Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Support the Monique Baza Story

I just made a donation in support of the film "The Monique Baza Story." It is an exciting upcoming film that tackles a serious issue on Guam, violence against women, in particular sexual violence, which according to the film's producers happens on Guam at a rate significantly higher per capita than a teeming metropolis like New York City. The film tells the story of Monique Baza who was kidnapped and raped in 2012 and after seeing the disastrous state of Guam's legal system and support system of victims, decided to speak out. Last year Chamorro Studies and Women and Gender Studies at UOG invited her along with several others to come and speak at a forum on sexual violence. Not all victims are able to respond the way she has, some find it too difficult and daunting to deal with the burden and society's inability sometimes to negotiate their emotion wounding or the social wound that their attack has revealed that few want to admit to or deal with.

Here is a message from Tricia Alawit, who plays Monique Baza herself in the film and is also a co-writer and executive producer on the project. She is leading a fundraising drive for the film and you can see the link below to make a donation yourself:
Alright folks! Wish me luck! Here goes:
A year ago, I met with one amazing woman: A proud veteran, a Guam DOE teacher, a wife, a mother...A SURVIVOR. I was initially astonished by her stories in the media: Kidnapping, Rape, Escaped, Wow! On Guam! No Way! I knew I had to meet her. I was lucky to know someone who could introduce us. SO! There we were, two women sharing a cup of coffee; and there "I" was, just listening to her story and taking in everything. I remember feeling frustrated and angry with our system. I felt let down. After all, this could have been me! It could very well be your daughter, sister, mother and wife! It was at that very moment I knew her story had to be told. I knew her story will be the story that will help change the way we, as a community, will handle the violence against women on Guam. Monique has one amazing story of fear, struggle and happiness. Since then, we have put together an amazing team working diligently to produce this film.
Please invest in our film and take a stand with us and say "Enough is enough! Violence against women on our island STOPS now!" Any investment - small or large - will be extremely appreciated. Every penny counts 

Below is more information on the film, as well as the trailer. 


The Monique Baza Story"

Project Objectives
Our goal in producing this docudrama

Share the inspiring story of Monique Baza and her fight to end violence against women on Guam.

Create awareness. Guam is currently going through a crisis.  The rate of “reported” sexual assaults against women is second highest in the nation, only second to that of Alaska.  We have yet to touch on the “unreported” sexual assaults.  Per capita, Guam ranks the highest in the nation!  These figures are startling.

Provoke Change.  We are confident this film will ignite a chord with our audience provoking positive action with the local community; creating a community that will become more cognizant of these acts against women. It is our hope that victims will take-in Monique’s story and find their own strength in coming forward and reporting their attackers.


The Real Monique Baza

"The importance of the film is to have people start speaking up for themselves, [because] that is what needs to happen. You can not be silent anymore. If you want things to change, then you got to do something to change it. You can not rely on somebody else to do it for you."
In the fall of 2012, Monique Baza was abducted from the parking lot of a popular local bakery near her home. She was beaten, tied down and sexual assaulted multiple times. Through pure strength, wit and courage she broke free and brought herself to safety.
This would unfortunately only be the “beginning” of her story. Like many other victims of sexual assault, she blamed herself and felt internally humiliated. Monique would later find herself fighting a flawed justice system that would eventually lead to her turning point. To add fuel to her fire, she would have to face the public criticism and scrutiny that goes along with publicly advocating on behalf of all sexual assault victims on Guam.

This is a story of a wife, a mother, a proud veteran, a high school teacher, who used her story to fuel a community to stand up against violence against women. 

Chamorro Public Service Post #28: Blast from Guam's Military Buildup Past

I have been writing about a "military buildup" to Guam for more than 10 years now. In 2004, there were hints of a buildup to Guam and in 2005 the first formal parts of a buildup to Guam were announced. There were constant discussions for years as numbers shifted and plans were released and later changed or scrapped. There was a period of intense debate for about two years when formal plans were released and public comment began. Despite quite a bit of resistance to the Department of Defense's plans, they went through with their Record of Decision. The rhetoric of the DOD was that these plans were set and things needed to be pushed forward at record pace. Things slowed down considerable however, due to funding restrictions, economic downturns, a change in administration and military priorities shifting elsewhere. But the funny thing about the "buildup" is that while we can focus it around certain particular projects or acts, the military importance of not just Guam, but the Marianas in general means that the buildup can be happening all around us, in ways we may not even recognize. 
When the SEIS and the possibility of Litekyan being used as a firing range location similar to the way Pagat was considered several years earlier, it received far less attention from the public and from activists. It was not that Litekyan was a much less important site, that people cared about it less or that it is less beautiful or less culturally significant. The fact that many activists are split on the issue of Litekyan, where some see it as an issue of land rights, others see it as an environmental issue and others see it as an issue of cultural preservation, did play a role. But in terms of the larger island community's response, many people I talked to expressed the idea that the buildup debate, protest, issue was done. In their minds it was either over or still going on. 

I found that Litekyan was being lost as a social-political issue primarily because it was being lost in that gap of comprehension, that way in which people formed an apathy over this massive issue affecting their island(s), by conceiving of it as being something already fought and won, or something always happening over which nothing can ever truly be done. The issue has rise to the surface again, primarily in the CNMI as both Pagan and Tinian are now being targeted for drastic and damaging forms of militarization. But on Guam, there still remains a great deal of silence and disengagement on the buildups happening here and to the north. 

I've pasted below an interview given by UOG Social Work Professor Lisa Natividad with Zmag five years ago. As the military buildup becomes a perennial thing, as common as coconut trees and the rain in the Marianas, it is interesting to see how even the resistance to it can inspire nostalgia and familiarity.

