Thursday, July 30, 2015

Para Amot Ha'

"Para Amot Ha'"
by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Marianas Variety
July 22, 2015

Last year the people of Guam vote to approve the use of medical marijuana. Since then the Department of Public Health has been preparing a draft of rules for setting up the infrastructure for the growing, distribution and use of medical marijuana in Guam.  Three public hearings on the draft regulations are taking place before the end of this month. They are on the following days and locations:

July 29, 9 – 11 am at the Legislature’s Public Hearing Room
July 30, 9 – 11 am at the Legislature’s Public Hearing Room
July 31, 3 – 6 pm at the Castle Mall, Mangilao, Division of Senior Citizens Conference Room.

If you are able, please come out and learn more about the regulations that are being proposed and speak your mind about what form they should take. I am part of the advisory board that is overseeing this process, and the input of the public is essential to make certain that the system set up for medical marijuana on Guam serves the community in the best possible ways.

I first became involved with this issue last year. I was approached by the family of the late Joaquin Concepcion, known to many as the singer “Savage K.” They were spearheading the effort to get the public to approve the Joaquin ‘KC’ Concepcion II Compassionate Canabis Use Act, which would legalize medical marijuana locally. Savage K’s aunt is Teresita Flores who teaches in Chamorro Studies at the University of Guam. I was happy to help, especially after talking to her and other manåmko’ about their thoughts on the issue. I remember when I was conducting interviews with elders as part of research projects 10 and 15 years ago. The manåmko’ I spoke to were very much against the use of marijuana, even para åmot ha’, just for medicine. But things have changed. Today, people are living for years with terrible pains, and now more than ever the community seems to appreciate the pain relief that medical marijuana can provide people with few other options.

We held a screening at the University of Guam for the film “The Culture High” which illuminates the complicated history of cannabis and how people have come to have distorted perceptions about its use and effects. It was very eye-opening for those who attended, as many had impressions of marijuana as a drug that does little more than destroy lives, or that it is just something for “good times.”

In November, the people spoke and approved the medical marijuana bill. It was a historic moment and Guam received attention from around not just the United States but the world, as the first territory of the United States to pass this type of legislation.

It was an important occasion, as the people had made a good choice for the benefit of our most vulnerable family, friends and neighbors. Guam was once a place that prided itself on the use of natural remedies, i che’cho’ suruhanu or yo’åmte for our ailments. It was so inspiring to see the people of Guam recognize the value of cannabis para åmot ha’.

Changes in our diet and our lifestyle have led to serious and terrible new health problems. In the campaign for the passage of medical marijuana the Concepcion family asked people simple questions such as “Håyi hao?” and “Håyi hit?” Who are you and who are we? They called on people to question what they really know about cannabis and its use, and consider how much was myth and how much was truth. Part of the functioning of any community is the ability to see the way the social contract works best when we have the ability to see beyond just ourselves, but be able to envision ourselves as connected to others across space, but also across time. To see the generations before and the generations to come, and even what we might become ourselves in time. 

The Concepcion family asked people to consider the fact that even if they are not sick now, one day they will be older and may become ill. Do they want to be fighting for this type of relief when they are older? Or do we as an island community have the foresight to recognize the potential value of cannabis in terms of helping the terminally ill? I was so grateful that the voters listened to the stories of the Concepcion family and others, who talked about the relief that cannabis had brought to their loved ones when nothing else seemed to help them.

Most of the members of the advisory board are medical practitioners , and although I am a “Dr.” I am not a medical doctor. My role on the advisory board is to represent the community and express their thoughts, concerns and recommendations. I will unfortunately not be able to attend the three public hearings as I’ll be offisland, but I want to invite people to please email me with their comments so that I can present them to the advisory board as a whole. My email is

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Anai matto yu' gi lamita gi hinanao-hu gi lina'la'
Hu sodda' maisa yu' gi hemhom na halomtano'
Sa' esta malingu i tunas na chalan

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sohnge News

Public hearings on the medical marijuana regulations are taking place this week. Please try to attend them if you are able. Here is the information on them:

July 29, 9 – 11 am at the Legislature’s Public Hearing Room
July 30, 9 – 11 am at the Legislature’s Public Hearing Room
July 31, 3 – 6 pm at the Castle Mall, Mangilao, Division of Senior Citizens Conference Room.

Here are some recent articles about the issue.


Marijuana meeting touches on farmers, tourism
Apr. 11, 2015
by Maria Hernandez
Pacific Daily News

Draft rules and regulations for the island's medicinal marijuana program are expected to be approved and open to public comment by late April, said James Gillan, director of Guam's public health department.

In November, voters approved legalizing the use of marijuana for the treatment of certain medical conditions, making Guam the first U.S. territory to legalize medical marijuana. The drug remains a Schedule I controlled substance under local and federal law.
The Department of Public Health and Social Services, the lead agency tasked with developing guidelines and regulations under the law, has less than five months to submit rules and regulations to the Guam Legislature.

An advisory board, created under the marijuana law, met for the first time yesterday to discuss ideas for the island's medical marijuana program.

Seven of the nine council members were in attendance yesterday.
Gillan at the meeting said a pre-draft of the rules and regulations for the program is already written and that he would be approving the draft before looking it over with the advisory council.
The director will be sending the draft to all council members by April 24.
Shortly after the council provides its input, Gillan said public hearings would be held possibly before the end of April for stakeholders to comment on the draft.
Gillan said the pre-draft is based largely on Arizona's medical marijuana law.
Yesterday's informal meeting brought many questions from attendees.

Growers' association
Vice president of the Farmers Cooperative Association of Guam Ernest Wusstig attended the meeting to learn more about opportunities for local farmers.
"I want to make sure that farmers are not left out," Wusstig said. "I hope we get the first shot."
He proposed that farmers establish a marijuana growers association and administer one dispensary.
Gillan said the agency is considering allowing three dispensaries -- one each in the north, central and southern parts of Guam.
Wusstig said he hasn't brought up the idea to other farmers yet and was just considering options.

Medical tourism
Koichi Maeda, founder of the Japan Medical Marijuana Association, who's visiting the island from Tokyo, also attended the meeting. He proposed that Japanese patients be able to come to Guam to receive medical marijuana treatments.
The association, founded in 1999, has more than 200 members who are proponents of legalizing marijuana in Japan, Maeda said.
He said there are many sick patients in Japan who have cancer and other serious illnesses and view cannabis as their last chance for treatment.
Maeda added that Guam is the nearest place to Japan for residents to seek treatment.
"For some residents, it's too long to stay in the airplane to Hawaii or California," he said.
He noted that Guam would receive economic benefits from the relationship.
"We already have tens of thousands of patients who want to come here," Maeda said.
Earlier in the meeting, Gillan said medical marijuana tourism was not something he was interested in pursuing, nor something that could be pursued because it is not in compliance with the law.
Under the law, a qualified patient is a resident of Guam.
However, after Maeda's statement, he said it could be a possibility.
Sen. Tina Muña Barnes said the council could consider a qualified visiting patient's application forms.
"I want to make sure the council doesn't leave any stone unturned," she said. "If that is a question or recommendation to the committee, then we at least need to look at it."
Barnes said residents have been calling her office who are concerned about a number of issues.
Some asked why health issues that qualify in other states, weren't included in Guam's medical-marijuana law.
 Under the law, qualifying people include those with debilitating conditions such as cancer; glaucoma; multiple sclerosis; epilepsy; post traumatic stress disorder; rheumatoid arthritis or similar chronic autoimmune inflammatory disorders; HIV or AIDS; damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord, with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity; those admitted into hospice care in accordance with rules under the law; and those with any other medical condition, medical treatment or disease approved by the department.
Others were concerned that distribution and cultivation of marijuana might be near schools, she said.
Packaging was also a concern, Barnes said, because residents want to ensure children don't get their hands on the medicinal marijuana.
The council said it would review and add input from yesterday's meeting to the draft before the public hearings.


Friday, 01 May 2015 03:00am

Department of Public Health and Social Services Director James Gillan says the first draft of Guam’s medical marijuana regulations has been completed and sent to the medical advisory board for review. 
AT THE Medical Marijuana Policy Forum held Saturday, Department of Public Health and Social Services Director James Gillan explained why local officials are using Arizona’s medical marijuana regulations for guidance.

