Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Monday, December 29, 2014

Do Not Go Quietly into That Silent Dead Language Night

It has dawned on me more than ever before, the dire straits in which the Chamorro language exists in today. The death of my grandmother last year started forcing me to recognize this fact. I speak Chamorro on a daily basis, but one of the people I enjoyed speaking it with the most was now gone. The one who instilled in me a passion for the language is now gone. I worked on so many projects regarding the language with her at my side. Ti sina hu eksplika i minalingu hu siesiente pa'go put i tinague-na.

When I look to my students, my family, my friends, there is just no one who can take the place of my grandmother in terms of speaking Chamorro. It is also something that has hurt my children and their ability to speak Chamorro. When we would visit grandma and grandpa before, grandma was always very diligent about speaking Chamorro to them, even if sometimes I would have to remind her to do it. Grandpa however, likes to through in a Chamorro word here or there, but has never gotten comfortable speaking to them in Chamorro. He'll say silly things like, "Sumahi do you know what lamasa means?" (answer: table) and she'll look at me with her atan guana and ask me with her eyes, "is he serious?" I'll atan sigi her back, and then she'll smile awkwardly at grandpa and say "hunggan, table." 

I have long committed to ensuring that I help as many people as possible learn the Chamorro language. Whether this means offering free classes, helping people find resources, or helping to organize programs such as the Master Apprentice Language Revitalization project that Ken Kuper and Ed Alvarez are working on. Languages are alive because people use them and they survive because people teach them. This is the simple calculus of it all. But lately I have been feeling, actively, constantly, consciously, that there is just less and less Chamorro out there in the world. After all, we went from having 35,000 speakers in the Marianas, to only having 25,000 today according to the last two US Census results. As a result I have been collecting as much written in the Chamorro language as possible. I have extensive archives already that I've put together over the years, but now more than ever I have even started to collect things from the internet and borrow things to scan or photocopy. 

In the media in Guam, I have written about many times before, the Chamorro language is so absent it is almost offensive. Other than a single Chamorro music station and the mixed Chamorro talk radio on another station, you barely hear it on the airwaves. In the newspapers, you have a Chamorro crossword puzzle each Tuesday in the Marianas Variety, and the Chamorro column and Juan Malimanga in the upper right corner of the PDN 6 days a week. You also have published on an infrequent basis Peter Onedera's puru ha' gi fino' CHamoru na tinige' gi i PDN. In magazines you basically have nothing except for a small amount of Chamorro content featured in the Super Shopper provided by Learn Chamorro.com. 

I am glad that in the media in the CNMI, you still find Chamorro used for letters to the editor and for columns. It is clearly not the primary means of communication or even dominant in any general way, but at least there, you find writers or speakers who refuse to let the language go quietly into that silent dead language night. Here is one article I was copying and pasting earlier today during my collecting.

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

Gradiosu na Konbetsasion
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Posted on Nov 27 2014
Dispues de sena matachoñg i dos amku` gi baranda. Sige masañgan grasian finapos famaguon niha. Ni unu gaige sa` todu man-hanau dispues de man-mapega gi sagan niha.

Ha mensiona i tata haye magahet i kalagtos gi halom i tropa, kontodu i ti gef mana`e ni mabendise motmut respetu yan hinimidde. Estague` na patgon i satton gi mañainaña.

I tres ni mas mañgalagtos kada unu gai heñiu. Unu tomtum, i otru suenu mientras i uttimu respondot. I pumalu mañgontentu ya ti man-mefnu` lau man-humidde yan osgun gi tinagu` mañainan niha. Dinanche na meskla gi dinaña familia sa` kada unu ha fatta hafa moduña.

I eskaleran konbetsasion oppan respetu gi entalu` mañelu. I temtum man-atan ya ha pesa i man-sañgan gi lamasa. Ha templa dispues para u guaha grasia yan chaleg. Dispues ha chule` ukulele ya ha tutuhon kumanta. Manatte todu estake sumen bonito i sunidu matemplaña. Na`magof piot gi tiempon ha`anen gupot siha.

Dispues de man-hanau i famaguon tatte giya siha gi la pupueñge sige ta`lu i dos amku` kumonbetsasion. Nina`e i biha un` dañkulu na agradesimiento ni bihu pot satton yan fiet tumohge kumu katsoña parehu ha` gi halom katma yan pagyu. “Hagu mas pot tai yinayas hau asaguahu”.
Mattu i dos gi nina` siñan kada patgon.

“Mauleg si Piñg na guahu ha tatiye kalagtos”, ilegña i bihu. Ha totche, “Sa` kumu hagu kasse labanderu i patgon”.

Sinablasus: “Hmmm! Kumu ha` fatsu guahu ha tatiye lau atan haye i man-satton”. Sige ta`lu i dos chumaleg, era kulan uma`akasen ñaihon grasiosamiente.

Ayu na mañelu siempre i amku` u tachu gi hilu` inatuñgu` yan pumalu gi asuntun familia siha. Ni achog haf` masusede, hihot relasion niha `nai sumen fitme pegse` inapinitiye gi halom siha. Hu tuñgu este na familia deste pinatgon-hu. Felis todu hinanau kada unu.

Sunidon Noche Buena 

Deste otru semana gi 27 de Nobiembre ta tulus hit dumandan sunidon Noche Buena gi ha`anen Thanksgiving. Estague` na dia tutuhon i ha`anen gupot siha.