Resisting the Guam Military Build-Up

LisaLinda Natividad is a Chamorro rights advocate and one of the main organizers of the local opposition to the Guam build-up, the imminent transfer of 8,000 Marines and their families from bases in Okinawa to Guam, an under-resourced and environmentally exploited de facto colony of the U.S. military that already controls one-third of Guam’s land mass.

Natividad teaches at the University of Guam, where many of her colleagues in the social work department are also active in the struggle for Chamorro self-determination. "This whole build-up is an issue of justice," Natividad says, "social justice, which is one of our core values in the social work profession." Pushed into peace work by the signing of this accord, Natividad has since become known as a consistent questioner of the environmental and human cost of the proposed build-up. This past summer, Natividad spoke on the matter in Australia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit.

KERSHNER: Explain Chamorro-U.S. relations?

NATIVIDAD: Our political status is what’s called an "unincorporated territory" of the United States, which essentially means we have no status, we are a U.S. colony. That means that we don’t have many of the basic rights as a people for self-government. One of the most tangible things that people can relate to is that we don’t have the right to vote for a president. We have a Congressional representative but her vote is very limited. At the accords being signed between the U.S. and Japan, our government wasn’t even consulted about this transfer of Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

Recently, U.S. Congressperson Hank Johnson made remarks about Guam capsizing. To what extent does this demonstrate U.S. lack of concern for the Chamorro people?

I think it’s a very flagrant example of the ignorance of the rest of the country about the issues. I often refer to Guahan, which is our traditional name, as America’s best-kept secret. Most people don’t realize that old-school colonization still exists. So we hear references to Guam on different TV sitcoms, those sorts of things. Typically, Guam is known for its snake population, not its human population. Often, national, particularly federal, entities refer to Guam as a sort of outpost of U.S. militarism. It’s almost like that’s what we’re known for, so the native population is overlooked—although overlooked is a very mild description of how we’re treated.

Why does Guam matter to the U.S.?

We’re prime real estate. Congressperson Ike Skelton [D-MO] was here at the university to deliver a lecture and he basically described how the Asia-Pacific region—because of the population boom that’s anticipated and claims that China’s rising to power—will be the focus of U.S. military activity in the next decade at least. So, when you consider that the U.S. landholdings in the Pacific being primarily Hawaii and Guam, clearly our political status as an unincorporated territory gives them what’s often referred to as "maximum flexibility," which means we’re a colony and they can do whatever they want.

When you talk about issues of Chamorro self-determination and exercising the right to get off the list of being a non-self governing territory of the world, that just doesn’t come into the conversation. It’s like, "let’s just pretend that’s not there," because they have other things in mind for us.

A few years ago, Guam ranked as the number one most successful area for Army National Guard recruiters. What are the effects of this militarism?

It’s very disheartening. In our high schools—Guam doesn’t have very many of them—three of them have JROTC programs. We top the charts in terms of joining the military and that’s largely indicative of two things. One, the sort of blind patriotism that a number of people have because of the whole touting of the U.S. "liberating" us from the Japanese occupation in World War II. So there’s this sentiment of allegiance to the U.S. But the other part of it is that you’ve got a very high poverty rate on Guam. Nearly 50 percent of the population is eligible for food stamps. In most communities the people that join the military are not going to be your affluent people. Here you join the military and then at least you’re gainfully employed—it’s almost as though you’re the elite here.

Also, we’re desensitized to militarism in our community. If you were to drive around Guam, you would be amazed at how much of our physical environment is impacted by the military footprint. In addition you see military memorials and "support our troops" ribbons everywhere.

Are there elements of the peace and anti-base movement that are opposing militarized education in Guam?

The Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice chaired the International Network of Women Against Militarism conference here in September. What we were able to do at that time was convene a Micronesian regional grouping of women to discuss counter-recruitment. We’re currently securing funding to be able to continue to convene this group of women.

This summer a practicum student was placed with the Coalition. Her job was to take national counter-recruitment materials from the American Friends Service Committee, as well as information we’ve received from military recruiters, and use that to develop materials for our people.

Given that so many people on Guam are dependent on military base jobs for their livelihoods, it must be difficult to organize a strong opposition movement.

Economics and colonization go hand in hand. If you were to ask me what direction we, as a people, need to take, clearly it’s to develop alternative economies. But how do we go about doing that when we have the limitations of U.S. federal territorial policies, for example? Also, when you’re in an impoverished place, it’s hard to develop a new economy when you don’t have the resources to do it. It’s not an answer that’s going to be realized within the next five to ten years. What we require at this point is a generational shift in identity, in nationhood, in terms of understanding the complexities of militarism and how we’re contributing to war across the world. There just isn’t that consciousness now.

I’ve started to introduce these concepts in my public lectures and when I start to talk about the contrast between Chamorro values and military values, I’m like the devil. It’s very hard for people to hear that. But I keep pushing that envelope because it’s so important. That’s how we learn to re-frame the way we so blindly embrace U.S. militarism. What I’ve begun to do is to look at the issue in terms of long-term gains, long-term goals. How do we shift our whole understanding? How do we help our people become aware of the fact that we are colonial subjects? It’s going to require lots of work. I think our biggest task in organizing at this point is in educating our community to develop a deeper consciousness.

Seth Kershner is a graduate student and freelance writer based in Massachusetts.

Tumestitigu gi Fino' Chamoru

The Chamorro language is heard less and less around Guam nowadays. I couldn’t speak Chamorro for most of my life and so the Chamorro I heard around me was generally like noise to my ears. My grandmother speaking Chamorro to her friends when I was young was nothing but old people chatter. Sometime it was fun to just watch, but for the most part, I'm sure none of that had anything to do with me. My grandfather speaking Chamorro to other men his age at the barber shop was an irritating soundtrack. There was Chamorro everywhere, but when I was younger I couldn’t understand it and so I didn’t really care.