“The reason the Arizona model was chosen is because Will Humble is my friend,” Gillan said. “He was at that time the director of Department of Health Services and he was giving me a good deal on the source code that we’ll need to run our Web-based application process.”

Arizona spent more than $800,000 for the source code, Gillan said.

“They developed their system and he’s giving the tools to us for free,” Gillan said. “So that’s a pretty good price.”

Humble and Gillan are also of the same mindset regarding medical marijuana policies for their jurisdictions, Gillan said. Both health officials agree on keeping the process as simple as possible.

“They’re still supporting us. We’ll be sending three people next month early to get actual hands-on with the regulatory aspect and also the information technology part of it,” Gillan said.

Stephanie Flores, chief of staff for Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes, also said Guam’s legislation is very similar to the Arizona legislation that legalized medical marijuana.

“When you look at the Arizona law and you look at Guam law, they’re very, very similar,” Flores said.

Muña-Barnes co-authored the bill that allows medical marijuana on Guam, which was passed in a voter referendum in November 2014.

Good starting point

Flores said considering that the law was similar to that of Arizona’s, using Arizona’s rules and regulations as a guideline for Guam’s rules and regulations makes for a good starting point.

Local officials have looked at other states’ medical marijuana policies, Gillan said. Humble, however, was the first one to step up and offer support to Guam.

Gillan announced at Saturday’s forum that the first draft of regulations was completed and sent to the medical advisory board for review.

The draft is 133 pages, but Gillan said there is more work to be done. The drafts are based on Arizona regulations but revised to make sense for Guam.

Gillan said on Saturday that a potential $90 million of revenue could come out of medical marijuana for Guam. That figure could change and is dependent on how many patients are eligible and how much the marijuana will cost patients.

Gillan said he would like to get the cost as low as possible for patients.

The forum is available for viewing in its entirety on YouTube. It was hosted by the University of Guam’s administrative law class, under the master of public administration graduate program.

Gillan and Flores were part of a six-person panel. The two were joined by Andrew Andrus, executive director of the Employers Council; Fred Bordallo, chief of the Guam Police Department; Matthew Sablan, deputy director for the Department of Agriculture; and Dr. Laura Post, psychiatrist on the medical marijuana advisory board.


Tuesday, 21 Jul 2015 03:00am
Local herbal mixture used by GFD employee contained cannabis

A MEMBER of the Guam Fire Department civilian pool was terminated after cannabis was found in his system as a result of a drug test. The 28-year-old veteran heavy equipment operator attributed the finding to his use of the popular herbal mixture of Chamorro medicine called “amot” and appealed his termination before the Civil Service Commission. And he succeeded with a unanimous 6-0 decision.

The Guam Fire Department said it has a zero-tolerance policy for drug use by its employees and terminated Rudolph Rivera on Dec. 19, 2013 after he tested positive for cannabis use. However, in a unanimous decision and judgment issued last Thursday by the Civil Service Commission, GFD was informed otherwise.

In its discussion, the CSC board clarified it was in no way creating a “Chamorro amot defense” – rather, it wanted to send notice that “employees should take care with the ingredients of their Chamorro amot, prepared by others or themselves.”

Moreover, the commissioners found limited evidence to justify Rivera’s termination other than the drug test conclusion. The commission cited Section 28 of the Department of Administration Drug-Free Workplace Program Operating Procedures which includes a rehabilitation and counseling program for the first instance an employee tests positive for illegal drug use.

The CSC noted that the drug-free workplace policy was issued by DOA six weeks before Rivera’s termination. They also faulted GFD with failure to prove that the department operated on a zero-tolerance drug use policy.


In fact, the CSC took notice that now-retired Chief John Wusstig, who terminated Rivera in 2013, praised the heavy equipment operator during the hearing in April.

Wusstig, in CSC documents, stated “it was with regret that he dismissed the employee, but only did so because he thought that he had no other choice available.”

Wusstig also could not provide the CSC with proof of an executive order, a general order by GFD, nor regulations or laws stating that GFD operated with a zero tolerance for drug use.

In his defense, Rivera told the CSC he theorized that his godson, from whom he receives the amot, must have included a cannabis derivative with the mixture of the Chamorro amot medicine he consumed.

“We can surmise that if further evidence or law were presented, it might have bolstered management’s case, but it is not our role to surmise in favor of management. The burden is upon management to make their case.”

The commission was split, though, on the form of discipline that should be included, but subsequently ruled, “With no majority in favor of other discipline, the adverse action for dismissal is simply voided.”

Rivera is entitled to back pay from December 2013 through his reinstatement, inclusive of annual and sick leave. He is also entitled to his retirement contribution by the government and attorney fees. Based on the GFD 2013 staffing pattern, the monetary amount included with Rivera’s back pay is expected to exceed $65,000 in base pay before the government of Guam’s matching contribution and attorneys' fees and any raises are included.

Drug-free workplace

Executive Order No. 95-29 directed DOA to establish a drug-free workplace for the government of Guam. Per the order, it is “unlawful to manufacture, distribute, dispense, possess or use a controlled substance in the workplace.” The order states: “Violation of this policy will not be tolerated. This policy applies to all government of Guam employees in the non-autonomous agencies and departments, regardless of type of appointment, and all persons providing contractual services with the government of Guam, and applicants tentatively selected for employment.”

As well, P.L. 31-28, authored by former Sen. Adolph Palacios, created a zero-tolerance provision specifically for officers of the law.

CSC stated that the fire department did not present either the executive order or the law during its presentation.


 Medical marijuana proponents question high costs
Thursday, 30 Jul 2015 03:00am

SOME prospective patients, growers and dispensary agents at yesterday’s public hearing on the draft medical marijuana regulations criticized the cost and phrasing in the draft regulations as they might be obstacles for them to participate as patients or business owners.

“We have to think of our patients first. Patient before dollars,” said Ernie Wusstig, a local farmer. Wusstig testified at the first public hearing regarding the draft medical marijuana rules held yesterday morning at the Guam Legislature’s public hearing room in Hagåtña.

“It’s about them, it’s not about us making money,” Wusstig said. “It was even mentioned that it was $500 an ounce. If I was sick and I need $500 to go buy my first medication, I’d probably die. I’d die of stroke before taking marijuana.”

Wusstig suggested that patients be allowed to cultivate marijuana themselves, without having to go to a dispensary.

The draft rules propose a $150 fee for qualified patients to get a registry identification card, except those that qualify for a 50 percent discount. A designated caregivers’ registry identification card is suggested at $200, while the suggested price for dispensaries, agents and cultivation sites registry identification cards are $500 each.

The proposed cost for dispensary registration certificates and a cultivation site registration certificate is $35,000 for new registrations and $35,000 to renew, according to the draft regulations. If a dispensary or cultivation site changes location, that is another proposed $35,000 to do so.


Inarajan resident Walter Stiernagle said he agrees with the $35,000 fee, but questioned the cost to build an indoor growing facility. “I was just hoping if you could bend the rules somehow for us farmers. We can’t afford to build a half million dollar warehouse and all that stuff,” Stiernagle said. “I’m just trying to break even.” 

The draft regulations also propose that cultivation sites be in an enclosed area, which must be an outdoor space surrounded by solid, 10-foot walls made of metal, concrete or stone that prevents viewing marijuana plants and a solid 1-inch-thick metal gate.

Stiernagle said he’d like to register to be either a licensed grower or caregiver.

Prospective grower and dispensary agent, Andrea Pellacani, of Guam Grassroots, testified that the draft rules and regulations did not indicate if a grower could also be licensed as a dispensary. “There’s no option for vertical licensing. There’s language in there that states that if I provide more than one application, I cannot do it in the same village,” Pellacani said. “You have everything lumped together. There’s not a separate distinction for dispensaries or cultivators or processors or labs.”

Pellacani said based on her reading of the draft regulations now, she would have to have separate facilities in separate villages which would double her costs and interfere with her business model.

Tom Nadeau, chief environmental health officer for the Department of Public Health and Social Services, said the prices suggested in the draft are open to change. Nadeau said proposed costs in the draft were based on the ability of the government to run the program.