Hu tuñgu` na guaha na lamasan sena ti u kabales na biahe pot guaha man-madispone guine gi alacha. Lau, muñga nina` fan chatsaga. Petsige dinaña miyu ni man-gaige pa`gu piot ya guaha siha famaguon miyu. Fanu`e siha haf` sustansian dinaña familia.

Gi todo finatton este na tiempu, gaige gi taduñg fondun talañgahu i atban gima Yuus ni sessu hu huñgog antes gi suenon pueñge. Oran preparasion para Misan Gayu.

Dispues de misa, dinaña amotsa antes de deskanson para `an mattu i Niño Jesus gi la talo`ane. Megai mamopble guihe na tiempu lau motmut minagof gi entalu` todus. Un` ma`gas na ha`ane `nai todu mañaunau man-managam gi finatton i Niño.

Pinadesen Ñalañg

Kada hu li`e annunsiu pot kontribusion para i man-namase` pa`gu na Christmas, sige hinasoghu umafulu` yan un` kuestion: Magahet na guaha man-ñañalañg guine gi tano`ta?

Yangin magahet pues mauleg ta rikonose pot para ta ketuñgu` hafa na masusesede este gi mismu familia-ta. Kau gaige dos saina gi gima`? Kau mantai che`chu`? Kau siña ta suda`e offisiun niha?
Makat este hu aksepta pot kinahulo`hu mismu halom un` sumen popble na guma`. Ayu mina` asianu-yu` kumetuñgu hafa fondun este na chinatsaga yangin enfin masusesede guine.

Para hafa tafan apune na i areglon familia gaige gi halom guma`. Mañgge i dos saina yan kau hafa siña tachogue para ta bira tatte giya siha dignu na modun lina`la`. Mas presisu ayudu piot `nai guaha gi entalu` dos saina inutet `sino sumen malañgu. Estague` `nai humahalom sensian mauleg na Kilisyanu. Nafan geftau hamyu gi man-namase`!

Ekonomian Antes

Sessu hu huñgog mañaina-ta masañgan pot abundansia guinahan tanu` gi tiempon Japones ginen fangualu`an yan tasi. Kontodu punot yan fina` hayu man-mabebende guihe na tiempu.

Dañkulu na metkau guaha, era i dañkulu na numeron tautau giya Japon ni debi u fan maprebeniye mantension. Ayu mina` fahna maseha hafa na produktu piot ayu siha i usun Japones tat kumu todu klasen produktun guihan, asukat, asientun mendioka yan gapgap, kamute, kalamasa, lañan niyog, yan otru siha produktun tanu`.

Pa`gu na biahe mampos malimitte metkau gi halom hita mismu. Gigon un` planta produktomu ya ti mafahan, katga dispues ya un` preparaye i babue. Mampos dañkulu na maliñgu gi lancheru siha.
Lau siña ta ta`lun bumisita este na asuntu gi inestablese homlu` na relasion yan Japon. Ha sedi hit Seksiona 902 gi papa` i Covenant na u esgaihon hit i US Department of State gi bandan assistimientu pot ekonomia. Guaha mohon gai diniseha umatan este na asuntu? Dañkulu na benefisiu para hita.

•••

I amiguhu Magoo mampos inestotba ni siniseden kuattru na lancheru yan otru kuattru na famalao`an ni man-mapunu` `sino maliñgu. Kau man-mapunu` pot salape? Mana` fan malag manu i kuattru na famalao`an? Haf` uttimoña inbestigasion mapunu` dos umasagua giya San Vicente?

Guaha lokue` mansañgan na pot ti tautau-ta na kulan machoneg gi un` banda i inbestigasion. Ileghu na lache este na kuentos. Makat na cho`chu` i para un` tatiye che`chu` seriousu na kriminat. Sabe dios minalagu` DPS sumatba este pot para u guaha pas yan inañgoghu na man-safu i tautau gi señgsoñg siha.

Mauleg u guaha mas inatuñgu` polisia yan membron kada soñgsoñg pot para u guaha añgoghuyon na relasion gi para umana` safu ha`anen todus. Konfiansa sumen presisu gi este na relasion.

•••

Gi kanton shoko (warehouse) madulog ni boys i alamle ya mabatsala huyuñg dose kes setbesa. Mana` maneñgheñg ya sige man-gimen. Dispues de `las dose todu man-bulachu. Mattu i polisia `nai ha soda` na masake i setbesa gi ge`halom. Lastima i pueñgen noche buena! Man-magmata dispues gi halom presu sige man-afaisen haf` taimanu fattun niha guatu. Ai na Silent Night.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Letter from Joseph E. Rivera

Ti katoliko yu', gof ti katoliko yu'. Lao hu komprende na hagas gof tahdong i hinenggen katoliko gi kutturan Chamoru. Put este, ti hu despresia i Chamorro siha ni' manmanhohongge gi i gima'yu'us katoliko. Para meggai na Chamorro siha, yan-niha i gima'yu'us katoliko ti put i pinayon-niha ha', lao yan-niha sa' ti gof mappot luma'la katoliko giya Guahan. Guaha meggai na areklamento gi i gima'yu'us, lao ti manstriku. Guaha misa, gupot yan dinana' siha, ya este i Chamorro ma gof gogosa. Achokka' mumosmisa hao un biahi kada sakkan, katotoliko ha'. Ya gaigaige ha' i kustumbre siha achokka' tataigue ha' hao gi i gima'yu'us.