But nowadays it is becoming scarcer. You can still hear it on the radio and sometimes in businesses that play KISH or Isla 630 on the weekends. You can still hear it in church sometimes. You can hear it when older people gather. The last politician who would regularly speak Chamorro in their speeches or on the floor of the Legislature passed away last year. There is even a month out of the year when you hear it more than usual. I'm working with my friends to try to create a day, called Ha'anen Fino' Chamoru, when we all try to speak more than normal. But overall, English dominates and the Chamorro voice continues to soften.

Whenever I am at some event where Chamorro is being used prominently, I try my best to record it, either with my phone or my camera. I was at a curriculum development workshop over the weekend and I found myself recording random snippets of conversation between those older than me. When I hear people across a restaurant speaking Chamorro sometimes, I'll secretly take out my camera and start recording them. This language has been an integral part of the Chamorro story for millennia. It is so frightening to think that it might be silent soon. Something dead or sleeping, found in books and on recordings, but no longer something that belongs to the world of the living and part of everyday human activity and creativity.

One place where Chamorro can sometimes be heard is during public hearings at the Guam Legislature. I belong to a group of people who regularly testify there and do so in Chamorro, even if the Senators and politicians present may not understand. Sometimes we are criticized for doing so, and accused of being racist or exclusionary because some people can’t understand Chamorro. It is times like this that I am thankful for a certain Guam Legislature of the 1970s who had the foresight to make Chamorro an official language of Guam. It was a gesture that is largely pointless and mainly symbolic, but it provides those of us who want to push for the revitalization of the Chamorro language more cover to protect and promote our efforts.

I’ve included below a video from part of the testimony of Howard Hemsing, a noted Chamorro rights activist on Guam. Si Howard Hemsing un senmatungo' na activist Chamorro giya Guahan, tumestitigu gui' gi me'nan i Liheslaturan Guahan put un maproponi na bill put para u diroga i hinatsan suetdo para i manmailihi na pulitikat siha giya Guahan.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Quest for Decolonization #13: OTR

The blog Overseas Territories Review is a great resource, this is something I've reiterated numerous times on this blog.

One reason why there is little to no momentum globally with regards to decolonization is the fact that most of the remaining colonies in the world are far flung, midget land masses in the middle of vast oceans. They are small and far away and that combined with the overall apathy that the world feels with regards to continuing forms of really existing colonialism, creates an easy recipe for taya'ya'ya. 

Knowledge and information can lead to networks of solidarity, ties of political and social imagination that can make the plight of the remaining colonies of the world feel more important, more relevant, more significant than the complaints of islanders who will never be self-sustainable.

If you do not already follow this blog, please begin to do so. Here is a sampling of the recent articles you will find posted there:


19 June 2015

Virgin Islands economic ties with Asia continue to grow

BVI continues to work with China 
to deepen business relationships

By Nadia James-Harris

The Qianhai-British Virgin Islands (BVI) Cooperative Development Forum in Shenzhen, China

SHENZHEN, China -- The government of the British Virgin Islands has indicated that it is ready to continue to working with China in the deepening of business relations between the two countries.

This was highlighted during the recently held Qianhai-British Virgin Islands (BVI) Cooperative Development Forum in Shenzhen, China, on May 26.

The forum was hosted by deputy directors-general of Qianhai Authority: Li Qiang, Peng Shuping, and Tian Min, who provided updates on Qianhai’s latest developments, achievements and future plans.

Over 200 financial practitioners and enterprise representatives participated in the forum, which was themed, “Development for cross-border finance under new economic circumstances.” Topics related to the BVI business opportunities, legislation, and Qianhai-BVI cooperation were widely discussed.
Director of BVI House Asia, Elise Donovan delivered the keynote speech titled, “The BVI – Your International Business Partner”, and introduced the British Virgin Islands financial services and advantages.

The director listed the advantages of using BVI company structures and the diverse usage of BVI companies in asset protection and wealth/fund management and showed the BVI is ready to work with China to deepen bilateral relations and open a new era of future success.

Donovan said, “Qianhai has made remarkable strides in its economic development in a relatively short time, and the BVI’s proven track record in financial services provides a platform for success for the BVI-Qianhai relationship.”

A panel discussion titled “How to promote the interaction and development of Qianhai and BVI cross-border financial business” was held and the panel explored the topics of cooperation between Qianhai and the BVI. 

BVI premier and minister of finance, Dr Orlando Smith, while reflecting on the outcome of the forum, stated, “The successful first official forum between Qianhai and the BVI creates a platform for mutual success going forward, and paves the way for further cooperation and development between the BVI and Qianhai.”

The British Virgin Islands is ranked as the leading offshore financial jurisdiction in the Global Financial Centres Index, and China continues to be the territory’s important partner in Asia.


25 June 2015

Truthout: Hawai‘i’s Legal Case Against the United States

Weblog of the acting government of the Hawaiian Kingdom presently operating within the occupied State of the Hawaiian Islands.

