of times" was not in the 60's in the last big militarization of Guam. It was in the late 80's when Joe Ada was governor and the public treasury was flushed with upwards of $800 million per year. THAT HAD ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE MILITARY. People have listened to people like you and Mark over and over again. It's the same message over and over again. They don't care for it and they are smart enough to think and research for themselves. There are only too many times you can write basically the same thing in the PDN over and over again until they just completely tune out.

BERNARD PUNZALAN: "It was also obvious the We Are Guahan members did not show the level of respect I have grown to appreciate from the Chamorro culture during my 45-plus years residing in Guam."

Lee must be referring to the respect and patience of our elders, who maintained their silence by placing faith that those decision makers would do the right thing. Instead, the generations of today have come to learn and realize that we are not who the U.S. says we are...we are just a piece of property that can be legally violated and dumped at any given moment.

It's pathetic. He seems to confuse himself and how people and countries have been taking advantage of the Chamorro culture over the past 400 years.When the money looks too good to pass up, let's not forget about the Solomon Report.

ERISA CRISTOBAL: Funny thing is that Lee Webber does not ever quote from the actual DSEIS document in his “emotionally” driven article above. Instead he regurgitates other testimonials that only weaken his supposed purely fact-based argument. He might rethink his strategies because we Manhoben are not as easily fooled by this poorly written, unsubstantiated, biased article that only the PDN would print.

CARA FLORES-MAYS: A few years back, Lee Weber took part in a conversation at Mermaid Tavern in which he and other participants strategized about how to gain community support of the buildup by reminding our manåmko' of WWII so that they would remember how painful war times were. Psychologists and counselors would refer to this as "retraumatization of the victim". Lee Weber sat with Colonel Pond, Marine PIO Aisha Bakkar and Paula Conhain, director of communications from Washington. They strategized that they would work with village mayors to achieve this while isolating groups (like We Are Guåhan) who were gaining too much influence. In this same conversation, participants made fun of a Chamoru gentleman because he had a Chamoru accent and missing teeth and laughed about his UOG degree. I find it almost entertaining that Lee Weber is now writing a column about respect. Laughable if it weren't so disgusting.

BJ BELL: Stop ending your writings with 'esta', as if that alone makes you seem local. You obviously are a vulture of the island, no matter how long you have been here. I suppose you would have told the native Americans they were being unpatriotic by not supporting the federal government's genocidal policies toward them. You think Guam needs the buildup more than America needs Guam? Simply due to short term economic growth for Guamanians and outside foreign investors? Legalizing gambling and prostitution would do the same thing here, but that would be to obvious, wouldn't it? Plutocrats like you are what's wrong with your country, where you should move back to.

I would like to thank Webber for fueling the fire of Decolonization with his condescending attitude. If this is some elaborate sarcasm on his part in the vein of Colbert's conservative character, then good job, guy, you nailed it.

RK GUERRERO: My opinion is that supporters of the buildup are tired and lack the critical thinking skills needed to create new revenue streams other than to continue to suck down US taxpayer dollars because it is the easiest. Defense spending is bloated but is the main cash cow for many salivating businesses. Proponents seize on any world crisis or bogeyman and hope that the public is so thoroughly indoctrinated and bank on their patriotism to aid their cause. My suggestion for business leaders is to relearn the relevant skills needed to be successful in the 21st century that will allow them to think out of the box and become entrepreneurs all over again. Don't just pop up every now and then to remain relevant. This is a new world that needs leaders with critical thinking skills to lead our people to be successful by creating products or services that are needed. Think Google, DuckDuckGo etc.

TOM KEEFE: Wrong conjunction in the title. It should read "support the buildup AND support decline."

DANNY SABATO: Lee Webber, with the bond borrowing and some other financial maneuvers, this administration inclusive yourself, has already started the DECLINE OF OUR ISLAND.Putting 1.5 BILLION on the shoulders of our young generation is just irresponsible and crooked.

And now all you "fine Gentlemen" inclusive the Governor know very well, without the buildup, GG can never pay these bonds back. That's why his desperate push for the buildup, without considering the people of Guam and their welfare.

He really doesn't care for the people of Guam, as he discriminates in his drivel above, saying" ....with a majority of the groups being more of the lower-class residents. ..."

Well, Webber you should be glad that you belong to the higher class people, so you can see the dollar signs, and the buildup supporting your local dive shop. Your ignorance, and continuously pushing on political opponents and the "lower class" makes you a part of the problems Guam has developed during your 45 years on Guam.

ELIZABETH BOWMAN: I also attended the DEIS public hearings for approximately four hours last Monday. I didn't witness any disrespect being shown to the Chamorro culture (or elders, or environment . . . ) by the We Are Guåhan group. To the contrary -- the young people spoke of Chamorro culture with passion.

Mr. Webber's definition of "respect" appears to be based solely on the exclusion of debate or dissension. Mr. Webber does not appear to have respect for anyone whose views or circumstances differ from his own.

Many of the young people present that night referred to statistics and facts, many directly from the military itself. For example, a pamphlet from Our Islands Are Sacred that night was primarily composed of quotes from the military's own draft SEIS, stating, in part:

"The jobs generated by the build‐up are mostly temporary, construction jobs lasting
only a few years, and most of these jobs will not be given to Guam residents.

"The proposed action would support a maximum of 7,031 FTE jobs. This maximum number of jobs would occur in 2021. After 2021, the number of civilian sector jobs associated with the proposed action would begin to decline until the steady-state level of 1,438 jobs would be reached in 2028. Source: SEIS Chapter 4 (pg. 4-127)

"Civilian labor force demand is expected to increase by a maximum of 7,031 full-time jobs in 2021 (6,150 related to construction and 881 related to operations); of the 7,031 jobs, 3,058 are estimated to be taken by Guam residents. At steady-state, by 2028, labor force demand is expected to increase by 1,438 full-time jobs (all related to operations); 762 of the jobs are estimated to be taken by Guam residents. Source: SEIS Appendix D (pg. D-7)"

Mr. Webber's column does not mentions a single empirical fact relating to the proposed action. It is not clear whether Mr. Webber has read the SEIS.

I found Mr. Webber's closing reference to "the cost of freedom" extremely ironic in this political context.

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