I halacha' na yinaoyao gi gima'yu'us put i tinilaika siha desde un nuebu na gurupu umannok gi halom i gima'yu'us. Ti hu gof komprende i chi-na siha este na mimu. Lao hu tungo' na meggai manlinayo' put i bidada-na i Maga'obispo. Ti ha fa'taotaotao hun i taotao gi halom i gima'yu'us, ya ha fa'sasanghe' hun ayu i ti ya-na este na nuebu na gurupu yan i kustumbren-niha. Ti hu tungo' kao magahet este na inakusa siha, lao hu tungo' na magahet i pinitin i taotao. Hu tungo' na i dos na pale' ni' mafa'takpapa' gof maguaiya gi kumunidat.

Hu sodda' este na kata gi i blog JungleWatch. I pine'lo siha gi este na blog, ma sen aguiguiyi unu na banda gi yinaoyao, lao meggai na infotmasion sinembatgo.


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December 17, 2014

Dear Archbishop Apuron,

These are undoubtedly trying times for the Catholic Church here in our island.  I am writing to you because I continue to be saddened by the problems facing our beloved Church in Guam.  It is undeniable that our Archdiocese is clearly divided, and that many of our people are angry, distraught, and confused by all the discord within our Church and among our leaders.  The people of the Archdiocese – and even the many in our island community who are not Catholic but who are nonetheless concerned for our island – are all looking to you to provide resolution, healing, and closure. Unfortunately, rather than bringing about resolution, healing, and closure, it is clear that information released by the Chancery has only served to further inflame the situation rather than quell it.
With that said, I pray that you take what I am about to say positively, for my sole intention is to offer my thoughts in an effort to foster understanding, reconciliation, and ultimately the restoration of peace and unity within our fractured Church.  I understand that there are numerous issues that need to be addressed, but I wanted to specifically focus on the one area that I believe can be immediately improved: the area of finances.

On this subject, I believe I am more than qualified to speak, as it has been my profession for well over 35 years.  As you know, for the last thirteen years, I have been entrusted as the Chief Financial Officer of Calvo Enterprises, the largest locally owned company in Guam.  Prior to that, I worked in the public sector as Director of the Bureau of Budget Management and Research for the Government of Guam, serving as the Chief Financial Advisor for three governors of Guam.  In all of my previous positions, I have enjoyed the complete trust of my employers, who knew that I would always give my best professional advice.
Archbishop, I believe you asked me to be a member of the Archdiocesan Finance Council for this very reason.  It was an office I served faithfully for eight years.  I always felt that you trusted that my advice was based on what I believed to be in the best interest of our Church. If I were still serving in this capacity, I would have advised you and the Archdiocese to be extremely careful about appropriately dealing with financial matters.  I assure you that I mean this with no condescension, but finances can be very complicated and difficult to understand, and when someone other than trained professionals are allowed to make financial interpretations and pronouncements without proper guidance, errors are bound to be made.  Unfortunately, some of these errors can cause great harm to individuals, especially if a rush to judgment is made without properly uncovering and understanding all the pertinent facts.  This is precisely what I believe has happened to Msgr. James Benavente and all the good people who worked alongside him at the Cathedral-Basilica and the Catholic Cemeteries.
As an example, many negative things have been said about the loans made for the unquestionably beautiful renovation of the Cathedral-Basilica overseen by Msgr. James, implying that the Archdiocese is left saddled with a huge and unreasonable debt.  But once again, this is just the opposite of what the facts clearly reflect.  
It is an irrefutable fact that even before securing financing for the Cathedral-Basilica renovation project, Msgr. James did his homework and first sought out and secured as much alternative funding for the project as he could.  He knew that the cost was going to be enormous – in excess of $6.8 million – and he knew that he had to reduce that burden to the greatest extent possible.  He was creative and resourceful, and in the end, more successful that we could have ever imagined.  Msgr. James secured over $3.555 million in cash contributions, which funded an astounding 52% of the project.
Here are the facts extracted from past correspondence of the Archdiocesan Finance Officer to the Cathedral Basilica Parish Council:
  • The total cost of the renovation was in excess of $6.8 million;
  • Msgr. James secured Federal Funding for the project, totaling $2.14 million;
  • Msgr. James secured Public Donations totaling $1.27 million;
  • Msgr. James secured Contractor/Supplier Donations totaling $145,000.00
  •    Msgr. James had the Basilica Approved as a Federal Historic Preservation Site, which entitled it to certain grants and funding;
  • Through consolidation with other loans, the interest rate was reduced to 4.125%;
  • Project balance as of  June 30, 2014 was only $1.73 million

Basilica Renovations

Original Cost
           6,805,500.00
100.00%
Government Grants
           2,140,200.00

Contributions & Donations - General
1,270,000.00

Contributions & Donations - Contractors & Suppliers
                               145,300.00