“You can’t spend what you ain’t got; you can’t lose what you ain’t never had.” – Muddy Waters

La Kuokoa
“How long do we have to stay in Bosnia, how long do we have to stay in South Korea, how long are we going to stay in Japan, how long are we going to stay in Germany? All of those: 50, 60 year period. No one complains.” – Sen. John McCain
Imagine if you grew up being told that you had been adopted, only to learn that you were, in fact, kidnapped. That might spur you to start searching for the adoption papers. Now imagine that you could find no papers and no one could produce any.
That’s how Dr. David Keanu Sai, a retired Army Captain with a PhD in political science and instructor at Kapiolani Community College in Hawaii, characterizes Hawaii’s international legal status. Since 1993, Sai has been researching the history of the Kingdom of Hawaii and its complicated relationship to the United States.
Over the last 17 years, Sai has lectured and testified publicly in Hawaii, New Zealand, Canada, across the US, at the United Nations and at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague on Hawaiian land issues on Hawaii’s international status and how Hawaii came to be regarded as a US territory and, eventually, the 50th state.
To explain why he and others insist that Hawaii is not now and never has been lawfully part of the United States, Sai presents an overview of Hawaii’s feudal land system and its history as an independent, sovereign kingdom prior to the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani on January 16, 1893.
Sai likens his lectures to a scene in the film The Matrix in which the character Morpheus tells Neo, “Remember, all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.”



23 June 2015

Okinawa parties submit proposal to block landfill off Henoko

The Japan Times
NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – Ruling parties in the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly have submitted a draft ordinance that is apparently aimed at preventing landfill work off the Henoko coastal district in the city of Nago in a bid to block the transfer of the U.S. Futenma base to the area.

The ordinance, to be put to a vote next month, will likely be approved with majority support, including from the Social Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party. It is expected to take effect Nov. 1.

The draft calls for restricting the transportation of sand used for reclamation into Okinawa from outside the prefecture.

The stated aim is to prevent alien species from getting into Okinawa of alien species via the sand, according to the parties.

The ordinance would require companies to submit sand transportation plans in advance and take measures to ensure that no invasive species is included. The governor of Okinawa would be authorized to order the cancellation of such plans if necessary.

“We need to pass Okinawa’s beautiful nature to future generations at a time when a plenty of sand for reclamation is planned to be carried into the prefecture,” Satoru Nakasone, an assembly member from the SDP, told Tuesday’s meeting of the assembly.

At a news conference in Tokyo on Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he will carefully watch the course of debate on the ordinance.

“I expect the Okinawa assembly will shed light on why the ordinance only targets sand used for reclamation,” he said.

U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, situated in a densely populated area in the city of Ginowan, is slated to be relocated to the Henoko area under agreements between the Japanese and U.S. governments. Many people and political leaders in Okinawa are opposed to keeping the base within the prefecture.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Scalia's Dissents

It is very exciting to read all the celebration over the Supreme Court of the US and their decision to legalize same-sex marriage. The US will now enter a period where same-sex marriage will hopefully disappear as a distinction and eventually there will just be "marriage."

It has been interesting however to follow the dissent that Antonin Scalia filed against the ruling, as well as his dissent against the Supreme Court's approval of Obamacare. In my social media feeds it seems like nearly everyone is ecstatic about these victories, but every once in a while someone, a friend on Facebook for instance will post something lamenting the downfall of the US because of these decisions. Usually it has Scalia's face on it with some snarky and ignorant quote such as the one above.


Antonin Scalia Dissent in Marriage Equality Case Is Even More Unhinged Than You'd Think
by Ryan Grim and Arthur Delaney
Huffington Post

WASHINGTON -- Justice Antonin Scalia has really had it.

Scalia's dissent in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, which officially made marriage equality the law of the land, runs for eight pages, but amounts largely to a big, arms-crossed "harumph."

"I join THE CHIEF JUSTICE’s opinion in full. I write separately to call attention to this Court’s threat to American democracy," he begins.

"The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me," he offers. "It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. Until the courts put a stop to it, public debate over same-sex marriage displayed American democracy at its best."

"But the Court ends this debate, in an opinion lacking even a thin veneer of law," he opines. "Buried beneath the mummeries and straining-to-be-memorable passages of the opinion is a candid and startling assertion: No matter what it was the People ratified, the Fourteenth Amendment protects those rights that the Judiciary, in its 'reasoned judgment,' thinks the Fourteenth Amendment ought to protect."

Scalia even offered what may be the first legal citation of a hippie.

"'The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality,'" he quoted from the majority opinion before adding, "Really? Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality [whatever that means] were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie."

HuffPost went to look for the first hippie we could find, per Scalia's instructions. Neil Cousins, a 61-year-old man from Alexandria protesting nuclear weapons outside the White House, said he had come to this very park in the 1970s for pot smoke-ins, but added that there really haven't been hippies around since the Grateful Dead stopped touring. He was nonetheless willing to offer a judgment on Scalia's assertion that marriage abridges rather than expands intimacy. "I've known it to have both reactions," he ruled. "Scalia is a big knucklehead."

In Scalia's dissent, he also bemoaned the tone of the majority opinion.

"The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic," he writes. "If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: 'The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,' I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie."

"And to allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation," he writes. "But what really astounds is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch."

Each of the four opponents of the ruling wrote their own dissent but Scalia, opposing for every reason anybody could come up with, joined the three he didn't write.

Here are the most delightfully cranky lines from his Obamacare -- or, in his christening, SCOTUSCare -- dissent from Thursday.


Here Are The Best (Worst) Lines From Antonin Scalia's Raging SCOTUScare Dissent
by Ryan Grim and Dana Libelson
Huffington Post

WASHINGTON -- Backers of the Affordable Care Act were treated to twin delights on Thursday: First, the law was upheld, so nobody will be kicked off their insurance by the Supreme Court. And second, the dissent was written by Justice Antonin Scalia who, when angry (which is always), has a penchant for literary drama.

"Words no longer have meaning," Scalia wrote in the dissent he read from the bench.