“In our preliminary assessment there needs to have dedicated personnel to run the program. It is our plan, as proposed, to run the program through a web-based program,” he said “We’re trying to make this efficient and fast as possible. ... Everything is done primarily through the web, through the Internet, if you will. And that, of course, will require the necessary infrastructure and that will cost and some of the money to make that happen will come from this.”

Yet to be finalized

Nadeau said the cost to run the entire program has yet to be finalized and it depends on how much the web-based infrastructure will cost and how many medical marijuana patients are on Guam.

August Fest, another resident who testified yesterday, said the cost as suggested in the draft was “government extortion.”

Fest suggested that there be less regulation. He pointed out that on top of the $35,000 fee, cultivation sites and dispensaries are required to have a vault built into the facility, a 10-foot wall and security cameras.

“You shouldn’t have it any more restrictive than any pharmacy. We’re talking about one product here,” Fest said.

There will be another public hearing today for residents who wish to submit oral testimony or written testimony. The hearing will be at the public hearing room at the Guam Legislature building from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

I'm Reading About a Watchman

I'm currently reading Harper Lee's new novel "Go Set a Watchman." I am reading it after reading several dozen articles about how much people are detesting the book, because of the way it doesn't stand up to the "timelessness" and "beauty" of Harper Lee's first book, the widely read and praised "To Kill A Mockingbird." Gi minagahet, all the hate towards the book just made me want to read it more. I didn't enjoy "To Kill A Mockingbird" when I read it in school. I didn't enjoy watching the movie either. This new book is supposed to delve more deeply into many of the issues of race and class that the first book barely rubbed up against. I am excited to see where Lee takes this, or rather where she initially took it in her writing, because this book was actually written before Mockingbird. I found myself not really identifying with the Finch family in the first book and found myself more interested in the supporting characters, in particular the African American characters. I detested the way that they existed to just teach the Finches lessons and help themselves grow as characters.

We'll see how this turns out. In the meantime, here is a gift from The Onion, which takes a jab at what most people are thinking about in terms of the timing and release of this book.


Harper Lee Announces Third Novel, "My Excellent Caretaker Deserves My Entire Fortune"
The Onion
July 14, 2015

NEW YORK—Shocking the literary world once again, acclaimed author Harper Lee announced through her publisher Tuesday the surprise release of her third novel, My Excellent Caretaker Deserves My Entire Fortune. “On behalf of Ms. Lee, we’re delighted to bring the public this moving new story, which follows the heartwarming relationship between a deaf and nearly blind author in the small-town South and the extremely kind and attentive caretaker to whom she wills every penny of her $45 million estate,” said HarperCollins president Michael Morrison, adding that the 185-page tale vividly brings to life the setting of a present-day assisted living facility in Monroeville, AL, where an 89-year-old protagonist named Harper comes to the life-changing decision to hand over all the money in her bank account, her property, and all future proceeds from the books she has published to her extremely upstanding and unselfish friend and lawyer, Tonja. “This is a triumphant and uplifting tale of dedicated, exemplary caregiving and the substantial monetary bequest it inspires, told by one of America’s greatest living writers. Readers will be deeply touched by the heroine’s stirring reflections on human warmth and her repeated assertions that she is mentally competent and fit to make her own legal decisions.” Morrison added that, without spoiling too much, he could reveal that the book’s final pages feature a fully notarized last will and testament signed by the author herself.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hafa na Libersaion? #22: Colonialism and America's Imperial Agenda in the Pacific

Liberation Day is always proposed as being a day of remembering, but it is the ultimate day when Chamorros forget. When all the realities of militarism, imperialism, colonialism all around them become even more muted and dull and obscured than usual. When so many of the problems that exist around us, about our place or non-place in the world, are drowned out, engulfed within a cascade of red, white and bull. The critiques are choked out of our mouths, as the patriotism deluge fills us up, meant to shut up those who feel like asking questions.

This article provides some good reminders.


Colonialism and America's Imperial Agenda in the Pacific:
US to 'Rebalance" Military in Guam to Counter China and North Korea
Silent Crow News
by Timothy Alexander Guzman

Guam, an Island nation of 160,000 people has been a victim of Imperialism dating back to the 16th century.  More than 65,000 of the population are called the Chamorro people, an indigenous population originally from the Mariana Islands.  Many of the Chamorro people also live in the Northern Mariana Islands, another U.S. territory.  Guam’s fate with imperial powers from the West began with Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan, who represented the King of Spain landed in Guam around 1521. Spanish General Miguel López de Legazpi claimed Guam for the Spanish throne in 1565. It eventually resulted in the Spanish-Chamorro War which lasted 25 years. Then it was followed by Japan’s brutal occupation during World War II.  U.S. won a decisive battle against Japanese forces known as the Battle of Guam in 1944.  However, the U.S. still remains in Guam.  They never left.  Over the years, the U.S. Military-Industrial complex has become the Island’s main economic engine besides the tourism industry.  With geopolitical developments in recent years, the U.S. is now in the stage of “rebalancing” its Pacific forces to prepare for a possible future war with China and North Korea.

On August 19th, the Department of Defense News (DOD News) stated that “Guam, because of its military bases, Army anti-ballistic missile system and location 3,300 miles west of Hawaii is an increasingly important strategic hub for the U.S. Asia-Pacific rebalance, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said today.” The article’s title ‘Work: Guam is Strategic Hub to Asia-Pacific Rebalance’ Clarifies the plan to rebalance U.S. military forces in the Pacific or to what the Obama administration would call the “pivot to Asia” with the goal of developing US military alliances and strategic partnerships to counter China and North Korea’s military. “As the undersecretary of the Navy,” he told them, referring to his 2009-2013 term in that office, “I was here when we first started thinking about rebalancing to the Pacific.” The article clearly states that Guam is central to Washington’s Imperial agenda. Work defines how Washington views Guam as an important part of their military strategy in the region, “We didn’t call it that at the time, but Guam has always been a central part of our plans. Certainly a central part of the Navy’s plans but now a central part of the entire Department of Defense’s plans.” It is a move that would allow Washington to form a military and economic alliance with Tokyo and Seoul. Australia is on board with Washington’s agenda since it is part of the “Five Eyes”, an intelligence alliance that includes Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. The U.S. is partnering with Japan, South Korea and Australia to prepare for a possible confrontation with China and/or North Korea. In any case, the US will be prepared to take action if China and Japan’s tension escalate into a possible war over the South-China Sea dispute which involves several countries, a matter that should be settled among the countries involved without Western interference.

It is important to note that Washington is moving at least 8,000 US Marines from Okinawa to Guam after decades of protests by the Okinawan people. The US has been in Okinawa since 1945. More than 85% of Okinawans want the US military to leave. There has been hundreds of cases where victims as young as 12 years-old have been either raped or sexually violated by US military personal.  In any case, the US military has released hundreds of sex offenders without charges. There have been anti-American demonstrations taking place in Okinawa for decades because of US policies towards its civilian population. Back in 2008, a well known case involving a rape of a child.  Okinawans protested at a baseball stadium the injustices they suffer at the hands of the U.S. military as the Associated Press reported that “banners demanding the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops ringed the makeshift stage.” And that the “problems with base-related accidents, crowding and crime are endemic.” A troubling account of what actually has taken place in Okinawa between 1972 and 1995 is the fact that an estimated 4,716 crimes were committed by members of the US military. More than 75% of all U.S. forces in Japan are located in Okinawa. The U.S. and Japan has finally decided to move troops out of Okinawa since the end of World War II.

However, Japan’s tensions with China over the South-China Sea with Washington’s support. Under Prime Minister Shinzu Abeis, Japan is on the path to becoming a military power in the Pacific.  The Abe government has made a decision to “reinterpret” the country’s constitution so that the Japanese military can participate in any future military conflict with its allies. In a speech this past July, Prime Minister Abe told the Australian Parliament his government and Australia are cooperating on the “the transfer of defence equipment and technology” which means that Japan is in the process of building its military capabilities. Abe also mentioned how Japan, Australia and the U.S. will “Join Hands” to build an “International Order”:

So far as national security goes, Japan has been self-absorbed for a long time. Now, Japan has built a determination. As a nation that longs for permanent peace in the world, and as a country whose economy is among the biggest, Japan is now determined to do more to enhance peace in the region, and peace in the world. 