3,555,500.00
52.24%



Current Rate
    4.125%

Original Loan
3,250,000.00

Principal Paid through 06/30/2014
           1,518,920.31
22.32%



Principal Balance 06/30/2014
1,731,079.69
25.44%

As your Finance Officer, Mr. Dominic Kim, has indicated in his correspondence, the loan balance for this particular project is down from $6.8 million to $1.7 million. This was possible only because Msgr. James was able to fund so much of the project through his tireless efforts at securing donations and alternate funding sources.  Had this not been the case, the loan balance would have been much, much larger, and the monthly debt service requirement that much greater.  For illustration purposes, a $6.8 million loan amortized for thirty years at an interest rate of 4.125% would still have had a balance of over $4.2 million, as compared to the actual balance of $1.7 million as stated above.
Msgr. James has proven time and time again that the people respond to his call when he appeals to them for help in funding a particular need of the Church.  In addition to what I have mentioned above, I am also aware of several other large donations secured by Msgr. James.  For one, the Chapel of St. Therese and the Museum at the Cathedral-Basilica were built entirely through a donation secured by Msgr. James from two prominent local families.  Each donor contributed $1 million to the Cathedral-Basilica for the Chapel of St. Therese and the Museum.  I know of no other person, religious or otherwise, who has been able to successfully obtain in excess of $6 million in donations and contributions for the Archdiocese in such a short period of time – and all for the benefit of, and love for, our Church and her people.
Archbishop, there is a basic business principle that “you have to spend money to make money.”  Some of the information released from the Chancery, both verbal and written, have accused Msgr. James of being too excessive in his expenditures while he was in charge of the Cathedral-Basilica and the Catholic Cemeteries.  My response to this, as a finance professional and a devout Catholic of our island, is twofold.  First, in order to be completely fair and transparent about this issue, and before any conclusions are drawn, Msgr. James is owed an opportunity to address and respond to any findings before they are publicly released.  Second, I urge you to look at all the pertinent facts, in their entirety, and take into consideration the millions of dollars that Msgr. James has been able to secure on behalf of the Archdiocese during this same period.  This brings to mind an old business caveat:  We must constantly guard against being “pennywise and pound foolish.”  Msgr. James spent a few thousand dollars and, as a result, successfully brought in several million dollars.  That is an awesome return on the investment by any standard.  
The point I am trying to make is this:  It is critical to interpret all the information correctly before any actions are considered.  Prior to the release of any financial information, great care is required to ensure that the information is factual, accurate, and documented, and that the decisions made and conclusions reached are reasoned, sound, and supported by the information.  This has not been happening with the reports that have come out from the Archdiocese thus far.  It is for this reason that I am once again coming forward to express my concerns regarding the misinformation that has been released by your financial advisors.  In particular, I believe that the release of financial allegations regarding the Cathedral-Basilica and the Catholic Cemeteries was, at best, poorly handled.  I pray that you fully consider the great harm that this misinformation continues to inflict – not just upon Msgr. James and all those who worked closely with him at both of these entities, but upon our beloved Church and the thousands of faithful who are confused, disillusioned, and in many cases, outraged, by the Chancery’s handling of this matter.  
This “mishandling” of the situation has been demonstrated many times over.  As one example, the memos released by the Archdiocese contained information on items that had already been resolved, yet the memos were written as though the problems persist.  Even worse was the inclusion of a false statement about securing Archdiocesan property as collateral for the Catholic Cemeteries loan.  This same position was also incorrectly interpreted by the Archdiocesan Finance Officer, Mr. Dominic Kim, well over two years ago in 2012, and was previously corrected back then as well.  Despite knowing the truth, you and your advisors continue to erroneously cite this as a major offense committed by Msgr. James.  These items taken together painted a distorted and inaccurate financial picture that disregarded all the documented and monumental progress that had already been accomplished.
When Msgr. James was first removed, your memos and public releases selectively picked little snippets of information from the auditor’s report and paraphrased them out of context, so that only the problems were publicized while the fact that they were already resolved was conveniently omitted.  Is this not the same as lying?  Most people reading the auditor’s report will quickly recognize that the document was intended as a sort of progress report that lists some of the issues that were found, addresses how these issues were remedied, and also recommends how to further improve the financial operations.  
These unsubstantiated accusations are a direct attack on the many, many individuals who had been working diligently to shore up the financial footing of both the Cathedral-Basilica and the Catholic Cemeteries.  These people worked hard because they all wanted to help.  No one was seeking to be publicly acknowledged or thanked, but when those releases from the Chancery were published, you and your advisors effectively and unfairly called into question the integrity of all these individuals.  To this day, no one has ever been given an opportunity to respond to the allegations.
I cannot express more strenuously and emphatically that whenever one deals with financial reviews of an entity, it is critically important to conduct an interview process. The interviews are conducted to allow the entity under review an opportunity to clarify the auditor’s understanding of the facts and circumstances surrounding the findings and to correct any misunderstandings and inaccuracies.  The process of obtaining the input and comments of the entity is a crucial step to ensuring the accuracy and objectivity of the audit.  Unfortunately, in this situation, this step was skipped.  It is my understanding that additional information and allegations have continued to be released selectively, once again without allowing the appropriate individuals an opportunity to respond.  I hope and pray that this is not true, because not only is this dishonest, but it also goes contrary to the gospel that you as Archbishop have been ordained to uphold.  I hesitate to use this word, but it somehow feels appropriate in this circumstance:  Archbishop, this feels evil.
On a separate note, I want to state that I have had to bury two dear family members this past year, so I have had direct and first-hand experience dealing with both the previous Catholic Cemeteries personnel under Msgr. James and the current Cemeteries staff and personnel.  We buried my mom in January of this year, and the staff and management of the Catholic Cemeteries treated us with complete dignity, compassion, and care.  They performed their duties with the utmost professionalism.  My brother passed away this past September, and we thus had an opportunity to work with the new Catholic Cemeteries staff and management for his burial.  While I acknowledge that the current staff is trying, I must express that the work and the services they are performing falls dramatically short of the standards established by their predecessors under Msgr. James.  I have a lot to say in this area, including how my family and I were treated.  But for now, I will summarize my recent experiences by saying that there is an obvious and striking decline in the level of service that is currently being provided at the Catholic Cemeteries.  
In closing, I want to thank you for taking the time to read my lengthy letter, and I trust that you will appreciate that its length is a direct indication of how much consternation these recent events have caused me, and how troubled I am about the fate of our island Church.  Allow me to conclude by reiterating that the manner with which Msgr. James Benavente, his staff, and financial advisors were treated goes contrary how Jesus instructs us to treat one another: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’”  Archbishop, please correct me if I am wrong, but from a layman’s point of view, I expected you to practice as well as preach Matthew’s gospel. Instead, with the public releases from your office, it appears that you did the complete opposite of the gospel mandate.  
I am very troubled and confused that you falsely reported undocumented mismanagement of the Cathedral-Basilica and Catholic Cemeteries to various Archdiocesan bodies, and then – and only then – did you call Msgr. James into your office to discuss these issues with him.  You never gave him the opportunity to defend himself, his reputation, or the people who worked with him all these years.  Archbishop, all those people who worked with Msgr. James were working as much for you as for him.  They, and Msgr. James, were all your soldiers in Christ, and they were loyal to you.  They are all good, intelligent people who believed that they were doing something valuable and worthwhile for our Church. Those infamous releases alleging financial mismanagement turned out to be a shocking and painful awakening to all, and unfortunately, a call to action by many.  Please, Archbishop, this has to stop now.  
As you may be inclined to agree, I know of nothing good that can come out of impugning a person’s good name.  Archbishop, I am pleading with you to begin the healing, and I pray that you can restore the close relationship you once enjoyed with Msgr. James.  In the spirit of the Advent Season now upon us – as we prepare to receive the Baby Jesus, the Prince of Peace – I pray that you will be for your people the agent of peace and goodwill that our island faithful desperately need.