They might not, but that didn't stop Scalia from piling them on top of each other in an angry heap. Here are some of the choicest of his meaningless words. (The attempt by opponents of Obamacare to argue that the law didn't say what it very plainly did say was silly to begin with; that it was rejected means that words do, in fact, have meaning. But this isn't a place to argue with Scalia. Let's just let him rip.)

"Today's interpretation is not merely unnatural; it is unheard of," he wrote. That is, strictly speaking, true, since this was a new case.

"We should start calling this law SCOTUScare."

"This case requires us to decide whether someone who buys insurance on an Exchange established by the Secretary gets tax credits. You would think the answer would be obvious -- so obvious there would hardly be a need for the Supreme Court to hear a case about it," Scalia wrote, again accurately, though not in the way he meant.

"The Court's next bit of interpretive jiggery-pokery..."

"Pure applesauce," he insisted. "Imagine that a university sends around a bulletin reminding every professor to take the 'interests of graduate students' into account when setting office hours, but that some professors teach only undergraduates. Would anybody reason that the bulletin implicitly presupposes that every professor has 'graduate students,' so that 'graduate students' must really mean 'graduate or undergraduate students'? Surely not.'"

"Our only evidence of what Congress meant comes from the terms of the law, and those terms show beyond all question that tax credits are available only on state Exchanges," Scalia writes, forgetting that the people who actually wrote the law were not only available to provide evidence of their intent, but did so.

Pause for a moment to consider what would have to be true for Scalia's argument to work: The authors of the Affordable Care Act would all have to be lying about their true intent on subsidies. While they claimed in public that the law would give subsidies to everyone who qualified, secretly they were drafting the law to restrict it to just people in states that set up exchanges. And, more bizarrely, they would have engaged in a collective conspiracy to keep their true intent hidden from the public until it was discovered by conservative activists, who then used that it to challenge the law. If that really was their intent, why, then, would the authors of the law go to court to defend the precise opposite of their true, secret intent to restrict subsidies only to states that set up exchanges?
It sounds like applesauce, but Scalia appears to have fully internalized the idea. For a window into the way his mind works on this score, here's how he frames the behavior of Republican governors and legislators who declined to participate in Obamacare: "Worst of all for the repute of today’s decision, the Court’s reasoning is largely self-defeating. The Court predicts that making tax credits unavailable in States that do not set up their own Exchanges would cause disastrous economic consequences there. If that is so, however, wouldn’t one expect States to react by setting up their own Exchanges? And wouldn’t that outcome satisfy two of the Act’s goals rather than just one: enabling the Act’s reforms to work and promoting state involvement in the Act’s implementation? The Court protests that the very existence of a federal fallback shows that Congress expected that some States might fail to set up their own Exchanges. So it does. It does not show, however, that Congress expected the number of recalcitrant States to be particularly large. The more accurate the Court’s dire economic predictions, the smaller that number is likely to be."

"What a parody today's decision makes of Hamilton's assurances to the people of New York," he wrote.

"We lack the prerogative to repair laws that do not work out in practice, just as the people lack the ability to throw us out of office if they dislike the solutions we concoct."

Scalia, of course, is a much better writer than he is a consistent thinker. Words might not mean anything, but Chief Justice John Roberts dredged up some of Scalia's own from his last Obamacare dissent.

"Without the federal subsidies... the exchanges would not operate as Congress intended and might not operate at all," Scalia and the dissenters wrote at the time, back when they wanted the entire law to be crushed. Now that he's only going after the subsidies, it's clear as day to him that Congress didn't intend what he said they intended last time.


Scalia Said to Ask The Nearest Hippie About Marriage, So We Did
by Sam Stein, Arthur Delaney, Elise Foley
Huffington Post

WASHINGTON -- In his dissent in the Supreme Court's decision to legalize gay marriage throughout the country, Justice Antonin Scalia rested part of his case on the notion that marriage was inherently a self-limiting proposition. Rather than expanding intimacy, as the majority of justices concluded, marriage restricted it. And if you thought he was just being acerbic, well, Scalia added, "Ask the nearest hippie."

The Huffington Post decided to take him up on that offer. Shortly after the opinion was made public, we went to the White House in search of the nearest drum circle. We didn't find any.

But we did find some hippies -- old and young, current and former -- willing to discuss whether they felt restrained by the institution of marriage. By and large, they don't.

Paige Carambio of Salem, Massachusetts, said she was a hippie in her youth. As evidence, she noted that she attended a Grateful Dead concert at either the age of 11 or 12, "before Jerry died." Her mom was a hippie, and so was her brother, who followed Phish around for a while. And while she skipped the last year of her high school to attend college early (decidedly un-hippie), she ended up at Bard College at Simon's Rock (holy hippie!). Carambio, 33, is married and traveling with her husband to see her brother in Washington, D.C. She put Scalia on the proverbial couch.

"If his dissent is about him being bummed that monogamy is boring, then he is not doing something right," she said. "This says way more about himself. He and his wife might want to consider couples' counseling or spicing things up a little."

"Marriage hugely expands intimacy," she added. "I think that connecting with another human being and feeling safe alongside someone is truly intimate. The quickest, easiest way to expand intimacy is in a partnership."

Wendy Zhuleku, 34, had come to D.C. from Toronto in order to see the sights. As she walked toward the White House, she conceded that she was once a bit crunchier, more bohemian. She insisted she had discovered the secret to withstanding the natural aging process, at one point declaring that she was really 75. (Hippie credentials firmly established.) Scalia, she said, got it wrong.

"As a married former hippie, I have to say that it expands intimacy," she told The Huffington Post. Still, she conceded there was a point behind Scalia's writing: If you define intimacy squarely as a sexual act, then you do limit it if you enter into a monogamous marriage.