Ladies and gentlemen, it is to put that determination into concrete action that Japan has chosen to strengthen its ties with Australia. Yes, our countries both love peace. We value freedom and democracy. And we hold human rights and the rule of law dear. Today is the day that we bring life to our new special relationship. To make its birthday today, I should have brought a huge cake to share a piece with every one of you. There are many things Japan and Australia can do together by each of us joining hands with the United States, an ally for both our nations 

Japan is now working to change its legal basis for security so that we can act jointly with other countries in as many ways as possible. We want to make Japan a country that will work to build an international order that upholds the rule of law. Our desire is to make Japan a country that is all the more willing to contribute to peace in the region and beyond. It is for this reason that Japan has raised the banner of “Proactive Contribution to Peace” 

While Japan is strengthening its military power, South Korea on the other hand is already home to the US Military since 1947 which faces North Korea. The United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) is an important location for the U.S. in the Pacific region. The U.S and South Korea has had a military alliance since 1953 after the stalemate that ensued after the Korean War between South Korea and US forces and North Korea who had military support from China and the Soviet Union. The Department of Defense News who has been following the developments closely between U.S. and South Korean officials published an article called ‘Work Highlights Importance of U.S.-South Korea Alliance’ signified the strategic importance of a U.S/South Korea alliance:

The deputy secretary highlighted the importance of the U.S.-South Korea alliance and thanked the South Korean leaders for their support. 

“It’s important that we’re transparent, that we work through issues together as an alliance,” the official said, “because both sides recognize the importance of a strong U.S.-Korea alliance, especially in the current situation on the peninsula with North Korea” 

China and North Korea are the belligerents in the Asia-Pacific region, at least in Washington’s eyes. Guam is going to play an important part for US forces if and when a war was to take place.

Guam, a Victim of Imperial Powers

Guam was ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish American War in 1898. Guam was purchased along with Puerto Rico and the Philippines from Spain for $20 million in 1899. The population of Guam grew to over 10,000 inhabitants during that time. The US government then placed Guam under a military government under Captain R. P. Leary who was appointed the island’s first U.S. Governor under U.S. President William McKinley by an executive order.  Guam was now governed under the administration of the Department of Navy. Then during World War II, Japan invaded and occupied Guam which began on December 10th, 1941. Guam surrendered to Japan’s South Seas detachment forces after a defensive struggle by the island’s Insular Force Guard and a small number of U.S. marines. Guam was renamed “Omiya Jima” by Japanese Imperial forces. For 31 months, the people of Guam were subjected to inhumane hardships by the Japanese military.

Although some measure of religious freedoms and business activities were permitted, atrocities, such as rape and murder were common. Concentration camps were established and approximately 600 Chamorro’s were executed. Some Chamorro’s were even beheaded. Both Guam and China were victims of Imperial Japan, the irony now is that Guam hosts US military bases to “keep an Eye” on China’s emerging economic power and to dominate the entire Asia-Pacific region. US Allies in the region were once political enemies of Washington at some point in history including the Philippines (1900), Vietnam (1964) and Cambodia (1969).  Now they are proxy states used to counter China’s growing economic and political power. In an interesting and informative article published by Global Research and The Asia-Pacific Journal, Japan in Focus in 2010 called ‘American Military Bases on Guam: The US Global Military Basing System’ By Prof. Catherine Lutz accurately describes the colonial situation in Guam:

It is colonial even as many of Guam’s residents take their US citizenship seriously and want to make claims to full citizenship on the foundation of the limited citizenship they now have. It is colonial even as Guam’s many military members – those born on Guam and those born in the 50 United States – can and do see themselves as doing their duty to the US civilian leadership who deploy them to bases here and around the world. It is colonial even as many of Guam’s citizens have been acting in the faith that they should be able to make and are making their own choices about whether Guam becomes even more of a battleship or not. But social science will call it nothing more than colonial when a people have not historically chosen their most powerful leaders and have been told to background their own national identity in favor of that of the power which has ultimate rule. The US presence in Guam is properly called imperial because the US is an empire in the strict sense of the term as used by historians and other social analysts of political forms.

Besides colonialism, another concept relevant to Guam’s situation is militarization. It refers to an increase in labor and resources allocated to military purposes and the shaping of other institutions in synchrony with military goals. It involves a shift in societal beliefs and values in ways that legitimate the use of force (Ferguson 2009). It helps describe the process by which 14 year olds are in uniform and carrying proxy rifles in JROTC units in all of Guam’s schools, why a fifth to a quarter of high school graduates enter the military, and why the identity of the island has over time shifted from a land of farmers to a land of war survivors to a land of loyal Americans to a land that is, proudly, “the Tip of the Spear,” that is, a land that is a weapon. This historical change – the process of militarization or military colonization – has been visible to some, but more often, hidden in plain sight

The DOD news report on August 19th specifically states what Mr. Work’s plans for the Asia-Pacific region involving Guam are:

Work explained the realignment in another way to the troops here. “As far as the Asia-Pacific goes, Marines are being distributed around the Pacific — 5,000 Marines are going to come here to Guam, 2,500 Marines are going to Australia, some Marines are going back to Hawaii [and] about 3,500 Marines are going up to Iwakuni, [Japan],” the deputy secretary said. The Army will be active in the Asia-Pacific too, he said, noting that seven of the world’s largest armies are in the Asia-Pacific region, and soldiers would be good at contributing to training capacity building in the region.
Another part of the defense buildup on Guam began in April 2013, when arrangements began to move a ballistic missile defense system called a terminal high-altitude area defense battery, or THAAD, and soldiers to run the system, onto Andersen Air Force Base.

Threats from North Korea prompted the move, which because of the limited number of THAAD systems yet built was said to be temporary. But the senior defense official said Gov. Calvo and Rep. Bordallo have publicly asked that the system be kept on the island permanently

Washington’s crumbling empire is preparing for war against China. At the same time, the U.S. is planning for war against Russia, Iran and now Syria which is back on its radar due to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria also known as ISIS.  ISIS in Syria is a convenient excuse for Washington to reposition its military in the Middle East.  An article published by the Japan Times in 2013 called ‘On Guam liberation day, ‘colonial’ U.S. riles: Rule of island contrary to democratic principles: locals’ after its 69th anniversary from its liberation of Japan’s military dictatorship by U.S. forces. The only problem is that Guam never liberated itself from U.S. forces.  It’s been now 70 years of U.S. colonial rule over Guam. The president of the University of Guam and a former delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives Robert Underwood was asked about the parade held to mark the anniversary at the historic Marine Corps battles with Japanese forces in the capital and several war memorial activities that took place throughout Guam and said “(But) it’s not total liberation. It’s only liberation from the Japanese.” Guam was under Japanese rule from 1941 to 1944. Then from 1944 to the present, the U.S. government has made Guam a strategic military location. According to the Japan Times, the governor of Guam Eddie Calvo said “It’s been 69 years since our liberation. Seven decades since our parents and grandparents survived the worst of war. They were slaves, forced to work; they were starving, beaten, raped and murdered.” The report also stated how locals feel about the U.S. presence in Guam since the war had ended:

Antonio Sablan, a resident of the island, said that July 21, 1944, was not just the day when his family was freed from Japanese rule but also the day when U.S. forces recaptured the island. According to Sablan, American forces seized private property and land, including that of his family. And he is upset that Guam remains practically a U.S. colony. “If I was liberated, how come you have my kitchen and my living room? How come you have my house?” Sablan asked, citing the U.S. military’s ownership of about a third of the island

The report also stated:

Guam’s official political status is that of an “unincorporated territory” of the United States, “where fundamental rights apply as a matter of law, but other constitutional rights are not available,” meaning residents cannot vote in U.S. presidential elections if they are based on the island, despite their American citizenship. “Guam is a colony. The federal government has the final say on everything. It’s a colonial relationship,” Underwood said. “Of course, in the end it’s not healthy”
Guam has the same political similarities with Puerto Rico “By agreeing with the U.N. classification of Guam as a “nonself-governing territory,” the United States, as a signatory to the U.N. Charter, recognizes that the island’s indigenous people, the Chamorros, deserve the right to self-determination, Guam Sen. Vicente Pangelinan said in an interview.” Guam has been a military colonial possession of the United States government with a small population that has been in one form or another colonized. But there are many residents, especially the indigenous Chamorros “desiring political self-determination.” There is a movement for independence on the island-nation. “Gov. Calvo has impaneled the Guam Commission on Decolonization to determine which status people would prefer: independence, integration, or a relationship based on the Compact of Free Association pact, which would turn Guam into an associate state of the U.S.” However, there has been an effort to collect signatures for the Decolonization Registry as “Pangelinan said that so far, only 8,000 or so people have signed up for the Decolonization Registry, which requires 20,000-plus signatories.”