Joseph E. Rivera

Friday, December 26, 2014

Sorry, Freedom is Not Available in Your Country

After hearing for weeks about how the "terrorists" or North Koreans were winning the war against and for freedom, due to the decision of Sony not to distribute the film "The Interview," the company has decided to release the film on a limited basis. It can be streamed online and can be bought. Eventually it may be released through iTunes. It was interesting to see how a film which most people would probably not want to watch because of the abundance of jokes dealing with human genitalia, becomes an artifact over which freedom not on a national scale, but an international scale is fought. Screenings of The Interview have been filled with patriotic discourse and singing, in order to make that important argument that, this may be crap and it may be garbage, but I should have the right to eat crap and copulate with garbage if  I want to!

Speaking of freedom, people in Guam attempting to watch the Interview online soon found that they were prevented by most sites from doing so. The reason? The usual prohibition that Guam is foreign and therefore can't watch things meant for the US (or for countries that have negotiated agreements with the US or its companies). As I've often argued, this is the way that most people on Guam experience colonialism today, as this weird sort of exclusion. It is tied to a larger fundamental exclusion and disenfranchisement, but they connect it to problems with buying things online, being made fun of in movies, and these moments were suddenly when you live and who you are for some reason doesn't count when America is formed as a nation. It is something that you can call a mistake, something that can be "fixed," but when you think about it, that is the problem with such feelings of inclusion, they shouldn't require asterisks, exceptions or excuses.

Here are some articles about The Interview, because I haven't been able to watch it yet.
 
******************

Did North Korea Really Attack Sony?

It's too early to take the U.S. government at its word.

I am deeply skeptical of the FBI's announcement on Friday that North Korea was behind last month's Sony hack. The agency's evidence is tenuous, and I have a hard time believing it. But I also have trouble believing that the U.S. government would make the accusation this formally if officials didn't believe it.
Clues in the hackers' attack code seem to point in all directions at once. The FBI points to reused code from previous attacks associated with North Korea, as well as similarities in the networks used to launch the attacks. Korean language in the code also suggests a Korean origin, though not necessarily a North Korean one since North Koreans use a unique dialect. However you read it, this sort of evidence is circumstantial at best. It's easy to fake, and it's even easier to interpret it wrong. In general, it's a situation that rapidly devolves into storytelling, where analysts pick bits and pieces of the "evidence" to suit the narrative they already have worked out in their heads.
In reality, there are several possibilities to consider:
  • This is the work of independent North Korean nationals. Many politically motivated hacking incidents in the past have not been government-controlled. There's nothing special or sophisticated about this hack that would indicate a government operation. In fact, reusing old attack code is a sign of a more conventional hacker being behind this.
  • This is the work of hackers who had no idea that there was a North Korean connection to Sony until they read about it in the media. Sony, after all, is a company that hackers have loved to hate for a decade. The most compelling evidence for this scenario is that the explicit North Korean connection—threats about the movie The Interview—were only made by the hackers after the media picked up on the possible links between the film release and the cyberattack. There is still the very real possibility that the hackers are in it just for the lulz, and that this international geopolitical angle simply makes the whole thing funnier.
  • It could have been an insider—Sony's Snowden—who orchestrated the breach. I doubt this theory, because an insider wouldn't need all the hacker tools that were used. I've also seen speculation that the culprit was a disgruntled ex-employee. It's possible, but that employee or ex-employee would have also had to possess the requisite hacking skills, which seems unlikely.
  • The initial attack was not a North Korean government operation, but was co-opted by the government. There's no reason to believe that the hackers who initially stole the information from Sony are the same ones who threatened the company over the movie. Maybe there are several attackers working independently. Maybe the independent North Korean hackers turned their work over to the government when the job got too big to handle. Maybe the North Koreans hacked the hackers.
I'm sure there are other possibilities that I haven't thought of, and it wouldn't surprise me if what's really going on isn't even on my list. North Korea's offer to help with the investigation doesn't clear matters up at all.