"I think I understand what he is getting at in his legal decision," she said. "But that's because I'm a lawyer."

Farrah Pruskauer, 19, disagreed. Marching toward the White House carrying a sign reading "No More Drug War" (hippie!), she made the fairly logical point that if you want multiple partners, you probably won't end up getting married in the first place. At least you don't have to. So in that way, marriage is a choice for those who believe intimacy is more than just a sexual act.

"I think it depends on the person you are," she said, when asked if Scalia's logic of self-limiting intimacy was right. "But these are decisions you should make before you marry. ... No matter what, when you decide to marry someone you decide you are going to be by that person's side. And that is very intimate."

Neil Cousins, 61, said he doesn't consider himself a hippie, but he did attend marijuana smoke-ins outside the White House in the 1970s. He was volunteering Friday morning at the White House Peace Vigil and lives in Alexandria.

"I've known it to have both reactions," Cousins said of whether marriage limits or expands freedom of intimacy. He said he hasn't been married, but Scalia's quote made him think of his parents and Archie Bunker. "Scalia is a big knucklehead."

Not every hippie we talked to thought Scalia was in the wrong.

One self-proclaimed former hippie said he thought he understood what the justice was trying to say, although he disagreed with Scalia's stance on same-sex marriage. Jim Leytus, 68, lives in the District and was standing outside the White House with his wife, 57-year-old interior designer Troy Leytus. They said he was a hippie but she wasn't -- she's too young -- but they agreed that if Scalia meant marriage in terms of number of partners, that wasn't necessarily wrong (less so if Scalia meant frequency of said intimacy, they said).

"If you're talking about intimacy that's sexual, yes, marriage is limiting," Jim Leytus said. "I mean, that's what it's supposed to be, in theory."


Is the GOP Relieved Over SCOTUS Obamacare Decision
 by Kevin Price
Huffington Post

The tension was palpable in the weeks leading to the latest decision on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. The latest decision was regarding the constitutionality of the exchanges that are designed to fund those who are regarded unable to afford paying the entire cost of coverage themselves. The majority of states (34 to be exact) did not create such exchanges. Opponents of Obamacare argue that the law makes it clear that without the exchanges, ACA was unconstitutional.

Again, Chief Justice John Roberts came to the rescue of the struggling healthcare law. His colleague, Antonin Scalia has described the decision as one that was very political, but not necessarily legal. In a scathing dissent, Scalia attacked the incredible calisthenics the 6-3 majority had to perform in order to "save" this law. Representing the minority opinion, Scalia wrote, "We should start calling this law SCOTUScare." As noted by Business Insider, "The case revolved around the interpretation of a phrase that stated that healthcare exchanges must be 'established by the State' in order to receive tax credits. Scalia said that he was baffled that the majority of the justices could interpret this to mean that the federal government could give tax credits in states where exchanges weren't established by the state." Conservative critics are seeing a bit of Orwellian logic in this decision. Sure, it is the "state" that is providing the exchanges, but not Texas, Indiana, or the many others in contention, but the ominous "STATE" known as the oppressive government.

Regardless where conservatives and other critics stand on the decision, it passed the Supreme Court's muster. Response by Republicans in general, and the presidential candidates in particular, have been predictable. We will hear many of them say, "If you elect me I can make this terrible thing to go away." However, this predictable backlash actually sets the stage for a GOP that might actually be relieved by the Supreme Court decision for at least a couple of reasons.

First of all, Republican gains in the U.S. House in 2010, 2012, and in 2014 (also picking up the U.S. Senate that year) are directly linked to their ability to make Obamacare a referendum issue. If they had won this court decision, the perception would be (whether true or not) that the Affordable Care Act was history. Sadly, after being out of the White House since the elections of 2008, the GOP is still a single issue party. What on earth would they do if that single issue were to disappear.
Second, if this had been overturned, the decision could have created a great deal of chaos as Republicans tried to respond to the turmoil that such a turn would take. Remember, the GOP is in charge of both Houses of Congress and although Republicans give a tough talk about the need to abolish Obama's healthcare program, there is nothing to replace it that has widespread consensus (although are many debate worthy bills). Imagine if GOP White House contenders had to defend the chaos that Obamacare's overturn would create? Imagine how difficult it would be for the GOP to hold both the House and Senate if the vacuum that would be created by Obamacare's overturning would be filled with chaos?

One could not help notice that the steps of the Supreme Court had far more proponents of the law than opponents. Part of the reason for this is that the GOP has not offered any serious and comprehensive reforms to replace ACA. The momentum will typically be on the side with a plan. Any plan.

With the lack of preparation that the GOP is so famous for, what should be a sad day for those who oppose Obamacare, there might be a collective sigh of relief. With a single issue party, without a plan to replace that policy in the wings, is it any wonder many doubt the GOP's ability to win back the White House in 2016?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Not Just a Flag

Hafa un bandera? Sina ta li'e' todu i tinaotao-ta rinepresesenta gi ayu na dikike' na kosa. Gi i banderan Amerikanu, sina ta li'e' i haga' Chamorro gi meggai na gera di i ma'pos na sitklo. Sina ta li'e' gi i inapa'ka i "racism" gi taimanu manmatrata hit desde ma chule' i tano'-ta gi 1898. Gi i banderan Guahan, sina ta li'e' i kuttura-ta, i guinaha-ta. Gaige guihi lokkue' patten ginnen i estoria-ta.