It will be difficult since the people depend on government benefits provided by Washington. “He added that many underprivileged people, Chamorros in particular, benefit from government subsidies for health care and education and thus prefer not to become actively involved in seeking change to the status quo.” 

It is a difficult economic situation to overcome, especially when Guam’s main industry is dependent on the tax-payer funded U.S. military-Industrial Complex and tourism. Proactive residents like Sablan, however, said reform is still possible as The Japan Times reported.  “I believe that no matter how long it takes, even if it’s just a little man with a small chisel or ice pick to break an iceberg, as long as he continues chipping, maybe not in my lifetime, but in the future, something will happen,” Sablan said, urging his fellow residents to “decolonize” their way of thinking.”

I absolutely agree with Mr. Sablan. Decolonizing the way people think would be an ultimate defeat for the ruling elite in the West. However, Washington is in high gear to pursue a world war that will involve many nations. The Engine behind this drive to war is the United States, Europe (NATO), Israel and several nations that Washington dominates. Guam is a colony. It is a country that is forced to rely economically on Washington’s war agenda in the Asia-Pacific region. Guam is a victim of Washington, not an accomplice. Guam is a country, not a colony.  Any form of decolonization can only occur if the population thinks differently about an Imperial power occupying their land.  The U.S. government is not in Guam for altruistic reasons, only to dominate their neighbors under a Unipolar world.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Necklace of Islands, String of Solidarity

In a few days I'll be heading to Japan to teach there but also learn more about peace, demilitarization and antinuclear movements there. Later this year I'll be traveling to Okinawa to work more with independence and demilitarization groups there. Somewhere on the horizon is a trip I'm planning to take to Taiwan to meet with indigenous groups.

I wrote an article several years ago on solidarity in the Asia-Pacific region, and argued a core feature of it was imagination and sharing an imaginary. One of the most intriguing aspects of human consciousness is the way we can feel disconnected to those right next to us and intimately connected to people on the other side of the world. Proximity or similarity don't necessarily dictate these things, because there is always the possibility of solidarity, that disparate groups can nonetheless find a common cause of purpose or goal together. If we consider all the islands that have been damaged by US military testing, training and bombing and string them all together into a necklace of solidarity, we would have something both beautiful and tragic. We have an imagined continent of islands and peoples that we should feel compelled to fight for. To protect and defend.

I am thinking of this today because I recently came across this Land is Life Declaration from Vieques, Puerto Rico more than 12 years ago. Two Chamorro activists went and joined other activists from around the world to share their commitment to a world based on peace and justice.

I've pasted the text and the signatories below for people to read.


13 November, 2003 Special Report from the Peace and Justice Camp
La Tierra Es Vida Declaration
November 8 - 12, 2003
Fort Count Mirasol Vieques

We, the participants of La Tierra Es Vida (Land is Life) came from the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, Guahan (Guam), Hawai`i, the Dine people, Puerto Rico and the United States, and gathered in Vieques, Puerto Rico to stand in solidarity with the people of Vieques at a historic moment in their struggle for a free Vieques, and to share our stories of survival and struggle against U.S. militarism and imperialism.

We celebrate the Viequenses’ courageous and victorious struggle to end the Navy bombing of their island, and commit ourselves to support them in their continuing efforts for the clean up, return of land, compensation and health care, and sustainable economic development of their island.

We heard about the horrific effects of sixty-seven U.S. atomic and nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands, and give unconditional support to the Marshall Islanders’ efforts for increased compensation, health care, and the environmental cleanup in order to return to their homelands.

We stand with the Chamorus of Guahan (Guam), who fight to reclaim their ancestral lands at Ritidian and other locations, that were taken and contaminated by the U.S. military, some of which has been transferred to other federal agencies.

We unite with the Filipino people, who a decade after expelling U.S. military bases, continue to struggle for the clean up of contamination and compensation for the survivors of military contamination at Clark and Subic.

We stand with the Kanaka Maoli of Hawai`i in their struggle for sovereignty and who stand against the military occupation and destruction of their `aina (land) at Pohakuloa, Waikane, Nohili, Makua, Kaho`olawe and other areas.

We join with the Dine struggle for full compensation for their survivors of radiation poisoning, for the restoration of their sacred lands that were mined for uranium, for an end to nuclear testing and nuclear waste disposal in their area, and an end to additional oil and gas drilling within their four sacred mountains.

We affirm that land is life, and that all peoples have an inalienable right to human security that includes having basic needs met, a healthy environment that can sustain life, and the ability to perpetuate our languages and cultural traditions.

We condemn the rampant militarization of our planet and even of space by the U.S. and other nations. Militarism and imperialism are the antithesis of human security, and we refuse to take part in such crimes against humanity and the global environment.

We believe and assert that the U.S. government and its agencies including the military has a moral and legal obligation to address and correct the legitimate grievances of every community impacted by the presence of the military. To this end, we call on the U.S. government to take the following actions:

- In partnerships with affected communitties, conduct comprehensive environmental studies to determine the extent of damage and degradation as a result of the presence of the military.

- Restore and return all lands, coastal zones and other natural and cultural resources destroyed or damaged by the actions of the U.S. government including the military.

- Provide the necessary resources to enaable communities to move from economic dependency on the military to sustainable, community-based economic development.

- Take full responsibility for the devasstating health consequences of the people exposed to the impact of U.S. militarism including but not limited to atomic and nuclear testing, the testing and use of biological and chemical weapons, uranium mining, the production and use of depleted uranium weapons, toxic waste, and air and water pollution.

- Recognize the right of all peoples to self-determination and independence from economic and political colonialism.

We call on other like-minded people and organizations to join us. It is through our collective efforts that we will create a global community based upon the values of cooperation over competition, compassion over greed, peace and justice over war, human needs over profits, and love over hate.

Lemeyo Abon
ERUB, Marshall Islands

Luis A. Torres Alvarado

Lourdes C. Soto Berge
Attorney at Law

Daniel Bonilla Bianchi
Mayaquezanos con Vieques

Elma M. Coleman
U.S.-Japan Committee for Racial Justice

Wanda Colon Cortes
Proyecto Caribeno de Justicia Y Paz

Zoraida Crespo
Mayaquezanos con Vieques

Julia K. Matsui Estrella
U.S.-Japan Committee for Racial Justice

Anna M Frazier
Dine Citizens Against our Environment

Ronald Fujiyoshi
U.S.-Japan Committee for Racial Justice

Alice U. Greenwood

Yoshiko Ikuta

Kyle Kajihiro
American Friends Service Committee - Hawai`i
DMZ-Hawai`i/Aloha Aina

Theresa Martinez
Eastern Navajo Uranium Workers

Rev. Candita B. Mattos
Minister for Hispanic Relations, OGM, United Church of Christ

Catherine F. McCollum
Colonized Chamoru Coalition

Nilda Medina
Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques

Andres L. Nieves

Rev. Sala W.J. Nolan
Minister of Criminal Justice and Human Rights, JWM, United Church of Christ

O`lola Ann Z. Olib
People’s Task Force for Bases Cleanup - Philippines

Dylcia Pagan
President, Avanza

Myrna V. Pagan
Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques

Ed S. Pocaigue, Jr.
Colonized Chamoru Coalition

Robert Rabin
Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques

Mary Ann Ramirez
Mayaquezanos con Vieques

MariAngeles Rivera
Comite Pro Rescate y Desarrollo de Vieques
Alianza Mujeres Viequenses

Puanani Rogers
Ho`okipa Network - Kauai, Hawai`i
DMZ/Aloha Aina

Roy Takumi
U.S.-Japan Committee for Racial Justice

Brunilda Zayas
Mayaquezanos con Vieques

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hafa na Liberasion? #21: Liberation from Liberation