Tellingly, the FBI's press release says that the bureau's conclusion is only based "in part" on these clues. This leaves open the possibility that the government has classified evidence that North Korea is behind the attack. The NSA has been trying to eavesdrop on North Korea's government communications since the Korean War, and it's reasonable to assume that its analysts are in pretty deep. The agency might have intelligence on the planning process for the hack. It might, say, have phone calls discussing the project, weekly PowerPoint status reports, or even Kim Jong Un's sign-off on the plan.

On the other hand, maybe not. I could have written the same thing about Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction program in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of that country, and we all know how wrong the government was about that.

Allan Friedman, a research scientist at George Washington University's Cyber Security Policy Research Institute, told me that from a diplomatic perspective, it's a smart strategy for the U.S. to be overconfident in assigning blame for the cyberattacks. Beyond the politics of this particular attack, the long-term U.S. interest is to discourage other nations from engaging in similar behavior. If the North Korean government continues denying its involvement no matter what the truth is, and the real attackers have gone underground, then the U.S. decision to claim omnipotent powers of attribution serves as a warning to others that they will get caught if they try something like this.

Sony also has a vested interest in the hack being the work of North Korea. The company is going to be on the receiving end of a dozen or more lawsuits—from employees, ex-employees, investors, partners, and so on. Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain opined that having this attack characterized as an act of terrorism or war, or the work of a foreign power, might earn the company some degree of immunity from these lawsuits.

I worry that this case echoes the "we have evidence—trust us" story that the Bush administration told in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. Identifying the origin of a cyberattack is very difficult, and when it is possible the process of attributing responsibility can take months. While I am confident that there will be no U.S. military retribution because of this, I think the best response is to calm down and be skeptical of tidy explanations until more is known.
 
 
 
********************
 

Sony streams 'The Interview' online and makes Hollywood history

December 24, 2014: 4:19 PM ET
 
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

A bit of Hollywood history unfolded on Wednesday. And it might be a glimpse into the future.

The controversial Sony Pictures comedy "The Interview" was released on YouTube, Google Play, the Microsoft Xbox video game console, and a special Web site.
 
The movie, which started streaming online around 1 p.m. ET, costs $5.99 to rent and $14.99 to buy.
So it is having historic simultaneous release in both living rooms and, come Christmas Day, about 300 independently-owned theaters across the United States.

Sony announced the digital release just an hour ahead of time, after CNNMoney and other news organizations began to report on the studio's plans to distribute "The Interview" through YouTube's movie rental store. Word spread via social media, and some curious fans started watching -- and live-tweeting -- the movie right at 1 p.m.

Sony's extraordinary announcement encapsulated days of sometimes desperate negotiations between the studio and a number of potential Internet distribution partners.

Related: You won't get hacked streaming 'The Interview' online
 
There was a plan at one point to allow rentals through Apple's iTunes store, but it fell apart, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter. An iTunes release could re-materialize sometime after Christmas.

Sony (SNE) could also cut a deal with a subscription streaming site like Netflix (NFLX, Tech30), enabling wider access to the movie sometime after Christmas.

But at the moment, it's up on YouTube and generating an enormous amount of free publicity for the embattled movie studio, which fell victim to a cyberattack late last month.

A Sony representative said the company would not be releasing any immediate data about the number of rentals or sales.


A groundbreaking moment for the American movie industry
 
The online release is groundbreaking -- but also awfully contentious. Owners of major theater chains have steadfastly opposed proposals for simultaneous physical and digital releases, a concept known in the industry as a same-day-and-date release.

It's been tried, with varying success, for some documentaries and niche dramas, but never for a big, broad comedy like "The Interview," which was originally meant to premiere on 2,000 to 3,000 screens.

But extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary movie release strategies. This time last week, after hackers -- apparently objecting to the content of "The Interview" -- threatened American moviegoers, Sony canceled the movie's release.

Related: What we know now about the Sony Hack
 
Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton told CNN's Fareed Zakaria that he had no choice because "the movie theaters came to us, one by one, over the course of a very short period of time ... and announced that they would not carry the movie."

Some of the theater chains dispute that. But one thing is clear: that same day, December 17, Sony contacted Google (GOOGL, Tech30), Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) and other potential online distributors.

"We never stopped pursuing as wide a release as possible for 'The Interview,'" Lynton said in a statement on Wednesday. "It was essential for our studio to release this movie, especially given the assault upon our business and our employees by those who wanted to stop free speech."

He added, "We chose the path of digital distribution first so as to reach as many people as possible on opening day, and we continue to seek other partners and platforms to further expand the release."
One of the platforms is a dedicated site, SeeTheInterview.com, done in partnership with Kernel and secure payments system Stripe. But that site appeared to be overwhelmed by traffic shortly after 1 p.m. ET. Kernel acknowledged "tremendous demand" but said the streams were "free flowing" by 2 p.m.