Gof uniku i bandera-ta gi entre todu i nasion sa' ta pega i na'an i tano'-ta guihi guatu. Gof annok gi mata-na i palabra "Guahan." Sigun este sina ta alok na dichicheng hit na klasen taotao. Gof dikike' ya sen ti annok hit gi i mundo ya humuyongna ta sen fatta i na'an-ta gi i bandera-ta. 

Lao para kada sinangan na gaibali este na bandera, guaha otro sumasangan na taibali este, kulot, linakse, hilachas ha'.

I asunto put i banderan Confederate giya South Carolina muna'hasso yu' put hafa kumekeilekna i bandera-ta guini. Estague ocho fakto siha ni' buente ti un tutungo' put ayu na sen matungo' yan baba na bandera.


8 things you didn't know about the Confederate flag
by Daniel Costa-Roberts
June 21, 2015

Following the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday in which a gunman shot and killed nine people attending bible study at a historic black church, the Confederate battle flag — also called the rebel flag, the southern cross and the Dixie flag  — has been the subject of contentious debate.

On Saturday, former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney took to Twitter to call for the flag’s removal from the grounds of the state capitol in Columbia, South Carolina, and over 400,000 people have signed a MoveOn.org petition demanding that the government of South Carolina remove the flag from “all government places.”

Here are eight things you may not have known about this contentious Confederate emblem.

1. The Confederate battle flag was never the official flag of the Confederacy.

The Confederate States of America went through three different flags during the Civil War, but the battle flag wasn’t one of them. Instead, the flag that most people associate with the Confederacy was the battle flag of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Designed by the Confederate politician William Porcher Miles, the flag was rejected for use as the Confederacy’s official emblem, although it was incorporated into the two later flags as a canton. It only came to be the flag most prominently associated with the Confederacy after the South lost the war.

2. The flag is divisive, but most Americans may not care.

Roughly one in ten Americans feels positively when they see the Confederate flag displayed, according to a 2011 Pew Research Center poll. The same study showed that 30 percent of Americans reported a negative reaction to seeing the flag on display.

But the majority, 58 percent, reported feeling neither positive nor negative. The poll also showed that African-Americans, Democrats and the highly educated were more likely to perceive the flag negatively.

3. The flag began to take on a new significance in the 20th century.

In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, the battle flag was used mostly at veterans’ events and to commemorate fallen Confederate soldiers. The flag took on new associations in the 1940s, when it began to appear more frequently in contexts unrelated to the Civil War, such as University of Mississippi football games.

In 1948, the newly-formed segregationist Dixiecrat party adopted the flag as a symbol of resistance to the federal government. In the years that followed, the battle flag became an important part of segregationist symbolism, and was featured prominently on the 1956 redesign of Georgia’s state flag, a legislative decision that was likely at least partly a response to the Supreme Court’s decision to desegregate school two years earlier. The flag has also been used by the Ku Klux Klan, though it is not the Klan’s official flag.

4. The Supreme Court recently ruled that Texas could refuse to issue Confederate flag specialty license plates.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled against the nonprofit Sons of Confederate Veterans in Texas. The group had applied to create a specialty license plate that featured the battle flag and argued that Texas’s licensing board violated their First Amendment rights by denying the application. Although the ruling came the day after the massacre in Charleston, the court heard arguments in the case in March.

5. The NAACP has long led a boycott against South Carolina because of the battle flag on display at the capitol.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has led an economic boycott of South Carolina for years. In 2000, activists managed to have the flag moved from the dome of the capitol building to a memorial to Confederate soldiers nearby on the Statehouse grounds, but the boycott remains in effect.

Two days after the Charleston shooting, NAACP President Cornell Brooks reiterated the demand that South Carolina remove the flag.

“One of the ways we can bring that flag down is by writing to companies, engaging companies that are thinking about doing business in South Carolina, speaking to the governor, speaking to the legislature and saying the flag has to come down,” Brooks said, according to the Charleston City Paper.

The NCAA also has a partial ban on sporting events in South Carolina because of the state’s decision to display the flag.

6. The battle flag on South Carolina’s statehouse grounds can’t be lowered.

Although the American flag and South Carolina state flag were lowered in mourning for the victims of the church shooting, the Confederate flag on display at the statehouse was not, because it is affixed to the flag pole and cannot be lowered, it can only be removed, The Washington Post reported.

7. Five Southern states have legal protection for the flag, but California bans it.

Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and Louisiana all have laws on the books that ban desecration of the Confederate flag. The laws are unenforceable, though, because the Supreme Court has ruled that desecrating a flag is protected by the First Amendment.

California passed a bill in 2014 that banned the state government from displaying or selling merchandise bearing the Confederate flag.

 8. Mississippi is the only state whose flag still features the battle flag.

Mississippi is the only state whose flag still contains the confederate flag since Georgia changed its flag in 2003. In a statewide referendum in 2001, Mississippians voted 2-to-1 in favor of keeping the flag, which features the Confederate emblem as a canton in the top left corner.

Monday, June 22, 2015

White Terrorism, Black Terror

There is so much that we can say about "terrorism."

For most people this is something you connect to the most terrible acts humans can commit. You hurt people, soldiers, civilians, anything. You treat them like objects, and use them like weapons, wood to create flames from your political fire. Although we my be accustomed to conceiving that some cultures are more predisposed to commit acts of terrorism that others, in truth we find the potential for this type of human damage within all peoples.