Liberation Day is here again. I'm not on island for it and so in most ways I am insulated from it. Facebook is one of the main ways that I'm experiencing it this year. My dash is inundated with images from the parade, pictures of manamko', food, flags, uniformed troops and village floats. There are also quite a few posts weighing on the issue of Liberation Day itself, contending with the political meanings involved. Some people referred to it as reoccupation day or dependence day. They called into question, quite rightly, whether it is right to call this day a real liberation. Others pushed back against these critiques, some of them whining about the comfortable generations of today not appreciating the sacrifices of the past. They argued that if the generation of war survivors doesn't question the liberation aspects of the day, who gives us the right to? So much of this discourse relies on the idea that the older generation never complained and always endured, but it also relies on conceiving our elders as being unable to understand the world around them, unable to make distinctions or understand finer points. It is something that doesn't do much justice to them because it is all based on the idea that they can't decipher the complicated levels of this holiday, and that in order to do it justice we must somehow understand it less and think about it less. That idea is based on a very superficial understanding of our elders and relationship to them. The idea that July 21st, 1944 is not a liberation comes from a variety of sources. It is something that war survivors themselves proposed. Because although they were grateful for the Japanese period coming to a close, they also had no illusions that the United States returned to save them. It is something that subsequent generations also came to question because of the simple mechanics involved. How does one celebrate their "liberation" in a colony? If it is just the simple matter of the American retaking of the island, why does it extend into such a larger ideological and emotionatioanl framework? Why is it filled with so much patriotism to the United States, so much glorification and militarisitic devotion, when even some of the liberators themselves have lamented that their job was clearly never completed since Guam remains a territory/colony?

Liberation Day, as I have argued in numerous writings and statements is the key to understanding the contemporary Chamorro and their relationship to the United States. We don't have a day to commemorate the American taking of the island in 1898. We don't have a day to commemorate the passage of the Organic Act in 1950. We don't have a day to commemorate the passage of the Mink Amendment. We have one to commemorates the American reoccupation of Guam in 1944, and that should be a clue to everything. That should help us understand why Liberation Day must be a should be discussed without a fear of offended the elders. So much of how we understand our relationship to the United States hinges on the way we interpret this event, to misunderstand it, to fantasize about it, to pretend it is one way instead of another, runs the risk of us misrecognizing so much more.

One person on Facebook was particularly contradictory in his defense of Liberation Day, it makes my points perfectly. The challenge to the liberation aspects of Liberation Day doesn't inherently challenge the experiences or the memories or the feelings of Chamorro war survivors. Few people who are critical of the day would dare to say that it was not a liberation from Japanese oppression, or that for those who lived through it is wasn't a liberation. But the effect and power of Liberation Day extends far beyond this. This individual on Facebook initial argued that the true meaning of Liberation Day is the celebration of the survivors of I Tiempon Chapones, and remembering what they went through. It will always be a liberation since it was in their minds and we shouldn't question things because it takes that day away from them. Later in the same paragraph this person then went on to argue that the meaning of Liberation Day today is actually celebration of the US military today, showing our support for them and what they do in the world. Few people, including those who detest the name "Liberation Day" itself would question the first point, but the second point is precisely the problem.

The sacredness of that moment, where destitute Chamorros thought that the Marines they encountered were Gods is something few question. The powerful bond that is formed by those who kicked out the Japanese and those who wished the Japanese gone is not the point. But where we go from there is. I always recall the power of a single passage from Chamorro poet Lee Perez, where she writes that the Liberation Day/war stories always end with those powerful moments, but history continues. Our memory, our thinking, our critical abilities end with those moments, but the island keeps going and certain things emerge which we should question. The problem is that we highlight those moments but don't consider or factor in what comes after. Chamorros were grateful for that American return, as Chamorro Studies scholar Evelyn S.M. Flores notes in the film War for Guam, the problem is what Americans did with that gratitude. In the years after the American return, the US Navy took advantage of that attitude in order to make the wholesale theft of Chamorro lands easier and smoother. It still caused problems, and most people don't understand the strain and pressure that Chamorros felt in those days, when bulldozers to tear apart farms and homes were just as frightening as Japanese stragglers.

Liberation Day, and how people feel we are supposed to celebrate it and not think about it, feeds into that ending of history and ending of critical thought. It leaves the Chamorro consciousness at a point where it feels helplessly dependent upon the United States, always looking for Uncle Sam to save, to liberate, always believing in the military power of the US, imagining that military power and strength is a core part of Chamorro culture, that Chamorros and their lands exist to be used by the US and its military for their ends, and that is our role in the American family. We are locked into a subordinate and hardly equal relationship to the United States and the lack of understanding about Liberation Day contributes to that. When we spend an entire day commemorating America and how awesome it is, powerful it is, how its military promotes democracy everywhere, how America saves us and takes care of us, how we exist in relation to it as a minor and small part of it and so it is ok if we are a colony or a territory. The resistance to Guam being decolonized is all tied to this. We valorize Liberation Day so much that even though its most basic contradictions are so obvious and clear even just from the terms we use, that people resist those discussions so fiercely. The question that we should ask ourselves each Liberation Day is "Kao magahet na manlibre hit?" If the answer is no, then our celebration should reflect that.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Tale of Two "Heroes"

Desde sumaonao Si Donald Trump gi inachaigen Presidente gi sanlagu mas na'kaduku todu!

Gof taffo' gui', taimamahlao gui'. Fihu ti hongge'on i sinangan-na lao gof klaru i motibu-na.

Esta kana' bente taotao manhalom gi i inachaigi para i mas takhilo' na ofisina gi sanlagu.

Gi ayu na batkada, taimanu unu sina gumefe'na?

Para Si Trump, un konsigi muna'huyong i taihinasso na klasen kuentos ya sigi ha' mama'tinas hao "scandals." Humuyongna i media u ma tattiyi hao ya ma espiha hao para nuebu na taihinasso pat na'manman na klasen kuentos.

Kao "serious" na klasen pretendente Si Trump? Buente ahe', lao para pa'go na momento guiya i mas annok yan i mas makubre gi i inachaigi. Debi di ta gof atan taimanu na para u inafekta i inachaigi ni i gaige-na.

I mas halacha na scandal put i sinangan-na put Si John Mccain.Ya-hu este na tininge' ginen i Washington Post put hafa ilek-na.


What Donald Trump was up to while John McCain was a prisoner of war.

It was the spring of 1968, and Donald Trump had it good.

He was 21 years old and handsome with a full head of hair. He avoided the Vietnam War draft on his way to earning an Ivy League degree. He was fond of fancy dinners, beautiful women and outrageous clubs. Most important, he had a job in his father’s real estate company and a brain bursting with money-making ideas that would make him a billionaire.

“When I graduated from college, I had a net worth of perhaps $200,000,” he said in his 1987 autobiography “Trump: The Art of the Deal,” written with Tony Schwartz. (That’s about $1.4 million in 2015 dollars.) “I had my eye on Manhattan.”

More than 8,000 miles away, John McCain sat in a tiny, squalid North Vietnamese prison cell. The Navy pilot’s body was broken from a plane crash, starvation, botched operations and months of torture.

As Trump was preparing to take Manhattan, McCain was trying to relearn how to walk.
The stark contrast in their fortunes was thrown into sharp relief Saturday when Trump belittled McCain during a campaign speech in Iowa.

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said of McCain.

“He’s a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said sarcastically. “I like people that weren’t captured.”

Trump’s comments drew scorn from his fellow Republican presidential contenders. But The Donald didn’t back down.

“When I left the room, it was a total standing ovation,” he told ABC News in reference to his already infamous Iowa speech. “It was wonderful to see. Nobody was insulted.”

In fact, a lot of people were insulted.

“John McCain is a hero, a man of grit and guts and character personified,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry said in a statement. “He served and bled and endured unspeakable acts of torture. His captors broke his bones, but they couldn’t break his spirit, which is why he refused early release when he had the chance. That’s heroism, pure and simple, and it is unimpeachable.”

If Trump doesn’t think that that’s heroic, then what, exactly, is admirable in his eyes?

And what was he doing while McCain was locked up in the infamous prison that POWs sarcastically dubbed the Hanoi Hilton?