Google's streams appeared to be more stable.

Google senior vice president David Drummond wrote in a blog post that "security implications were very much at the front of our minds" when Sony contacted the company last week.

"After discussing all the issues, Sony and Google agreed that we could not sit on the sidelines and allow a handful of people to determine the limits of free speech in another country (however silly the content might be)," he wrote.


Next stop for 'The Interview:' indie theaters
 
As for the physical release on Thursday, the studio's list of participating theaters includes about 300 that will start showing it on Christmas and dozens of others that will start showing it on January 1 or January 2. Some of the Christmas Day screenings are already sold out.

"With what looks like a seriously limited release, limited supply is yielding substantial demand," the fan web site Moviepilot said.

For Sony's partners, the digital release of the movie is an opportunity to show off technological and commercial prowess.

YouTube, for instance, has a two-year-old movie rental system that many of its users don't know about; "The Interview" is chance to gain attention for it.

The movie, oddly enough, became a political and geopolitical symbol. It is about an assassination plot against the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. And it is widely believed that Sony Pictures suffered a cyberattack last month partly due to North Korea's fury over the movie.

Backlash to Sony's original cancellation decision was fierce, including from President Obama, who said the movie studio had made a mistake.

Since then, Sony executives have stayed in close touch with White House officials, appraising them of the studio's efforts to seek distribution. And on Wednesday, administration officials signaled that they were pleased with the theatrical and digital plans.

Shortly after 1 p.m., the White House responded to reporters' inquiries with a statement: "The President welcomes the news that people will be able to decide for themselves whether or not to see this film, and appreciates Sony's work on this effort over the past few weeks."

The statement added, "With today's announcements, people can now make their own choices about the film, and that's how it should be."

Related: Dennis Rodman on 'The Interview': Watch my movie
 
Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus concurred. In a followup to his Saturday message calling on theater owners to support the movie, he said the renewed Christmas release "was the right decision."

Priebus added, "Anything else would set a horrible precedent and allow our freedom to be ceded to the whims of a totalitarian regime."

--CNN's Pamela Brown and Michelle Kosinski contributed reporting


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

"The Interview, Painfully Bad"
David Edmund Moody
The Huffington Post
12/25/14


It's tempting to try to find something complimentary to say about The Interview. Surely any film that draws attention in any manner to the horrors of life in North Korea can't be all bad, right? Well, unfortunately, even such a film can indeed be all bad, and The Interview amply proves that point.
It's hard to know where to begin in cataloguing the painful parameters of this film, but perhaps its infantile fascination with all things anal would be one place to start. Rectal references occur on the order of once or twice every five minutes, sometimes supplemented with plot devices designed to focus attention on the anal orifice for sustained periods of time.

No movie of this caliber would be complete without copious gratuitous references to genitalia, and to various sex acts, replete with explicit visual depictions of barely-clothed erections, clearly intended for shock value only. Adolescent vulgarity of this variety is probably intended for a mentality on the order of freshmen in a backwater college fraternity, but any other viewer must either abdicate all standards of taste or else wonder why a movie of this kind is successful with a broader audience.
The question remains why a film that traffics in the ultimate in tastelessness and vulgarity tied its ugly tether to the dictatorship in North Korea. One would like to believe that such a connection was animated by some sensitivity to the realities of that regime, rather than callously exploiting those realities for narrow comedic purposes. The Interview, however, goes well out of its way to make sure that no loftier motives can be ascribed to it. North Korea, in this film, is nothing more than a foil for the purpose of introducing ever more lurid scatological and sexual material.

Having introduced the matter of North Korea, however, the film unfortunately does require some attention, if only to disabuse prospective viewers of any hope that it has any redeeming value. Notwithstanding the protections provided by the First Amendment, there is a valid question whether the assassination of any living head of state, no matter how heinous the individual or his regime, is suitable subject matter for a major studio motion picture. If one objects on moral grounds to any such depiction, it's hard to know where to direct one's concern. The Sony Corporation, not to mention the stars and originators of this film, are surely impervious to any objections raised from any quarter, even if Sony withheld release of the film for a few days in order to placate Kim Jung Un himself.
Finally, one can only wonder if there is any limit to the coarsening of culture and public discourse. Seth Rogen and his ilk exhibit a genius in this direction, and no doubt are at work even now to find some way of exceeding their accomplishments of this kind. If our commercial forms of entertainment lavishly reward such endeavors, The Interview represents a mirror in which we can, perhaps, see ourselves. But if, like the winter solstice on which it was released, this film represents the darkest night of our culture, we can at least take solace in the thought that only brighter days must lie ahead.


 *******************

 "Audiences 'Let Freedom Ring' at The Interview premiere in New York City.
Stephanie Marcus
Huffington Post
12/25/14

"The Interview" probably should have been called "The Honey Pot."

It's a term and idea frequently referenced in the Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg co-directed film, in which Rogen's character explains, "It's an attractive spy woman who lures men into doing shit they're not supposed to do."

At the 10 a.m. Christmas Day screening of "The Interview" at Cinema Village -- the only theater currently showing the film in Manhattan -- it was hard not to feel like audiences had been honey-potted in some respect. In this case, they were lured into showing up with notions of protecting free speech and and the sexiness of sticking it to the hackers who, last week, dared to evoke the memory of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in their threats.