But there is generally a difference in how we assign value and meaning to these acts. Although people may articulate that there is a clear and simple truth to naming something terrorism, this is not the case. People will hedge and fudge constantly when confronted with this type of violence, depending on their relationship to who has committed it and how they see that person in terms of the ideological coordinates that form their identity. Terrorism in its most virulent form, in the minds of most people, is something outsiders, foreigners commit. It is something from the outside that comes inside to threat things that people feel are vulnerable, safe and special. The problem with understanding terrorism is that when it happens locally, within a community, the ability for people to name it or recognize it depends on the racial elements involved. With the shooting in Charleston, we see a clear example where most of the media in the US is resistant to using the language that is used for violent offenders who are not white. We see extra effort going into salvaging this white face, or somehow making it as if something else is responsible for this and his being white is not to blame. In most other cases however, whether it is black kids with guns or Muslims with bombs, their race or their culture becomes key in how people define them as being dealers of terror and violence.

The first article in the three that I've pasted below is particularly interesting. It makes clear that for certain groups, terrorism has been a natural and normal part of their life in the United States.


White Terrorism is as Old as America
June 19, 2015 
The New York Times Magazine

My grandmother used to speak of Klansmen riding through Louisiana at night, how she could see their white robes shimmering in the dark, how black people hid in bayous to escape them. Before her time, during Reconstruction, Ku Klux Klan members believed they could scare superstitious black people out of their newly won freedom. They wore terrifying costumes but were not exactly hiding — many former slaves recognized bosses and neighbors under their white sheets. They were haunting in masks, a seen yet unseen terror. In addition to killing and beating black people, they often claimed to be the ghosts of dead Confederate soldiers.

You could argue, of course, that there are no ghosts of the Confederacy, because the Confederacy is not yet dead. The stars and bars live on, proudly emblazoned on T-shirts and license plates; the pre-eminent symbol of slavery, the flag itself, still flies above South Carolina’s Capitol. The killing has not stopped either, as shown by the deaths of nine black people in a church in Charleston this week. The suspected gunman, who is white and was charged with nine counts of murder on Friday, is said to have told their Bible-study group: “You rape our women, and you are taking over our country. And you have to go.”

Media outlets have been reluctant to classify the Charleston shooting as terrorism, despite how eerily it echoes our country’s history of terrorism. American-bred terrorism originated in order to restrict the movement and freedom of newly liberated black Americans who, for the first time, began to gain an element of political power. The Ku Klux Klan Act, which would in part, lawmakers hoped, suppress the Klan through the use of military force, was one of America’s first pieces of antiterrorism legislation. When it became federal law in 1871, nine South Carolina counties were placed under martial law, and scores of people were arrested. The Charleston gunman’s fears — of black men raping white women, of black people taking over the country — are the same fears that were felt by Klansmen, who used violence and intimidation to control communities of freed blacks.

Even with these parallels, we still hear endless speculation about the Charleston shooter’s motives. Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina wrote in a Facebook post that “while we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another.” Despite reports of the killer declaring his racial hatred before shooting members of the prayer group, his motives are inscrutable. Even after photos surfaced of the suspected shooter wearing a jacket decorated with the flags of Rhodesia and apartheid-era South Africa and leaning against a car with Confederate-flag plates, tangible proof of his alignment with violent, segregationist ideology, his actions remained supposedly indecipherable. A Seattle Times tweet (now deleted) asked if the gunman was “concentrated evil or a sweet kid,” The Wall Street Journal termed him a “loner” and Charleston’s mayor called him a “scoundrel,” yet the seemingly obvious designations — murderer, thug, terrorist, killer, racist — are nowhere to be found.

This is the privilege of whiteness: While a terrorist may be white, his violence is never based in his whiteness. A white terrorist has unique, complicated motives that we will never comprehend. He can be a disturbed loner or a monster. He is either mentally ill or pure evil. The white terrorist exists solely as a dyad of extremes: Either he is humanized to the point of sympathy or he is so monstrous that he almost becomes mythological. Either way, he is never indicative of anything larger about whiteness, nor is he ever a garden-variety racist. He represents nothing but himself. A white terrorist is anything that frames him as an anomaly and separates him from the long, storied history of white terrorism.

I’m always struck by this hesitance not only to name white terrorism but to name whiteness itself during acts of racial violence. In a recent New York Times article on the history of lynching, the victims are repeatedly described as black. Not once, however, are the violent actors described as they are: white. Instead, the white lynch mobs are simply described as “a group of men” or “a mob.” In an article about racial violence, this erasure of whiteness is absurd. The race of the victims is relevant, but somehow the race of the killers is incidental. If we’re willing to admit that race is a reason blacks were lynched, why are we unwilling to admit that race is a reason whites lynched them? In his remarks following the Charleston shooting, President Obama mentioned whiteness only once — in a quotation from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. intended to encourage interracial harmony. Obama vaguely acknowledged that “this is not the first time that black churches have been attacked” but declined to state who has attacked these churches. His passive language echoes this strange vagueness, a reluctance to even name white terrorism, as if black churches have been attacked by some disembodied force, not real people motivated by a racist ideology whose roots stretch past the founding of this country.

I understand the comfort of this silence. If white violence is unspoken and unacknowledged, if white terrorists are either saints or demons, we don’t have to grapple with the much more complicated reality of racial violence. In our time, racialized terror no longer announces itself in white hoods and robes. You can be a 21-year-old who has many black Facebook friends and tells harmless racist jokes and still commit an act of horrifying racial violence. We cannot separate ourselves from the monsters because the monsters don’t exist. The monsters have been human all along.

In America’s contemporary imagination, terrorism is foreign and brown. Those terrorists do not have complex motivations. We do not urge one another to reserve judgment until we search through their Facebook histories or interview their friends. We do not trot out psychologists to analyze their mental states. We know immediately why they kill. But a white terrorist is an enigma. A white terrorist has no history, no context, no origin. He is forever unknowable. His very existence is unspeakable. We see him, but we pretend we cannot. He is a ghost floating in the night.


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