The answer reveals deep divides in the two men’s lives and claims to leadership. They may similarly embrace free enterprise, but when it comes to character, the two GOP presidential hopefuls could hardly be more different.

McCain famously followed his father and grandfather — both admirals — into the Navy. He has said his role model was Teddy Roosevelt, the barrel-chested, bear-hunting war hero turned president. He also saw his grandfather and father as heroes, too, as he wrote in his autobiography, “Faith of My Fathers.”

“My grandfather was a naval aviator, my father a submariner. They were my first heroes, and earning their respect has been the most lasting ambition of my life.”

Growing up in Queens, Trump’s role models were more … theatrical.

“Two of the people I admired most and who I kind of studied for the way they did things were the great Flo Ziegfeld, the Broadway producer, and Bill Zeckendorf, the builder,” he told the New York Times in 1984. “They created glamour, and the pageantry, the elegance, the joy they brought to what they did was magnificent.”

McCain grew up in a military household. Trump grew up in a home dominated by his hard-charging, penny-pinching businessman father.

Both young men had rebellious streaks. At the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, McCain was known as a “tough, mean little f——” who “was defiant and flouted the rules” but never enough to get kicked out, according to Robert Timberg’s “The Nightingale’s Song.”

McCain entered the Navy in 1958. Around the same time, Trump was sent to the New York Military Academy to straighten him out after his own youthful transgressions. ”He was a pretty rough fellow when he was small,” his father told the Times in 1983.

But the similarities stopped there. Despite a successful stint at the military school, Trump doesn’t seem to have been eager to enlist. It was 1964, and the Vietnam War was escalating.

He considered going to film school in California. “I was attracted to the glamour of the movies,” he said in “Trump: The Art of the Deal,” adding that he “admired” Hollywood’s “great showmen. But in the end I decided real estate was a much better business.”

Instead Trump attended Fordham for two years before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania, where he took economics courses at its famed Wharton School. (According to a book by Gwenda Blair, Trump was allowed to transfer into the Ivy League school because of family connections, and has exaggerated his performance at Penn.)

During his time in school, Trump received four student deferments from the draft.

“If I would have gotten a low [draft] number, I would have been drafted. I would have proudly served,” he told ABC News. “But I got a number, I think it was 356. That’s right at the very end. And they didn’t get — I don’t believe — past even 300, so I was — I was not chosen because of the fact that I had a very high lottery number.”

As Trump was enjoying the Ivy League and avoiding the war, McCain was about to become one of its most high-profile casualties.

The lieutenant commander had been flying for months, conducting targeted strikes on North Vietnam. He had already been injured in an aircraft carrier fire that killed 134 fellow sailors. And he had already made a name for himself as a pilot.

On Oct. 25, 1967, McCain had destroyed two enemy MiG fighter planes parked on a runway outside Hanoi. He begged to go out the next day, too.

But as he flew into Hanoi again on Oct. 26, his jet’s warning lights began to flash.

“I was on my 23rd mission, flying right over the heart of Hanoi in a dive at about 4,500 feet, when a Russian missile the size of a telephone pole came up — the sky was full of them — and blew the right wing off my Skyhawk dive bomber,” he wrote in a 1973 account of his ordeal. “It went into an inverted, almost straight-down spin. I pulled the ejection handle, and was knocked unconscious by the force of the ejection.”

McCain regained consciousness when his parachute landed him in a lake. The explosion had shattered both arms and one of his legs. With 50 pounds of gear on him and one good limb, he struggled to swim to the surface.

North Vietnamese dragged him to shore. Then stripped him to his underwear and began “hollering and screaming and cursing and spitting and kicking at me.”

“One of them slammed a rifle butt down on my shoulder, and smashed it pretty badly,” he wrote. “Another stuck a bayonet in my foot. The mob was really getting up-tight.”

He was interrogated for four days, losing consciousness as his captors tried to beat information out of him. But he refused.

As the voluble Trump was already making a name for himself sweet-talking deals for his dad’s real estate developing company, McCain was clamming up in his filthy prison.

And as Trump drove around Manhattan in his father’s limo, McCain was refusing to mention his dad for fear of handing valuable intelligence to the enemy.

McCain might have died from his injuries had the North Vietnamese not found out on their own that his father was an admiral. Instead, they moved him to a hospital and performed several botched operations on him. They sliced his knee ligaments by accident and couldn’t manage to set his bones.
“They had great difficulty putting the bones together, because my arm was broken in three places and there were two floating bones,” he wrote. “I watched the guy try to manipulate it for about an hour and a half trying to get all the bones lined up. This was without benefit of Novocain.”

That Christmas, as Donald Trump was celebrating the holiday with his family, McCain was starving in a prison camp called “The Plantation,” a satellite POW site near the Hanoi Hilton.

“I was down to about 100 pounds from my normal weight of 155,” he wrote. “I was told later on by [cellmate] Major Day that they didn’t expect me to live a week.”

McCain survived, however, slowly regaining his strength. By the spring of 1968, he had taught himself to walk again. Not that there was anywhere to walk. He was in solitary confinement inside a hot, stifling, windowless cell.

Trump, meanwhile, was taking Manhattan by storm. He had already made a small fortune — $200,000 then is almost $1.4 million today — working for his father during college.

In his autobiography, Trump describes these early years as fraught with danger: a quick learning curve for the soon-to-be-celebrity CEO as he went around learning the business. “This was not a world I found very attractive,” he wrote in “Trump: The Art of the Deal.”

“I’d just graduated from Wharton, and suddenly here I was in a scene that was violent at worst and unpleasant at best.”

The danger? Collecting rent.

“One of the first tricks I learned was that you never stand in front of someone’s door when you knock. Instead you stand by the wall and reach over to knock,” Trump wrote of collecting for his father, who owned low-income housing blocks. “The first time a collector explained that to me I couldn’t imagine what he was talking about. ‘What’s the point,’ I said. The point, he said, is that if you stand to the side, the only thing exposed to danger is your hand.”

“There were tenants who’d throw their garbage out the window, because it was easier than putting it in the incinerator,” he wrote in horror.

Meanwhile, McCain languished in a genuine hell. When he wasn’t being tortured — several times his interrogators rebroke his mended bones — he was battling everything from dysentery to hemorrhoids.
The prisoner of war survived on watery pumpkin soup and scraps of bread. He saw several fellow prisoners beaten to death, yet McCain refused to sign the confession that would have granted him a speedy release (and a publicity coup to the North Vietnamese).

Trump was living large — maybe not by today’s Trump standards but larger than most Americans. He ate in New York City’s finest restaurants, rode in his father’s limousines and began hitting the clubs with beautiful women.

“The turning point came in 1971, when I decided to rent a Manhattan apartment,” he wrote. “It was a studio, in a building on Third Avenue and 75th Street, and it looked out on the water tank in the court of the adjacent building…. I was a kid from Queens who worked in Brooklyn, and suddenly I had an apartment on the Upper East Side…. I got to know all the good properties. I became a city guy instead of a kid from the boroughs. As far as I was concerned, I had the best of all worlds. I was young, and I had a lot of energy.”

That energy went into signing some of his first real estate deals — and into partying.
“One of the first things I did was join Le Club, which at the time was the hottest club in the city and perhaps the most exclusive — like Studio 54 at its height,” he wrote. “Its membership included some of the most successful men and the most beautiful women in the world. It was the sort of place where you were likely to see a wealthy 75-year old guy walk in with three blondes from Sweden.

“It turned out to be a great move for me, socially and professionally. I met a lot of beautiful young single women, and I went out almost every night,” he added. “Actually, I never got involved with any of them very seriously. These were beautiful women, but many of them couldn’t carry on a normal conversation.”

He was so good looking, he said, that the manager of the club “was worried that I might be tempted to try to steal their wives. He asked me to promise that I wouldn’t do that.”

As McCain remained in solitary confinement, tapping messages on the filthy walls to his fellow POWs in Morse code, Trump was out partying at legendary nightclubs.

Several years later, Trump was frequenting “Studio 54 in the disco’s heyday and he said he thought it was paradise,” Timothy O’Brien wrote in “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald.” “His prowling gear at the time included a burgundy suit with matching patent-leather shoes,” O’Brien wrote.