The idea that seeing "The Interview" in theaters was important or even patriotic was only amplified by the scene in and around Cinema Village. Many media members (myself included) pounced on moviegoers as they purchased tickets. Inside, theater manager Lee Peterson introduced the comedy by quoting "My Country, 'Tis of Thee."

"Let freedom ring," Peterson said to the crowd of around 100 people. "No one can tell us what we can or can't see. So enjoy the film."

It's a seductive narrative, mostly because people don't like being told they can't see something --especially by hackers that may or may not be working for a brutal dictatorship in North Korea. It's likely one of the reasons that all of Cinema Village's afternoon screenings are sold out -- even after Sony made the film available to stream online for half the price of a theater ticket.

It's all this buzz surrounding the movie, and Sony's flip flop on releasing the film, that was what brought Jacqueline and Anthony Goodling to the movie theater.

"I wanted to come down here and see all the hype around something," said Anthony Goodling. "But, in reality, it's a movie, and for everyone to blow it out of proportion like they did, I just think it's going to be really good and really funny."

Jacqueline, his wife, added that they didn't have any plans to see "The Interview" before Sony pulled it from theaters last week, but decided to after it became an issue of free speech.

Other theatergoers, such as Karen Shea and her husband, planned to see the film all along, but admitted they came out today due to "curiosity" and due to the "novelty" of Sony briefly pulling it from theaters.

The movie itself is everything you'd expect from a movie starring Seth Rogen and James Franco --dick jokes, fart jokes, celebrity cameos and even the delightful integration of language from the Internet's favorite Deranged Sorority Girl Email. It's not exactly ground-breaking stuff, but audiences are at least now able to make the choice to see those dick and fart jokes for themselves.

"We live in an area where we have freedom of speech, and can see anything as far as movies and media," Jacqueline Goodling said. "And this was shut down for a period of time, just because of the hacking and because of the fear that we had. That's not what we're about."

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Chago' i Korason-mu giya Guahu

It is the one year anniversary of the passing of my grandmother, Elizabeth De Leon Flores Lujan. Family and friends held a gathering recently to remember her and celebrate her. As part of the gathering we sang some Christmas songs, both in English and Chamorro. It was a bit strange though because even though I spent several Christmases and in fact most Christmases in my grandparents' house in Mangilao, we never sang Christmas songs. We didn't do much decorations either. I've wondered if this is because grandma was already older and not as interested in those things, or because of her strong religious beliefs. Something that we would do for Christmas and at regular points through the year is sit around the dinner table and read bible lessons and bible verses. This is how I think grandma would probably want us to remember her and honor her, but reading the bible together. This past week I wrote about the new movie "Saving Christmas" and reflecting on the origins of Christmas and the deeper meanings associated or lost with it today. I went through the copy of the Chamorro Bible that I received from grandma in order to find some verses that would support my points. It was something that made me a little happy, but also very sad. I've included some of the ones that I came across below.

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

Matthew 19:20 - 24

I patgon na taotao ilek-ña nu Guiya: Todu este siha hu adahi: Hafa trabiha fattå-ku?

Ilek-ña Si Jesus nu Guiya: Yanggen malago’ hao na un kabåles, hånao ya un bende todu i guinahå-mu, ya un nå’i i mamopble, ya u guaha guinahå-mu gi langhet: ya maila dalalak yu’.

Lao anai hu hungok i patgon na taotao este na sinangan, nina’triste ya ma’pos, sa’ guaha meggai iyo-ña na guinaha.

Ayu nai Si Jesus ilek-ña nu i disipulu-ña: Magåhet hu sangåni hamyo, na i manriku mappot humålom gi rainon langhet.

Ya hu sangåni hamyo ta’lo, na mas guse un kameyu maloffan gi matan haguha ki un riku u hålom gi rainan langhet.

Mark 7:8-9

Sa’ en pe’lo hamyo i tinago’ Yu’us, ya mantietiene fitme i tradision taotao siha (ni’ i mafa’gåsi i hara siha, yan i kopa siha, yan en få’tinas meggai na guinaha parehu yan este).  

Ya ilek-ña nu siha, magåhet hamyo yumute’ i tinago Yu’us para en adahi i tradision-miyu.

Matthew 15:8-9

Este na taotao siha, nu i labios-ñiha ha onra yu’, lao i korason-ñiha chågo’ giya Guahu.

Lao taisetbe i en adora yu’, manmama’na’na’gue i finana’guen-ñiha ni’ i sinangan taotao.

John 8:42

Ilek-ña Si Jesus nu siha: Yanggen Si Yu’us tatan-miyu, magåhet na en gefli’e’ yu’: sa’ Guahu humuyong yan måtto yu’ ginen as Yu’us. Ti humuyong yu’ ginen Guahu ha’, lao Guiya tumago’ yu’.

John 3:16

Sa’ taiguenao na ha guaiya Si Yu’us i tano’, ha nå’i ni’ linihis ha’ Lahi-ña i para todu ayu i humongge gui’, ti siña malingu, ya guaha lina’la’-ña taihinekok.

Sa’ ti ha tågo’ i Si Yu’us i lahi-ña guatu gi tano’ para u såpet i i tano’, lao para i tano’ u na’libre put Guiya.

I ti humongge gui’, ti u masåpet, ayu i ti humongge gui’ ayu u masåpet. Sa’ ti manhongge gi na’an i una ha’ na Lahin Yu’us.

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