“I saw things happening there that to this day, I have never seen again,” Trump told O’Brien. “I would watch supermodels getting screwed, well-known supermodels getting screwed on a bench in the middle of the room. There were seven of them and each one was getting screwed by a different guy. This was in the middle of the room.”

As Trump made plans to buy and refurbish bankrupt hotels, McCain was staving off death in Hoa Lo Prison, a.k.a. the Hanoi Hilton.

And as McCain continued to refuse special treatment, Trump actively courted it.

“The other thing I promoted was our relationship with politicians, such as Abraham Beame, who was elected mayor of New York in November of 1973,” he wrote in “Trump: The Art of the Deal.” “Like all developers, my father and I contributed money to Beame, and to other politicians. The simple fact is that contributing money to politicians is very standard and accepted for a New York City developer.”

McCain refused to meet with most visitors for fear of being used as a puppet by the North Vietnamese. But back in the United States, Trump was too eager to manipulate the press.
“At one point, when I was hyping my plans to the press but in reality getting nowhere, a big New York real estate guy told one of my close friends. ‘Trump has a great line of s—, but where are the bricks and mortar?’” he wrote. “I remember being outraged when I heard that.” (Expletive deleted by The Post, not by Trump.)

If Trump was used to dining well, the only decent meal McCain had during his five years in prison was the night before he was released.

It was March 14, 1973. McCain arrived back in the United States a physically broken man, but also a hero.
That word has yet to be applied to Trump.

That same year, the Department of Justice slapped the Trump Organization with a major discrimination suit for violating the Fair Housing Act.

“The Government contended that Trump Management had refused to rent or negotiate rentals ‘because of race and color,”’ according to the New York Times. “It also charged that the company had required different rental terms and conditions because of race and that it had misrepresented to blacks that apartments were not available.”

Trump at first resisted signing a consent decree, according to the Times. He hired his friend, Roy Cohn, the lawyer and former right-hand man to U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. “Mr. Trump said he would not sign such a decree because it would be unfair to his other tenants,” the Times reported. “He also said that if he allowed welfare clients into his apartments … there would be a massive fleeing from the city of not only our tenants but the communities as a whole.”
But ultimately the company came to terms with the government.

Trump would weather the scandal, of course, and go on to build his fortune to its present day tally of $4 billion.

McCain, in contrast, received a Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross. He would become a U.S. senator and run for president.

Whether Trump can triumph where McCain came up short remains to be seen.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Pagan Island in the Distance

The island of Pagan, in the northern Marianas has made international news as it might soon become yet another beautiful island to be destroyed by the US military for its testing and training purposes. Although now I regularly hear news about Pagan, in years past I scarcely heard about it in a Chamorro context, but rather always in either a strict environmental context or in a Japanese historical context. Environmentalists are the first line of defense in some ways against militarization, although history has shown they often have trouble working cooperatively with the locals and natives who claim those lands. For them Pagan is an ecological paradise and needs to be protected. I would hear random tidbits about Pagan in this regard, as being a place with exciting species (including snails) that should be researched and explored. 

I also heard about it in the context of Japanese, as settlers lived there during the Japanese colonial period in the CNMI. In fact in historical terms, the Japanese history sometimes seemed to erase the Chamorro aspects of its existence, in ways that were sometimes disturbing. This is one way that you can illustrate the idea of power/knowledge. That the ability to create knowledge that is considered formal or proper, such as from a government agency or a academic scholar can go a long way in terms of establishing the framework through which power will flow and function. Both the Japanese colonial discourse and the environmental gem discourse have helped create an erasure of the Chamorro connection.

Pagan is part of the Gani Islands, or the chain of islands north of Saipan which Chamorros were forcibly removed from during the Spanish period. The contemporary Chamorro, especially in Guam has largely been cut off for these islands and has little to no conception of them. For some families in the CNMI with ties there, they have a larger, stronger imagining or identification with them, but for most Chamorros today these islands might as well exist in another dimension. The moves by the US military to use Pagan for training and target practice has helped to change this, as more and more Chamorros, not just in the Marianas are starting to see it and feel their connection to it.

In the current context of militarization in the Marianas, any discourse that leads to seeing Pagan as a sacred or special site, something worth saving can be useful. The article below refers to a book released last year about Japanese memories of Pagan. The title uses the metaphor of distance in order to make a number of theoretical and political points, for the activism surrounding Pagan today, it is also a good thing to consider.


"Pagan Island in the Distance" Now Available Online
By Alexie Villegas Zotomayor
Marianas Variety

A collection of Japanese-era memoirs related to living on Pagan is now available.

Northern Marianas Humanities Council program officer Eulalia S. Villagomez told Variety yesterday that “Pagan Island in the Distance…,” which holds a collection of personal memoirs about Japanese era life on Pagan Island in the Northern Mariana Islands is now available online. 

Villagomez said that Jessica Jordan, a Ph.D. in history candidate in the University
 of California, San Diego, with the assistance of Horiguchi Noriyasu published the website “Pagan Island in the Distance” with an English translation of excerpts of the original contents from Okamoto Mariko’s website, “Harukanaru Pagantô yo…”

Jordan is the project’s translator, project manager and primary English language correspondent.
Horiguchi served as translation editor, researcher and primary Japanese language correspondent.

Jordan is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at the University of California, San Diego specializing in modern Japanese history. She earned her degrees in Japanese and Religious Studies from Arizona State University in 2002, and completed Japanese language training at the Inter-University Center in Yokohama in 2003.

Jordan presented an essay assessing the historical and contemporary relevance of this online collection at the First Marianas History Conference held in Saipan in June 2012.

The website and the electronic book becomes available today, Oct. 15.

Three grants made the publication of this website and electronic book possible.

Jordan said that two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities administered by the CNMI Historic Preservation Office helped with the translation of the content of the entire website.

“I did the translation in two installments in 2008 and 2011,” said Jordan in her translator’s preface.

She also said that Okamoto asked her to delete certain text from the original publication.
She also said that the chapters of the e-book were arranged in the same order they appeared in the original website.

Jordan also received a Pacific Rim Research full-scale research grant on Oct. 11 through Sept. 2012 which helped her undertake the research to complete the glossary and preface.
The publication of the website, in English, was made possible through funding from the Northern Marianas Humanities Council.

Villagomez told Variety yesterday that the original Japanese website was published in 2000.
It was a compendium of memoirs in Japanese written by Japanese civilians and edited by Okamoto Mariko.

Villagomez said Okamoto Mariko is the daughter-in-law of Okamoto Eiko who moved to Pagan in the 1930s with her parents who worked there as schoolteachers during the time of the Japanese colonial administration of the region.

She explained further that “Harukanaru” hosts a collection of memoirs written by Japanese civilians like her mother-in-law, along with memoirs by former military personnel.
“Harukanaru” is both a website and a 116-page booklet.

Villagomez said that the stories on the website provide vivid details about what it was like to live during the Japanese colonial period and the Second World War on Pagan Island.
In her prefatory message to the booklet, Okamoto said the website introduces the history of Pagan and an outline of island life.

It is also a collection of stories contributed by people “with a relationship to the island.”
Mariko said she began the project in April 2000.

As she was working on the website, Mariko said she received information and stories from Hattori Hideo and members of the All Pagan Island War Comrades Association and the Pagan Island Repatriates Assembly. 

“I was allowed to cite many episodes from Pagan Island Garrison Record published by the War Comrades Association,” she said.

Mariko narrates that she came to know Pagan through the stories relayed to her by her mother-in-law.

“When mom was a child, along with her parents who were public school teachers, she crossed over from Saipan to Pagan Island where she lived until the end of the war,” she said.
She said before the war, Pagan was paradise.

“Mangos and papayas ripened all over the island,” she said.

Meanwhile, in her translator’s preface, Jordan said that the first half of the collection is about the peoples’ memoirs while the second half includes “stories written by others and edited by Mariko.”

In the first few chapters, she said, Mariko wrote about Eiko’s recollections of the island’s flora and fauna, wartime recipes, attending Pagan elementary school, and interactions with both Japanese and American military.

“It is the hope of the Okamotos and those who collaborated to produce this English translation that this website might contribute to public knowledge of the history of Pagan and the NMI, and might promote appreciation and understanding of postwar Japanese memories of empire and war in the region,” said Villagomez.

To read the entire collection, visit


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